Artistic expression has been represented in numerous religions. Often, artistic expressions are used to help in the worship and boosting the spiritual rate among the religious community. In Hinduism, music as an art has been used to allow a person was worshiping to showcase their appreciation to God (Patnaik, Chopra, & Suar 2013).The term Hinduism is used to represent varied ideas and practices and thus frequently referred to as a way of life that has grown for so many years. Since different people under the Hindu religion worship differently, music as a form of art is used in varied ways while worshiping the different deities. In Hindu, music, and art is known as Bhakti, a word drawn from Sanskrit origin. Research has identified that both art and music play an integral role in the course of worshiping in Hindu religion and spiritual life in general. In a religion such as Hindu, music is perceived as a mechanism of praying and therefore it is used as a means of communication with soul also known as atman in India. Music is thus employed when linking humans to God or Brahman who is the ultimate power (Renou, 2016). Therefore, it can be asserted that music plays a significant part in making Hindu religion complete. Also, it is through music that the religion has been much promoted. This research essay explores how music has been represented in Hinduism and the extent in which music played a significant role in promoting the Hinduism religion.
According to Arnold(2017) sound is considered to be the center or rather the main component in music among the Hindus. Among the Hindus, the sound is known as Nada. They believe that Nada is the center of the entire process of creation and thus the manifestation of Nada or sound in music makes music an important figure in their religion as it has close ties with creation (Arnold, 2017). According to their religious practices, they believe that the sacred symbol is known as ‘Om’ exemplifies the essence of the world. Furthermore, it is through sound or rather ‘Om’ that the primary energy holds the material world also known as ‘Maya’ in Hinduism. Therefore, the sound (Om) holds material world (Maya) from reaching. Moksha is where the soul also is known as Atman is produced from the body and joins the ultimate power Brahman. From the terms Nada and Brahman, Nada Brahman was formed which stands for one of the greatest India’s classic musical genre (Hughes, 2014).
Indians have used music as a channel for enlightenment in India for a very long time. Sangita, a term and also a kind of art often associated with music, drama, and dance is usually used in religious functions among Indians to encourage Indian’s to uphold their religious morals and thus promote their level of spirituality. For example, the classic Indian music originated from the temples in India; this intimates that religion in India plays a significant part in shaping art. Therefore, it can be asserted that Hinduism and art are interdependent. In classic Indian music, every move in the dance has a spiritual meaning (Rowell, 2015).Therefore, it can be asserted that the beliefs of the religion are represented in the music and dance. The same way music is portrayed in Hinduism is similar to how it has been used in Buddhism. In Buddhism, music is an essential tool that is used in reminding the religion’s members of the virtues that they ought to uphold in the music.
Furthermore, music is used in Indian religious festivals such as the festival of Navratri which is a Buddhism religious festival. The music and dance played during this festival are performed as the religion’s member’s dance, sing and clap while moving around the shrine is known as the deity Shakti. Dandiya raas is also another form of musical art that is performed while the worshipers face each other and strike each other with sticks. During this time, the worshipers perform the ritual as they worship the goddess known as Saraswati who is considered to be the patron of the music performed. Through the music, the worshipers believe that the goddess is symbolically portrayed to be holding a veena which sis a stringed instrument that is believed to be a very significant musical and spiritual instrument (Hughes, 2014).
According to religious, historical books, as asserted by Renou(2016), music is known as a unifying tool in the Indian society and civilization. The art of music is considered outstanding because it brings unity to the Indian community, a virtue that lacks among the dominant religions that are found in South Asia. In India, music has much meaning which provides common musical substance and even practice that is used among all the sacred boundaries of numerous types within the Hindu religion. From the many influences that music shares with religion, it is asserted that music and religion have many common aspects of ontology. Also, music in southern Asia has often been used in mediating different kinds of conflicts between religions and when intensifying worship. The same manner in which the rituals in Indian religions inclusive of Hinduism are inseparable with music, so is the meaning of such rituals strongly presented in musical activities. On the other hand, music is also a tool that is used to differentiate religions in India, for example, Hindu music is so distinct from other kinds of music in India (Rowell, 2015).
On the contrary, there are occasions whereby Hindu religions bare musical manifestations. For example, Brahmanic traditions recommend that silence is observed in certain Hindu rituals such as a funeral. Most of the rituals in which music has been restricted in Hindu is as a result of the fact that such kinds of music are suspect to Muslim rituals and thus they are considered to have the possibility dispelling polemics against the music itself. Numerous writers have pointed out that it is impossible to think of music without aspects of religion among Hindu worshipers (Patnaik, Chopra, & Suar 2013).
In south India, Hinduism plays a devastating role in ascertaining the sacred meaning and the structure of music. On the other hand in the north, Islam is responsible for the shaping of the music. However, even though there are divisions that coexist between the north and the south, the division does not bring much difference among the Hindu and Islam when it comes to how music influences the two religion’s ontologies. A great contrast that is exhibited in musical perspective is on the difference between change that accommodates the religious and social variations that hold up the hierarchical structures of the different old religious traditions (Rowell, 2015).
Other studies have indicated that music and religion share common functions that are distributed within the hierarchy. Furthermore, the studies have indicated that the hierarchy is very apparent in Hinduism (Renou, 2016). The most honored hierarchy in Hinduism among musical specialists are individuals who chant Vedic hymns and the ones who are known to play the vīṇā. This instrument is the one that has the highest status in India. It is a classical instrument having the highest hierarchy especially in art music from south India. Also, some musicians have the lowest status. These are musicians in Karṇāṭak who are known for touching the skins of animals (Hughes, 2014).
Summing up, music is a form of artistic expression that plays a very significant role when it comes to religions and more specifically Hinduism. Research has denoted that music and Hinduism religions are inseparable. For a very long time, music has been known to help in the growth of the religion among members. However, there are occasions whereby music is restricted in some rituals for example when it comes to funeral rituals. Also, certain kinds of music that are known to have affiliations with Muslim religion are not accepted among Hindus. Generally, music has been used among Hindus to promote their religion and how they worship. Also, through music, Hindus have been able to promote their principles and strengthen their rituals. Furthermore, music has been used among Hindus to represent their beliefs and religion. On the other hand, the Hindu religion has greatly contributed to the growth of music in India. Most of the music composed in India has drawn ideas from Hindu rituals and religion. Therefore, it is proper to assert that musical, artistic expression and Hindu religion are interdependent.
- Arnold, A. (Ed.). (2017). The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent. Routledge.
- Hughes, S. (2014). Play it Again Saraswathi: Gramophone, Religion and Devotional Music in Colonial South India.
- Patnaik, P., Chopra, S., & Suar, D. (2013). Time in Indian cultures: Diverse perspectives. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.
- Renou, L. (2016). Religions of ancient India. Bloomsbury Publishing.
- Rowell, L. (2015). Music and musical thought in early India. University of Chicago Press.