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History > Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji

Music is the art that permeates every human society, in one form or another. Plato, the great Western philosopher, recognized its association with the soul about 2500 years ago. A universal art, it has been attributed the power to move men, to help crops grow, to cause cows to yield more milk and in the Indian tradition to create rain and to light lamps, such is its relationship to the human and animal senses and the environment as a whole.

Indian classical tradition is unique because it has a long unbroken, though continuously evolving record, since the Vedic times, about 4000 years ago. It has developed over the centuries into a music of profound melodic and rhythmic intricacy, through the Guru (teacher) of music and divinity and Sikh/Shish (disciple) tradition. In this tradition an aspiring musician apprentices himself to a guru, lives with him, serves him with devotion and learns from him in total humility. It is a very close relationship, a spiritual discipline, a path of realisation, in which the singing and playing of instruments becomes a spiritual exploration, an endeavour towards harmony of the individual being with the all-pervading reality.

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The Sikhs of Punjab have a flourishing musical tradition spanning five centuries. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, nurtured the faithful on devotional music which he himself composed. It is said that at Guru Nanak's signal, his life-long companion and rabab player, Bhai Mardana, would strike the note of a particular raga and the 'bani' (words of God in verse) would flow from the Guru's lips.

The 1430-page Sikh holy book, known as "the ADI GRANTH" is the only scripture in the world rendered to classical music. It contains compositions of the Sikh Gurus, Hindu and Muslim Saints in various ragas.

The fifth Guru Arjan, who compiled the holy book, also emancipated the Sikhs from arrogant professional musicians. The story goes that the chief musicians of the Guru, Satta and Balwanda, became egotistic and considered themselves indispensable. They refused to come and sing in the congregation. After that incident, the Guru bade every member of the congregation to learn kirtan (devotional classical music) so that he becomes autonomous in conducting religious services. Later on, the musicians realised their mistake and begged to be allowed back.

All the other Sikh Gurus were also great patrons of music. It is said that the tenth Guru Gobind Singh had 52 poets at his court. The same worthy tradition has been kept alive and flourishing by Satguru Jagjit Singh )i to this day. His father Sri Satguru Pratap Singh ji was a great exponent of classical music and played on many instruments particularly the 'Dilruba', a string instrument of unique melody, which he had learnt from Bhai Mastaan Singh of Patiala and Bhai Kaluji of Narowaal. Musicians of various traditions, vocalists and instrumentalists, irrespective of their castes and religious beliefs, Hindu, Muslim or Sikh (the three main faiths of the Indian sub-continent) were always welcome. Pandit Onkar Nath Thakur, Sri Patwardhan, Sri Krishna Rao Pandit, Sri Dalip Chandra Bedi, Pandit Mahandev Prasad Kathak, Ustad Nazakat Ali. Ustad Salamat Ali and Ustad Shaukat Ali Khan, were some of the famous musicians, who sought his blessing and guidance through performance in his presence.

Whenever Sri Satguru Pratap Singh ji himself performed on the 'Dilruba' and sang in classical notes, the audience were left completely spell-bound. He was a great patron of classical music in the sense that he established the first Namdhari School of Music. His two sons, the present Satguru ji and Maharaj Bir Singh both learnt vocal and instrumental music there and they developed their own unique styles of playing on instruments. When Sri Satguru ji plays on the 'Dilruba', the congregation becomes ecstatic with joy. Similarly his innovative musical compositions are a source of inspiration to experts who seek to learn from him.

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It is said that whenever Sri Satguru ji, while on his tours in India and abroad, is approached by a classical musician, however heavy his time-table may be, he always finds time to listen to his performance. Recently he even allowed a group of English and Finnish Christian musicians to perform in his presence in Britain. He welcomes musicians of all faiths.

With his patronage and blessings, many music schools are flourishing in India at Delhi, Jullunder, Amritsar, Mandi (Himachal Pradesh) and Jammu for teaching music to children. Sri Satguru ji has also made special arrangements with world famous Indian classical musicians to tutor children. Some talented young artists are now being taught by the internationally-reputed musicians like Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shanta Prasad, Pandit Krishan Maharaj, Pandit Shiv Kumar and Pandit Hari Prasad Churasia.

These and other famous classical musicians namely Ustad Umeed Ali Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Shri Kumar Gandharava, Swami Pagal Das, Pandit Ram Narayan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Allah Rakha, Singh Bandhu and Ustad Zakir Hussain feel honoured to participate in Namdhari festivals and to have Sri Satguruji's blessings.

Musicians, having economic difficulties, are also generously supported by Sri Satguru ji. Sri Satguru Jagjit Singh ji initiated Festivals of Classical Music in the memory of his father Sri Satguru Pratap Singh ji in 1959. Since then, All India Music Festivals, which are completely free, have become an annual event now, thereby bringing classical music within the reach of ordinary public. Similar festivals have taken place in other countries too.

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