History of the Nagar Keertan

History Of The Nagar Keertan

By: Nirmolak Heera

waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ke fateh!

During the month of April, we see many towns around the world host Nagar Keertans and many sangat participates in walking from Gurdwara Sahib to Gurdwara Sahib or through their local town singing keertan, sharing langar with each other and watching Gatka demonstrations. 

But where did the Nagar Keertan start from?

When Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, our 6th Guru, was in prison in Gwalior, Baba Buddha Ji missed Guru Sahib and felt lonely in their separation from Guru Sahib. Baba Buddha Ji led sangat members to Gwalior and they sang Keertan around the jail out of love for Guru Sahib. 

Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was happy with this new tradition of doing keertan and expressing pyaar for Guru Sahib while walking - so the sangat began doing Nagar Keertans for all Gurpurabs and important Days like Vaisakhi. 

What did Nagar Keertans look like in the past?

While doing Nagar Keertans for Gurpurab, in India there were not many Gurdwara's in the past, so sangat would go to each others houses and the household members would provide langar to the sangat. Some would provide parshada, others mitha, others water and drink.

Sangat would walk and sing keertan. Sometimes there would be a vaja and tabla involved or a rabab or other musical instruments - and other times, there would be no musical instruments and sangat would just sing the baani. 

What does it look like now?

Usually in the UK, the main Nagar Keertan is done during Vaisakhi. The Nagar Keertan is led by the Punj Pyare and Guru Granth Sahib Ji is taken from Gurdwara to Gurdwara in the town. Sangat follows singing keertan and doing seva along the route. 

Many towns also have gatka displays to show the importance of Shastars and Sant Siphai around Vaisakhi time. 

What can we learn?

The vision was that through singing Gurbani in the towns and neighbourhoods, the message of Gurbani can be shared wide and others in the area can also be inspired after hearing Gurbani. 

Today in the UK, as the main language is English, we could consider doing parchaar of Sikhi during the nagar keertan. We can hand out leaflets to those in our local area or while on the nagar keertan. For school aged children, they could ask if they can share why Vaisakhi is important to them in schools and with their friends. For adults, they could do the same at work and use the opportunity to share the message of Guru Sahib with others outside our faith. 

For everyone, we can make a resolution to do one thing to improve our relationship with Guru Sahib (like a New Years Resolution). Maybe we can read more baani, or learn tabla/vaja/gatka, or maybe start doing seva of Sikhi classes and camps locally

Download a child friendly PDF explaining the history of the Nagar Keertan here 

The PDF includes details on the history of the Nagar Keertan, how it developed and what it looks like today. Plus has examples of arts and crafts activities you can do with kids to help them remember the history and how it started.