Where God is in the music
Ever wondered about the ways through which we try to communicate with God? Ever wondered why we string our prayers together with musical notes? Ever wondered why there’s music in every house of worship- from churches to mosques, from synagogues to temples, music exists where God exists! Christians have their hymns, Muslims their magical <g data-gr-id="111">azaan</g> and Sufi <g data-gr-id="112">qawaali</g>. Hindus have their bhajans and <g data-gr-id="115"><g data-gr-id="113">keertans</g>,</g> while Buddhists have their chants and various instruments of percussion. Religious music has existed for almost as long as religion has existed. In fact, studies suggest that even before institutional religion came into being, our ancestors prayed to the Supreme Being (nature, in all probability) in the form of prayers that were sung. Clearly, music has proven to be a religion greater than all other religions!
I, therefore, find it rather odd that when the path to and language of communication with God is practically the same, across religions, then why the differences? When virtually the same things are taught in every religious song, then are we really so different from one another?
Most of us are familiar with the Sikh <g data-gr-id="103">shabad</g>, Ik Onkar. Even non-religious types like me were mesmerised by A R Rahman’s <g data-gr-id="92">take</g> on it in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti (2006). The first hymn (<g data-gr-id="104">mool</g> <g data-gr-id="105">mantar</g>) roughly translates to:
Ik onkaar sat naam kartaa purakh nirbh-a-o nirvair akaal moorat ajoonee saibhn gur parsaad
There is but one God. True is His Name, creative His personality and immortal His form. He is without fear sans enmity, unborn and self-illumined. By the Guru’s <g data-gr-id="93">grace</g> He is obtained.
Embrace His meditation.
<g data-gr-id="90">aad</g> <g data-gr-id="87">sach</g> <g data-gr-id="88">jugaad</g> <g data-gr-id="89">sach</g>
True in the prime, <g data-gr-id="83">True in</g> the beginning of ages,
<g data-gr-id="100"><g data-gr-id="82">hai</g></g> <g data-gr-id="94">bhee</g> <g data-gr-id="95">sach</g> <g data-gr-id="96">naanak</g> <g data-gr-id="97">hosee</g> <g data-gr-id="98">bhee</g> <g data-gr-id="99">sach</g>
True He is even now and True He <g data-gr-id="86">verily,</g> shall be, O Nanak!
Tell me then, is this very different from the very popular Christian hymn Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, which says:
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to his temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration?”
Or, the Vedic Gayatri Mantra
“O bhur <g data-gr-id="84">bhuva</g> <g data-gr-id="85">sva</g>
tát savitúr váre(i)ya
bhárgo devásya dhimahi
dhíyo yó <g data-gr-id="80">na</g> pracodáyat”
which Swami Vivekananda had paraphrased in the English language as “we meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds.”
Sikh, Christian, Hindu – not very different from each other are we? If I were to start quoting hymns from every religion right now, I’d end up eating away most of this week’s Sunday Post pages. But, you get the drift, don’t you?
Now, there must have been a reason why music was unanimously chosen as the path to divinity. I’m not at such an elevated level of consciousness, and neither do I have the requisite knowledge to determine why it so happened, but this is what it is. While music may be a religion in itself for practitioners like me, but for most others it is the road to reach their God. If, tomorrow, I were to pray to a Hindu god by singing a Christian hymn, or to Allah by singing a Sikh bhajan, I don’t think they’ll mind. In fact, as a social experiment I just might do it! I mean if a Muslim composer
(A R Rahman) can compose a Hindu bhajan (O Paalanhaare, Lagaan) and if a Muslim <g data-gr-id="116">artiste</g> (Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens) singing a Christian hymn (Morning Has Broken) on live TV, then why must there be walls that cannot be broken down? Let’s not forget that man created religion, but God created music.
To find God, follow the music. You could end up at a temple during the evening <g data-gr-id="117">aarati</g> amidst the cacophonous sound of conches, bells, harmonium, and hundreds of voices singing Om Jai Jagdish Hare in unison, on the banks of the holy Ganges, or you could land up in front of the television where a bunch of boisterous nuns are throatily singing, I will follow Him (Sister Act, 1992)! Just remember that God is where(ever) music is!
The author is a playback singer, former sports journalist & television producer, and writer of all things fun, serious, and in-between