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 Music and Hinduism


 While music plays an important role in many world religions, it is in Hinduism that we find one of the closest links between music and religious experience spanning millennia. The recitation of the syllable ‘AUM’ and the chanting of Sanskrit mantras and hymns of the Vedas formed the core of the ancient fire sacrifices. The Upanishads articulated AUM as Śabda-Brahman, the absolute sound which has become the object of meditation in Yoga.

Great bhaktas (devotees) sang the praises of God. Verses sung in attractive tunes help us to focus on God. Singing and listening sustained musical notes have been linked to the Divinity in Hinduism from the earliest Vedic times. The gods themselves played musical instruments. Lord Shiva is often described as a cosmic dancer and a great musician. The Tandavam of Shiva is the cosmic dance and its Damaru (a small hourglass-shaped drum) represents the cosmic sound. Lord Brahma, creator of the universe, described as playing hand cymbals, shaped Indian music from the verses of Sama-Veda. Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, rings the conch shell. Lord Krishna could attract cowherds, Gopikas and even cows with his playing flute. Saraswati Maa is the beloved Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and the arts.



Importance of Music in Hinduism


Music = Food of the soul


Music is essential to the cult experience, says Hindus, because it awakens the senses and creates spiritual vibrations that strengthen devotion. Rehearsal and song help to connect the faithful with humanity and their spirituality. While singing, the faithful will describe the value and the strength of the god, calming him like a baby. Music helps the faithful to focus on the blessings and to remember the good things in life. Mantra music has the power to open our hearts and reconnect to our natural state of love and joy by bringing us in a mood of meditation.

Today, music is evident in worship through bhajan (hymns) and kirtan (musical chanting of mantras). Common instruments include drums, such as tabla and mridangas, manjira and harmonium. Classical instruments, in addition to the tabla, include the flute, the Veena, the Sitar, the Sarangi, the Santoor and the Shenai.



Saraswati and music


Saraswati is the beloved Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. The Veena that she holds signifies perfection in the sciences of all arts and music. Veena’s soothing music dispels negativity.
It is believed that the goddess is the creator of Sanskrit (which means perfectly made), the ancient language of Hinduism.


Music and Shiva


Shiva, one of the most important Hindu deities, is represented here as the Lord of dance (Nataraja), an emblematic image of Indian art. The cosmic dance of Shiva sets in motion the rhythm of life and death; it permeates the universe, symbolized by the ring of fire which is filled with loose, serpentine wicks of the God’s hair. One pair of his arms balances the flame of destruction and the hand drum (Damaru) which beats the rhythm of life while another performs symbolic gestures: the right hand raised means “don’t be afraid” and the left hand (gajahasta) pointing down toward his raised left foot means the release of ignorance which hinders the achievement of ultimate reality. Bharatanatyam is known for his grace, purity, tenderness and sculptural poses. Lord Shiva is considered the God of this form of dance. Today, it is one of the most popular and most played dance styles and is practiced by dancers around the world.




Iskcon and Music

Krishna is a cosmic musician, and the tune he creates by playing his transcendental flute is embodied with cosmic energy. As Krishna’s divine flute calls at any time of the day or night, nature, which is mesmerized by the captivating celestial tune, responds: Lakes and rivers overflow with water, expanding their banks because they are desirous of embracing Krishna’s lotus feet.


Kirtan, a form of devotional song and response popularized for the first time five hundred years ago in India by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is practiced regularly by ISKCON enthusiasts and has now spread around the world thanks to efforts of the Vaishnava community. In kirtan, the chanting or repetitive chanting of mantras and other devotional hymns is accompanied by simple musical instruments. These are often traditional instruments such as the mrdanga drum, kartals (hand cymbals) and harmonium (small organ with manual pump). However, today kirtan has become a form of world music where musicians often mix traditional instruments with the saxophone, bass guitar and various forms of percussion. Often the kirtan begins slowly and melodically with a simple rhythmic rhythm, progressively progressing towards greater complexity, then increasing with exuberant songs and dances.


The kirtan is performed daily in the temples of Vaishnava, generally accompanying cults called Aartis. It can also be performed at home or in public. Whoever hears the kirtan is greatly advantaged, as the sound vibration acts gradually to cleanse the heart of greed, envy, lust, anger and other obstacles to a peaceful life.


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

Deepshika Dyal Isha


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