Why do we pray? Whom do we pray? Is it something that’s taught to us or it’s what we do to connect to something we don’t comprehend? Why spirituality in the first place? Who came first – the gods who made humans in their image, or the humans who made gods in their image?
As the pandemic is all around, I was invariably drawn towards American Gods. Why? That explanation comes in a minute. But the Neil Gaiman’s seminal work – I might have read it a decade back – had an interesting premise. Gods are not some omnipotent beings – they also feed upon faith of their believers to gain strength, to perform miracles. The book talks about struggle of the gods of old faith to stand ground in the face of the new entities including Mr World (globalization) Technical boy (technical advancements) and of course Media who are fast finding followers. A highly recommended work – which also inspired psychedelic Starz/ Amazon series of the same name starring Ian McShane.
So, the question again – what does the situation like pandemic do? Does it create energy for the gods we pray to – both old and new? Does such scenario make a person more spiritual as there’s little he/she could do? I guess answer to it might be different for everyone.
From the ancient times, the group singing is part of the religious rituals or congregation as it evokes an undeniable sense of belonging, togetherness, and maybe safety. Frankly speaking, I don’t understand the lyrics (I tried searching online), but maybe the video may explain what I want to say. You don’t need to know the language, you just need to feel it. I’m sure something like this might exist in all languages possible.
The second one is a more conventional Buddhist prayer. But why I liked it is how the ‘modern’ instruments like cello and violin and guitar gets assimilated seamlessly in the ancient vocals. Just close your eyes and let yourself soak in the feeling of being inside a cave – cocooned in safety from all things negative.
For the Indian section, I keep the theme of ‘spirituality’ intact. But it’s another flavour of it – Shabnam Virmani is a renowned singer who has taken folk and spiritual songs from different regions of India to a larger audience. I had an opportunity to attend one of her events in Ahmedabad many years ago. What I’m recommending is her work in Rajasthan Kabir Yatra. In these times, maybe the mystic’s words may provide some much-needed solace and worldly wisdom. The video is just an indication – there’s an entire world of her videos of these tours which is recommended in its entirety. If you had an opportunity to ever attend a gathering like this, it would surely come flooding back.
I can’t help myself from posting another video of hers as a bonus track maybe – In Gujarati, ‘Kem Cho?’ (How are you?) is a way of salutation, which only has one standard answer ‘Maja ma’ (I’m fine). But can anyone be ‘fine’ currently? But still we ask and still people answer! Dhruv Bhatt, a celebrated Gujarati author, had penned a simple yet magical song about what one can answer if someone asks how you are. As Virmani also explains the lyrics in English, it can be understood by a larger audience. It’s just an ode to Almighty and be thankful for what you have!