This article uses bare URLs, which are uninformative and vulnerable to link rot. Please consider converting them to full citations to ensure the article remains verifiable and maintains a consistent citation style. Several templates and tools are available to assist in formatting, such as Reflinks (documentation), reFill (documentation) and Citation bot (documentation). (September 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
This article should specify the language of its non-English content, using ((lang)), ((transliteration)) for transliterated languages, and ((IPA)) for phonetic transcriptions, with an appropriate ISO 639 code. Wikipedia's multilingual support templates may also be used. See why. (August 2021)
Musicians singing and playing in the interior of the Golden Temple, Amritsar (painting by William Carpenter, circa 1854)
Musicians singing and playing in the interior of the Golden Temple, Amritsar (painting by William Carpenter, circa 1854)
Fresco artwork from the pre-1984 Akal Takht of Guru Hargobind (centre-right) with Sikh musicians
Fresco artwork from the pre-1984 Akal Takht of Guru Hargobind (centre-right) with Sikh musicians

Sikh music, also known as Gurbani Sangeet (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਸੰਗੀਤ; meaning music of the speech of wisdom), and as Gurmat Sangeet (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੰਗੀਤ; meaning music of the counsel or tenets of the Guru), or even as Shabad Kirtan (ਸ਼ਬਦ ਕੀਰਤਨ), is the classical music style that is practised within Sikhism. It exists in institutional, popular, and folk traditions, forms, and varieties.[1][2] Three types of Sikh musicians are rababis, ragis, and dhadhis.


Musical expression has held a very important place within the Sikh tradition ever since its beginning, with Guru Nanak and his faithful companion, Bhai Mardana. Mardana was a player of the rabab, and would travel alongside Nanak and play the instrument when Nanak spoke his teachings.[3] As a result of this, Mardana is credited as establishing the rababi tradition in Sikhism.

Musical Fundamentals


Main article: Raga

See also: Ragmala and List of ragas in Hindustani classical music

A raga or raag (Punjabi: ਰਾਗ (Gurmukhi) رَاگَ (Shahmukhi)) is a complex structure of musical melody used in Indian classical music. It is a set of rules of how to build a melody which can ignite a certain mood in the reciter and listeners. The Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib Ji, is composed in and divided into a total of 60 ragas.[4] This is a combination of 31 single raags [5] and 29 mixed (or mishrit; ਮਿਸ਼ਰਤ) raags (a raag composed by combining two or three raags together). Each raga is a chapter or section in the Guru Granth Sahib starting with Asaa raag, and all the hymns produced in Asaa raag are found in this section ordered chronologically by the Guru or other Bhagat that have written hymns in that raga. All raags in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji are named raag.

Following is the list of all sixty raags (including 39 main raags and 21 mishrit [mixed] raags, including Deccani ones) under which Gurbani is written, in order of appearance with page numbers. The name of raags ending with the word Dakhani (English: Deccani) are not mishrit raags because Dakhani is not a raag per se; it simply means 'in south Indian style'.

No. Name(s) (Latin/Roman) Name(s) (Gurmukhi) Emotion/Description[6] Ang (page of appearance in Guru Granth Sahib) Main, Mixed, or Deccani
1. Asa/Aasa ਆਸਾ Making effort 8 Main
2. Gujari/Gujri ਗੂਜਰੀ Satisfaction, softness of heart, sadness 10 Main
3. Gauri Deepaki 12 Mixed
4. Dhanasri/Dhanasari ਧਨਾਸਰੀ Inspiration, motivation 13 Main
5. Gauri Poorabi 13 Mixed
6. Sri/Siri ਸਿਰੀ/ਸ੍ਰੀ Satisfaction and balance 14 Main
7. Majh/Maajh ਮਾਝ Loss, beautification 94 Main
8. Gauri Guarairee 151 Mixed
9. Gauri ਗਉੜੀ Seriousness 151 Main
10. Gauri Dakhani 152 Deccani
11. Gauri Chaitee 154 Mixed
12. Gauri Bairagan 156 Mixed
13. Gauri Poorabi Deepaki 157 Mixed
14. Gauri Majh 172 Mixed
15. Gauri Malva 214 Mixed
16. Gauri Mala 214 Mixed
17. Gauri Sorath 330 Mixed
18. Asa Kafi 365 Mixed
19. Asavari 369 Mixed
20. Asavari Sudhang/Komal Rishabh Asavari 369 Mixed
21. Devgandhari ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ No specific feeling but the Raag has a softness 527 Main
22. Bihagra/Bihaagra ਬਿਹਾਗੜਾ Beautification 537 Main
23. Vadhans/Vadahans/Wadhans ਵਡਹੰਸੁ Vairaag, loss (that is why Alahniya is sung in this Raag when someone passes away) 557 Main
24. Vadhans Dakhani 580 Deccani
25. Sorath ਸੋਰਠਿ Motivation 595 Main
26. Jaitsri/Jaitsari ਜੈਤਸਰੀ Softness, satisfaction, sadness 696 Main
27. Todi ਟੋਡੀ This being a flexible Raag it is apt for communicating many feelings 711 Main
28. Bairarri/Bhairaagi ਬੈਰਾੜੀ Sadness (the Gurus have, however, used it for the message of Bhakti) 719 Main
29. Tilang ਤਿਲੰਗ Favoured Raag of Muslims. It denotes feeling of beautification and yearning 721 Main
30. Tilang Kafi 726 Mixed
31. Suhee/Soohi/Suhi ਸੂਹੀ Joy and separation 728 Main
32. Suhee Kafi 751 Mixed
33. Suhee Lalit 793 Mixed
34. Bilaval/Bilaaval ਬਿਲਾਵਲ Happiness 795 Main
35. Bilaval Dakhani 843 Deccani
36. Gound/Gond/Gaund ਗੋਂਡ Strangeness, surprise, beauty 859 Main
37. Bilaval Gound 874 Mixed
38. Ramkali/Raamkali ਰਾਮਕਲੀ Calmness 876 Main
39. Ramkali Dakhani 907 Deccani
40. Nut Narayan/Nat Narayan ਨਟ ਨਾਰਾਇਨ Happiness 975
41. Nut/Nat ਨਟ 975
42. Mali Gaura/Maali Gaura ਮਾਲੀ ਗਉੜਾ Happiness 984 Main
43. Maru/Maaru ਮਾਰੂ Giving up of cowardice 989 Main
44. Maru Kafi 1014 Mixed
45. Maru Dakhani 1033 Deccani
46. Tukhari ਤੁਖਾਰੀ Beautification 1107 Main
47. Kedara ਕੇਦਾਰਾ Love and beautification 1118 Main
48. Bhairo/Bhairao/Bhairon ਭੇਰੳ Seriousness, brings stability of mind 1125 Main
49. Basant ਬਸੰਤੁ Happiness 1168 Main
50. Basant Hindol 1170 Mixed
51. Sarang ਸਾਰੰਗ Sadness 1197 Main
52. Malar/Malaar/Mallar/Malhar ਮਲਾਰ Separation 1254 Main
53. Kanra/Kaanrha ਕਾਨੜਾ Bhakti and seriousness 1294 Main
54. Kaliyan/Kaliaan/Kalyan ਕਲਿਆਨ Bhakti Ras (meaning 'devotional spirit/essence') 1319 Main
55. Kaliyan Bhopali 1321 Mixed
56. Parbhati Bibhas 1327 Mixed
57. Parbhati/Prabhati ਪ੍ਰਭਾਤੀ Bhakti and seriousness 1327 Main
58. Parbhati Dakhani 1344 Deccani
59. Bibhas Parbhati 1347 Mixed
60. Jaijavanti/Jaijaiwanti ਜੈਜਾਵੰਤੀ Viraag or loss 1352 Main

Raags are used in Sikh music simply to create a mood, and are not restricted to particular times. A mood can be created by the music of the raag regardless of the time of day. There are a total of 60 raags or melodies within the Guru Granth Sahib. Each melody sets a particular mood for the hymn, adding a deeper dimension to it. The Guru Granth Sahib is thought by many to have just 31 raags or melodies which is correct of single raags. However, combined with mishrit raags, that total is 60.


Main article: Gharana

Miniature painting of Guru Ram Das (the fourth Sikh Guru) listening to kirtan, circa 1800–1840
Miniature painting of Guru Ram Das (the fourth Sikh Guru) listening to kirtan, circa 1800–1840

The table below covers the seventeen Ghars found in the primary Sikh scripture (Guru Granth Sahib):[7]

No. Name(s) (Latin/Roman) Taalee(s) (Pattern of Clapping) Maatraa(s) (Beat)
1. Daadraa Taal 1 6
2. Roopak Taal 2 7
3. Teen Taal 3 16
4. Chaar Taal 4 12
5. Panj Taal Swaaree 5 15
6. Khatt Taal 6 18
7. Matt (Ashat) Taal 7 21
8. Asht Mangal Taal 8 22
9. Mohinee Taal 9 23
10. Braham Taal 10 28
11. Rudra Taal 11 32
12. Vishnu Taal 12 36
13. Muchkund Taal 13 34
14. Mahashanee Taal 14 42
15. Mishr Baran Taal 15 47
16. Kul Taal 16 42
17. Characharee Taal 17 40


Main article: Tala (music)

Taals have a vocalised and therefore recordable form wherein individual beats are expressed as phonetic representations of various strokes played upon the tabla. Various Ghars (literally 'Houses' which can be inferred to be "styles" – basically styles of the same art with cultivated traditional variances) also have their own preferences.[8]


See also: Folk instruments of Punjab

Photograph of Sikh men posed with various traditional Sikh instruments, them namely being identified, from left-to-right, as a: (1) Sitar, (2) Dotara, (3) Taus, (4) Tanpura, (5) Saranda, (6) Rabab, (7) Jori, ca.1920's. Published in the first edition of the Mahan Kosh (1930) by Kahn Singh Nabha.
Photograph of Sikh men posed with various traditional Sikh instruments, them namely being identified, from left-to-right, as a: (1) Sitar, (2) Dotara, (3) Taus, (4) Tanpura, (5) Saranda, (6) Rabab, (7) Jori, ca.1920's. Published in the first edition of the Mahan Kosh (1930) by Kahn Singh Nabha.

Sikhs have historically used a variety of instruments (Gurmukhi: ਸਾਜ Sāja) to play & sing the Gurbani in the specified Raag. The Sikh Gurus specifically promoted the stringed instruments for playing their compositions. Colonization of the Indian Subcontinent by the British Empire caused the use of traditional instruments (ਤੰਤੀ ਸਾਜ; tanti sāja meaning "stringed instruments")[9] to die down in favor of foreign instruments like the harmonium (vaaja; ਵਾਜਾ).[10] There is now a revival among the Sikh community to bring native, Guru-designated instruments back into the sphere of Sikh music to play Gurbani in the specified Raag.[11] Organizations like Raj Academy & Nad Music Institute are among the many online teaching services available. These instruments include:




Stringed instruments, known as Tat vad,[19] are as follows:


Percussion instruments, known as Avanad vad,[40] are:


Wind instruments, known as Sushir vad,[44] are:


Idiophone instruments, known as Ghan vad, are also commonly used, especially in folk forms of Sikh music.


See also


  1. ^ van der Linden, Bob (2011-12-01). "Sikh Sacred Music, Empire and World Music". Sikh Formations. 7 (3): 383–397. doi:10.1080/17448727.2011.637364. ISSN 1744-8727. S2CID 219697855.
  2. ^ Paintal, Ajit Singh. Sikh Devotional Music – Its Main Traditions (PDF).
  3. ^ "Guru Nanak Sahib Ji And Bhai Mardana Ji – Gateway To Sikhism". 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  4. ^ "Raags of Sri Guru Granth Sahib". Raj Academy. 2021-12-29. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  5. ^ "Official Website of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar – Sri Guru Granth Sahib". Archived from the original on 2021-01-07. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  6. ^ "Saaj (Musical Instruments) | Discover Sikhism". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  7. ^ Singh, T. "Some Technical Terms Used In The Gurbani". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  8. ^ Singh, T. "Some Technical Terms Used In The Gurbani". Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  9. ^ "ਲੋਕ ਸਾਜ਼ – ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਪੀਡੀਆ". (in Punjabi). Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  10. ^ "Saaj (Musical Instruments) | Discover Sikhism". Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  11. ^ PTI (2022-05-25). "SGPC to revive 'gurbani kirtan' with string instruments in Golden Temple". ThePrint. Retrieved 2022-08-29.
  12. ^ "Tanti Saaj – Sri Gurmat Academy". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  13. ^ Singh, Gurnam; Singh, Kanwaljit; Singh, Amandeep. "Learning of Gurmat Sangeet >> ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੰਗੀਤ ਦੀ ਸਾਜ਼ ਪਰੰਪਰਾ". Gurmat Gyan Online Study Centre – Punjabi University of Patiala. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  14. ^ The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India, Chief Editor : Late Pandit Nikhil Ghosh published by OXFORD Press.
  15. ^ ਕਾਨ੍ਹ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਾਭਾ (ਭਾਈ), ਗੁਰ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਰਤਨਾਕਰ ਮਹਾਨ ਕੋਸ਼, ਭਾਸ਼ਾ ਵਿਭਾਗ, ਪੰਜਾਬ, 2011 (in Punjabi)
  16. ^ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੰਗੀਤ ਤਕਨੀਕੀ ਸ਼ਬਦਾਵਲੀ, ਗੁਰਨਾਮ ਸਿੰਘ (ਡਾ.) ਮੁੱਖ ਸੰਪਾ., ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਯੂਨੀਵਰਸਿਟੀ ਪਟਿਆਲਾ, 2012. (in Punjabi)
  17. ^ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੰਗੀਤ ਪਰਬੰਧ ਤੇ ਪਾਸਾਰ, ਗੁਰਨਾਮ ਸਿੰਘ (ਡਾ.), ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਯੂਨੀਵਰਸਿਟੀ, ਪਟਿਆਲਾ, 2000. (in Punjabi)
  18. ^ "Musical Instruments in Gurbani Sangeet-". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  19. ^ "Stringed Instruments in Gurbani Sangeet-". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  20. ^ "Seni Rabab". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  21. ^ "Rabab". Sikh Musical Heritage – The Untold Story. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  22. ^ "Raj Academy | Rabab". Raj Academy. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  23. ^ "Rabab". SIKH SAAJ. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  24. ^ "Sikh Instruments-The Rabab". Oxford Sikhs. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  25. ^ "Learning of Gurmat Sangeet >> Musical Instruments of Gurmat Sangeet". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  26. ^ Bharat Khanna (Nov 1, 2019). "Punjabi varsity's Firandia rabab helps revival of string instrument | Ludhiana News – Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  27. ^ Singh, Baldeep (2012-06-27). "Rabab goes shopping…". The Anād Foundation. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  28. ^ "Saranda". SIKH SAAJ. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  29. ^ "Saranda | Discover Sikhism". Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  30. ^ "Sikh Instrument-The Saranda". Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  31. ^ "Raj Academy | Saranda". Raj Academy. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  32. ^ "Saranda". Sikh Musical Heritage – The Untold Story. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  33. ^ "Kirtan: Singing to the Divine – Esplanade Offstage".
  34. ^ "Canadian Sikh Heritage | Sikh Music".
  35. ^ "Saaj (Musical Instruments) | Discover Sikhism".
  36. ^ "Classical Indian Musical Instruments for Kirtan".
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Raj Academy | Instruments".
  39. ^ "Canadian Sikh Heritage | Sikh Music". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  40. ^ "Percussion Instruments in Gurbani Sangeet-". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  41. ^ "Raj Academy | Jori". Raj Academy. Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  42. ^ "Jori | Discover Sikhism". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  43. ^ "Sikh Reht Maryada, the Definition of Sikh, Sikh Conduct & Conventions, Sikh Religion Living, India".
  44. ^ a b "Wind Instruments in Gurbani Sangeet-". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  45. ^ a b "Sikh Saaj | Other | Tabla – Discover Sikhism". Retrieved 2022-08-31.