A Sacred Song

Ganesha and VishnuWhen we think of a sacred song, the instant recall of many Hindus is the prayer to the Lord who removes obstacles, Ganesha or Vigneswara. In the Vedic heritage, the first words, prescribed traditionally to start your day, is a song/prayer/chant that focusses on Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God. Some schools says that it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

शुक्लाम्बरधरं   विष्णुं   शशिवर्णं   चतुर्भुजम्

Shuklambaradharam Vishnum Shashivarnnam Caturbhujam

प्रसन्नवदनं ध्यायेत् सर्वविघ्नोपशान्तये

Prasanna-Vadanam Dhyaayet Sarva-Vighno[a-U]pashaantaye ||


1: We meditate on Lord Ganesha/Sri Vishnu),
He who is wearing white clothes,
Who is All-Pervading, Who is bright in appearance like the moon
Who has Four Hands

2: He who has a compassionate and gracious face,
Let us Meditate on Him to ward of all obstacles.

This invocation to Ganapati stimulates the brain. We invoke our concentration to focus and to fulfil all the duties and work that we have to perform. This prayer invokes mental peace and equilibrium to perform our actions.

Shuklam – Spotless, Pure
bhaRtram – Preserving, Protecting
Vishnum – Ever working or refers to Lord Vishnu the caretaker, preserver of the universe
Sasi Varnam – Reflecting (Moon colored)
Chatur Bhujam – Four Lobed, Four sided
Prasanna Vadanam – Pleasantly Expressed
Dyayeth – Thoughts
Sarva Vigna – In all actions
Upa Santhaye – Invoke peace

In the Hindu tradition life, worship, music, performing arts, painting, sculpture and every creative effort is entwined with prayer and the Divine.

The four Vedas, Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda are the ancient scriptures that are the four cornerstones of the way of life of the Hindus. The Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेद) comes from sāman ‘melody’ and Veda ‘knowledge’ and is the third of the four Vedas. In sanctity and liturgical importance, Samaveda ranks next to the Rigveda.

This is a chant by Pandit Jasraj!

Sama Veda consists of a collection (samhita) of hymns, portions of hymns and other verses. The Veda poems are meant to be sung in prescribed melodies called Samagana. The earliest parts of the Sama Veda are believed to date from c. 1700 BCE (the Rigvedic period. The verses are sung with specific prolongation, repetition and insertion of stray syllables (stobha). Various modulations, rests and other musical details are prescribed in the song-books (Ganas).

Sama Vedas are an important sacred song for Indians. Lord Krishna specifically mentions the Sama Veda in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10 called ‘Vibhuti Yoga’. He talks about great souls, different valuable materials and supreme objects that represent the perfect forms on Earth. Among them, the Lord says he is the existing spirit of the Brihat Sama Veda.

The other sacred song for Indians is the Bhagavad Gita, literally meaning The Song of the Bhagavan. It is often referred to as the Gita and contains 700-verses that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Gita is designed as a narrative framework of a dialogue between the Pandava prince, Arjuna and his guide and charioteer, Lord Krishna.

Arjuna is facing a great dilemma—he faces the war as a warrior to fight for Dharma. On the other hand, his enemies lned in front of him are his grand sires, tachers, preceptors, uncles, cousins, friends and foes. The war is a righteous one between Pandavas and Kauravas. He is unable to pick up his bow and attack all the known and beloved faces ahead of him. Then Arjuna is counselled by Krishna to “fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty and to fight a righteous war to re-establish Dharma.

The Bhagavad Gita is a synthesis of the Vedic concept of Dharma that is recorded in the Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads. It explores the concepts of devotion or bhakti, yogic ideals of moksha through birth, enlightenment or jnana, karma and Raja Yoga and Samkhya philosophy. The setting of the Gita is a battlefield which has been interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of the human mind. It addresses the universal limitations that each human being is confronted with in terms of ignorance, sorrow and death.

For centuries the Bhagavad Gita has remained the most influential philosophical text shaping Indian thought and life. It is a training ground for leading a meaningful and enlightened life. It teaches the common man in the simplest and yet most profound terms to share, to help the needy and infirm, to contribute substantively to society, to respect and preserve nature and to go in search for the path of enlightenment.

Just as life begins with Ganesha, the Lord who removes obstacles, who is the embodiment of wisdom, breath is represented by Lord Hanuman, the monkey faced, strong, ardent devotee of the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu called Rama.

Lord Hanuman is called Chiranjeevi, the Immortal One. Lord Hanuman rushes with the speed of wind (he is the son of the wind God, Vayu) to come to the aid of devotees. There is a special sacred song called the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, a poem with 40 verses that was composed by a great devotee Tulsidas who included it in his epic version of Ramayana. Hanuman is an incarnation of Lord Shiva!

Devotees pray to Hanumanji to give them physical and mental strength and to prevent negative and evil influences in their lives. The epitome of bravery and courage he is believed to bestow presence of mind, sharpness of intellect and great devotion.

Classical music in India is inextricably tied up with devotion and most songs are written on one of the main deities of the Hindu pantheon. The emotion called Bhakthi is a strong muse and inspired many great saints and poets to compose poems and to set them to music.

All events in a Hindu’s life culminates with a ‘Shanthi Paat’—or a song of peace that restores the balance in life.

ॐ सह नाववतु ।
सह नौ भुनक्तु ।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै ।
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Saha Nau-Avatu |
Saha Nau Bhunaktu |
Saha Viiryam Karavaavahai |
Tejasvi Nau-Adhiitam-Astu Maa Vidvissaavahai |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||


1: Om, May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student),
2: May God Nourish us Both,
3: May we Work Together with Energy and Vigour,
4: May our Study be Enlightening and not give rise to Hostility,
5: Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

The final chant of peace three times is significant..it addresses the whole of creation. This is a message to preserve nature, environment and all of creation. We pray for peace and equilibrium within us,  around us and all over the universe!



About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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7 Responses to A Sacred Song

  1. Dun-Na-Sead says:

    Thank you, from the heart, Padmum, for this beautiful, and touching, and informative piece of writing. Respect.


  2. rummuser says:

    Brilliant Padmum! I hope that you can see me type this while standing and bowing to you.


  3. Grannymar says:

    We did well today. Five for the price of one! I have to admit, being a slow reader, I am confused. Maybe I just need to read them one at a time to untangle all those arms, legs, trunks and tales! 😉


  4. padmum says:

    Grannymar…you have a week so don’t get hassled! Anyway I am gobsmacked about the next topic….I am no Buddha or Gandhi to talk about peace….have difficulty generating it in my life! Am going to be sleepless thinking about this….so do chat with me at midnight!! My time!


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