Kirtan is Sanskrit for “chant” or “glorify”—mainly, to glorify God and chant His names. God has many names—in many languages—which are all spiritual. “Spiritual” means God and His names are the same, so saying “Krishna” means Krishna is present.
In God’s presence, anxieties subside, we feel like the spiritual beings we really are, and we feel happy. Find out for yourself: kirtan follows a “call-and-response” format. The kirtan leader chants—in most cases the Hare Krishna mantra—
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
and everyone else responds.
The Sanskrit word kirtan generally means glorification or praise, specifically of the Supreme Being, God. Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting whose roots go back over 500 years to India. It is a form of Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion) and has the power to open the heart. The singing is accompanied by musical instruments and rhythmic drumming and the audience is encouraged to participate by chanting, clapping and dancing. You will not be able to resist the urge to join in! In its heartfelt expression kirtan can induce profound states of meditation, bliss and ecstasy.
There is a sweet sound vibration that permeates through all layers of coverings and makes God dance. That sound vibration is Kirtan. It is a mysterious connection that draws people to each other. In a simple word, Kirtan is relief. It has been described as the beating of the heart of the soul. For the twenty-first century person, life is all about the pursuit of happiness. We are guaranteed life and liberty, but kirtan is the means and end toward achieving the happiness that people are searching for.
Through the chanting of the names of God, kirtan awakens the soul to its natural position, connects with God, clears the heart of all the distractions that can stress one living in this high tech age, and at the very least, make a person feel better about their day through the wonderful music.
Gaurasundara said, “When many persons gather together and properly chant the names of Krishna, I will certainly appear there.”
(Caitanya Bhagavat, Adi Kanda 5.151, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s Gaudiya Basya purport)