Glossary Terms, Subjects and Ideals used in Kirtan



Aum / Om - a Hindu mantra and accompanying symbol. Although it has many many interpretations, in general it's meaning can be defined as the connection to the source of ultimate divinity, the whole of the cosmos and spiritual truth. It is also known as omkara, aumkara and pranava.

Bhakti - Sanskrit word interpreted as "devotion, faith, participation, worship of the divine".

Deva - the Sanskrit masculine term for divinity, heavenly excellence, supernatural deity.

Devi - the Sanskrit feminine term for divinity, heavenly excellence, supernatural deity.

Ganesha - a Hindu deity usually shown with an elephants head that is known as the remover of obstacles and a proponent of intelligence, new beginnings, , the arts and sciences. Also known as Ganesh, Ganapati, Vinayaka, Pillaiyar and Binayak

Gaya - Sanskrit word for wealth or goals/objects that have been conquered or acquired.

Govinda / Gopala - Sanskrit word for protector or finder of the sacred. Also another term for the deity Krishna.

Kirtan - the practice of call-and-response chanting or singing mantras (hymns), often accompanied by musical instruments. In Sanskrit it is interpreted as ‘telling, narrating or describing'

Kirtankara - one who performs kirtan

Krishna - Hindu deity of compassion and love, often revered as the universal supreme being. Also known as Govinda, Mukunda, Madhusudhana, Vasudeva, and Makhan chor.

Maha - Sanskrit for "great" or "highness", used as a precursor to other words

Mantra - a chant or hymn usually recited or sung for personal use.

Sanskrit - an ancient language of India. Sacred texts known as the Vedas were original written/spoken in Sanskrit and are the basis for Hinduism teachings. Many of the surviving texts also encompass Poetry, drama, science and philosophy.

Seva - Sanskrit word for selfless service, work done by a devotee to nurture spiritual growth.

Shakti - the primary source of cosmic energy that both creates and recreates the universe.

Shiva - Hindu deity known as the conquerer of evil and protector/transformer of the universe.

Vedas - ancient sacred texts constituting the oldest Sanskrit literature and the basis for Hinduism. Many devotees consider them superhuman.

Vishnu - a main deity in Hinduism, known as the protector form evil and destruction. Also known as Narayana, Jagannath, Vasudeva, Vithoba, and Hari.

Wallah - a person engaged in an activity; a keeper or protector.