Kirtan means “singing the praises of God.” In gurdwaras(sikh temples) throughout the world, there is no more important component of the life of the gathered community than kirtan. Men and women, young and old, learn to sing the Divine word, individually and congregationally. Usually, they sing to the accompaniment of a harmonium. Most of the hymns, called shabads, are from the Guru Granth Sahib. They are gurbani, the hymns of the Gurus, or bhagatbani, the hymns of the saints.
The Guru Granth Sahib is poetry, and its poetry is sung. The full spirit and power of the word is in the singing of it. All of the shabads contained in the Guru Granth Sahib are set to particular traditional musical scales called ragas, each meant to be played at a particular time of day or to evoke a particular mood.
During the Shabad Kirtan program, the appointed reader of the Guru Granth Sahib, called the granthi, may sing the hymns, along with the ragis, or trained Sikh musicians. In addition, many members of the congregation (sangat), including children, also lead the shabad.