Muslim Performing Kirtan?
Posted by Navdeep On November - 27 - 2010
Related thread is http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-s...es-kirtan.html
Guru Nanak Dev Ji with Bhai Mardana, Muslim rababi
Tasleema Langoo teaching performing gurbani kirtan in her hometown of Srinigar
Ten years ago, there was a lot of talk about Tasleema Langoo, a Muslim who became a mini celebrity amongst the Sikh community in Kashmir for having a beautiful voice and using it to sing and teach Kirtan – recitation of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib – to Sikhs in the Srinagar Valley. People who heard her for the first time at a Gurdwara in Srinagar were mesmerized by the then sixteen-year-old, and initially had no idea she wasn’t Sikh because of the passion she showed, her perfect pronunciation, and detailed attention to the nuances of the raag – a very specific style of singing to convey a particular mood. When they found out she was Muslim, they were duly impressed, one of the old women saying “she takes us nearer to our own religion.”
All of the internet articles on her focused on the fact that she was a classically trained Kashmiri Muslim singer coming from a long line of musicians and had chosen to perform Kirtan. Her great grandfather used to sing for Maharaja Pratap Singh, while her grandfather, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, was a court singer for Maharaja Hari Singh, the last monarch of Kashmir. She was first introduced to Gurbani by her father, who bought her a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, in Urdu from Amritsar.
What I liked about the story was not that she was classically trained, although that was a nice touch. I liked the fact that she was embraced by the Sikh community despite being a Muslim. She was invited to Gurudwaras all over Kashmir, including Chatti Padshahi in Srinagar, the biggest Gurudwara in the state. Even the Muslims were down with what she was doing. The Imam at her mosque came to her Kirtan class, blessed her, and told he she was “doing a wonderful job.”
And then there was the ultimate accolade: she was invited to perform at the Golden Temple, in Amritsar in 2007, which is a really big deal because of the exclusionary amendment passed in the mid to late 1960s by the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee). The amendment restricts the performance of Kirtan to only Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs, who, incidentally are the only Sikhs allowed to be members of the SGPC. Perhaps it was initially designed as a way to make sure Mahants were never again in a position of power at any Gurudwara, but in doing so, it has gone so far against the core principle of Sikhism that I can’t even fathom it still exists. But it does.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/controversies/33385-kashmiri-muslim-performing-kirtan-tasleema-langoo.html
As far as I know, since 1948, there have only been only two exceptions to the amendment declaring only baptised Sikhs be allowed to perform Kirtan at the Golden Temple: Rababi Bhai Laal Ji, a direct descendent of Bhai Mardana, in 1962, and Tasleem Langoo in 2007. Ironically, Bhai Laal Ji, a regular performer at the The Golden Temple before the partition, traveled to India from Pakistan in 2007, the same year Tasleen was invited to perform, in hopes of being able to perform one last time before he died. He was rejected! The descendent of Bhai Mardana! His father was the Hazoori Ragi at Goindwal Sahib in what is now district Tarn-taran, near Amritsar. There is something fundamentally flawed about a rule that does not allow the 17th generation descendent of Bhai Mardana, a disciple of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, to perform at the Golden Temple.
The Guru Granth Sahib has so many powerful hymns composed by people of different castes and other religions, including Muslims and Hindus. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru of the Sikhs, entrusted the legacy of the Rabab, a bowed instrument, to complement certain raags completely onto his disciple Bhai Mardana, a Muslim Rabab player. And the reason there are four entrances to any Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) is because of its symbolism of the spirit of Sikhism: everyone is equal and welcome. But according to this rule, baptized Sikhs are more equal and welcome than others. Yes, I just made a reference to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
There aren’t any youtube videos of Tasleema and sadly because of the civil unrest, curfews, and military restrictions in Kashmir, her Kirtan classes took a break. The last I ever heard of her was in an article titled “Special Harmony” by Haroon Mirani published in 2007 where she remained hopeful that her classes would return once “normalcy returns.” I hope normalcy returns to the Golden Temple too.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=33385
I am just glad that the exclusionary rule is not being practiced at most Gurudwaras, and hope people realize the damaging effects of this rule and other silly things that go against the principles of Sikhi. Forcing all children, regardless of their religion, in certain schools in Punjab to wear a turban, for example, is not instilling any respect for the turban? Enough ranting. It’s time to start another revolution.
I leave you with two excellent videos of non-Sikhs paying homage to hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib. Neither of whom, while this rule is in effect, are allowed to perform at the Golden Temple: http://www.navdeepsinghdhillon.com/f...orming-kirtan/