‘Kirtan’ is a sanskrit word, originating from ancient India. Kirtan is the congregational chanting of God's holy names. Usually there is a leader who sings solo the name or phrase, then the participants repeat in unison. The most traditional form of kirtan is done with just the mridanga drum, kartals, and voice, but now there is much blending of and experimenting with instruments from different cultures to accompany the singing, especially in the west. One of the most popular modern kirtan instruments is the harmonium. In the hindu traditions, popular deities are Radha, Krishna, Shiva, Shakti, Sita, Rama, Kali, Durga, Ganesh, Brahma, Vishnu - some of them actually having been real historic figures, others exisiting only in the spiritual world (of Hindu cosmology) . In western spiritual tradition, devotees of Jesus are also practicing bhakti yoga as they seek a personal, eternal relationship with him, sing of his glories and engage themselves in selfless service and worship.
Kirtan is performed in many ‘Hindu’ traditions – in the worship of Lord Shiva, Shakti, Kali, Divine Mother, in Sikhism, etc. - in Gaudiya Vaisnavism it is considered one of the most important devotional activities. Kirtan is one of the principle activities of bhakti yoga, the path of devotion. Bhakti Yoga, one of the main branches of yoga, is a spiritual practice for realizing divine union with God through devotional activities directed towards one's deity of choice. It is considered the highest pursuit of God (quickest, easiest) and self realization, with a message of tolerance and love, accessible to all.