For a number of years I lived in ashrams in India, before eventually retiring to Sri Lanka and ordaining. One of the things I remember most fondly about my time in the ashrams there was the Bhajan and Kirtan singing which generally took place each evening.
My first encounter with kirtan was in a Sikh temple in Manipuram, which is situated along the Beas river in the Himalayas. It was in my back-packing days on my first trip to India in 1987, and we used to eat at the temple as they provided food for pilgrims, and in the evening we were invited along to the singing of devotional songs.
The scene I most remember from that night is of a Sikh lady in the audience taking center stage and starting to sing accompanied by a harmonium: she was old, and her voice was broken, and it didn’t sound like she would be able to continue as her voice kept breaking up.
But she did continue and the longer she sung the clearer her voice was and the more engaged and taken up by it the audience became – she sung the one kirtan for around 45 magical minutes and everybody at the end was rapturous, including myself – it was a truly moving experience, to see one so old and frail become so strong through her devotion.
To complete the Ganges series that I have been showing, here is a wonderful rendition of the devotional song Kashi Viswanath Gange (The Universal Lord on the Ganges at Varanasi) by the American singer Krishna Das.
Krishna Das is probably the best known of the American singers in this genre, and has around 8 albums of devotional songs released at present, and a truly soulful voice and plays very fine harmonium as well.
I don’t know who made the video as there are no credits given, but it contains scenes and editing that would have graced the series itself.
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Some Stills from the Video
Sailing on the River
Sadhu on the Riverside
Temple at Kashi
Maheshvara and Devi