New face of Hiduism

This instrument called the Electrical Musical Instrument (I'd agree that this sounds totally funny) is a combination of bells, chimes and drums and has become a common place in our temples (Hidu temples in South India) recently. While I wish to give the due credit to whomever who came up with such an innovative idea, I must confess, I feel so totally ashamed at the very purpose it serves. I'll tell you why.

To begin with, for people who are unfamiliar with the religion of Hinduism and it's culture and tradition, let me give you a very short brief. Hinduism is one of the oldest religion in the world and the date of origin of it is not yet authenticated. As I'm not a scholar in this subject let me relay on other sources:

"Hinduism is a term for a wide variety of related religious traditions native to India. Historically, it encompasses the development of Religion in India since the Iron Age traditions, which in turn hark back to prehistoric religions such as that of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization followed by the Vedic religion.

Hindu philosophy had six branches, evolving from about the 2nd century BCE to the 6th century CE, viz. Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. Monotheistic religions like Shaivism and Vaishnavism developed during this same period through the Bhakti movement.

Classical Pauranic Hinduism is established in the Middle Ages, as was Adi Shankara's Advaita Vedanta which reconciled the Vaishna and Shaiva sects, and gave rise to Smartism, while initiating the decline of the non-Vedantic schools of philosophy.

Hinduism under the Islamic Rulers saw the increasing prominence of the Bhakti movement, which remains influential today. The colonial period saw the emergence of various Hindu reform movements partly inspired by western culture, such as spiritism (Theosophy)".

Courtesy: Article on Hinduism in Wikipedia

Now, as you can see, Hinduism was never a religion, per say. It was a way of life, a particular culture that man followed in one particular period and in one particular part of this globe but which was forced to be called as a religion due to external factors. Though Bagavad Gita has been officially declared as the sacred scripture of Hinduism, I must say, there are other texts and scriptures that are equally as important as the Gita. And this is a religion of idol worships and umpteen religious rituals. And because of the different ways in which the Hindu religious fanatics try to project this religion to the outside world by showcasing our traditions and rituals as something very amusing and as shrouded in mystery, magic and stuff, it is not surprising that a common Westerner and even the Christians and Muslims in our own country tend to perceive this religion as something pageant and un-organised.

Now, now... coming back to the original topic of discussion. As I said, Hinduism is a religion of many rituals and as is evident from the Wikipedia extract, there are many ways in which this religion is pursued by different people. We, in Kerala (the South of India), follow a particular systematic approach. That is, we have a time schedule for the different ritualistic activities followed in our temples. The temple usually opens at 3.30 or 4 in the morning. There happens a set of rituals of cleaning up the temple premise, offerings to the residing deity etc. which we have been following since ages. And some these rituals happen with people playing drums, chimes and other percussion instruments and also some others ringing the temple gongs. This is the best time to visit a temple because the acoustic effect caused by the playing of all these instruments in harmony creates an atmosphere of personal seclusion where you are not distracted by any other sound from the outside world and you can easily channelise your concentration in your chantings and prayers. I, me-self, though not a regular visitor of temples, have always cherished and loved these things about a temple. I also observe that this was an excellent way to make people participate in unison in a single activity, just like the Sunday Mass in a Church but on a daily basis. Besides, the people who are assigned to play these instruments are usually from the lower economical strata of our society and this is a source of regular income for them. Plus, they will also be served with a one time meal from the temple. I should say "wow"! And who says Hinduism is un-organised?

But now, in the recent past, all that I mentioned is fast disappearing from our temples. I no longer find these people with their drums and chimes, music and prayers in their hearts and a stomach hungry for a one time meal in our temples. Why? 'coz someone thought about making life easier and came out with this brilliant innovation - Electrical Musical Instrument. This does the work of all those poor people put together and all one has to do is just plug it and play when needed! Has it made life easier? Really? Come on, what about those poor people? What about their regular income though very meager, I agree? What about their one time meals? Has this made life easier for them? Whose life are you talking about? Besides, let me tell you, this instrument produces such a monotonous rumble and make me feel (this could be a personal experience) as though I'm amidst some tribal ceremony. This is awful! Not a better word to describe it - This is very much awful! When a human hand plays a drum, it's not just his hands that play the music. There's the music of his heart that comes out in the rhythm. A plug-and-play machine can never produce the music of one's heart! It cannot produce the acoustic ambiance that used to be.

***I'm not against science. I'm not against technical advancements. I'm not against digitalisation. I very well recognise how a mobile phone, how a computer, how a digital camera etc. etc. etc. have made my life easier. But this!!! Please shut it off! You better keep this in a Science exhibition and call it The New Wonder of Human Innovation. I'd visit the stall, take photographs of it, blog it and do everything to popularise itMake any other use of this instrument but save the temples and its sanctified human presence. I don't want to walk into a temple and feel it is nothing but a religious museum!***

How, would you Christians feel, if you walk into your church on a Sunday morning and find a tape recorder or an MP3 player playing the choir song in the place of those lovely kids and young men and women? I'm unaware of what happens in a mosque. Yet how would you Islams feel if your daily prayers are sung by an electrical instrument rather than the Mullah. How would you Buddhists feel if all those lovely temple chimes and gongs in your temple is replaced by a Dolby-digital-surround-sound music system that can produce the same noise?

Temples, Churches, Mosques and all religious places has a greater purpose than religion. It's about God and worship, I agree. But it is more about humanity, social interactions and community living. It is a place of human to human interaction and not a place for human to machine interaction...

I don't know whether I've said enough. But a blog should not be too long and tiring. Hence I conclude my eloquence here...

Am I talking like a hard core traditionalist? Am I making any sense? I'd like you all to comment on this and clear my head of this monotonous rumble that has been bothering me for a while now.


Anonymous said…
Temples, Churches, Mosques and all religious places has a greater purpose than religion. It's about God and worship, I agree. But it is more about humanity

I couldnt say it better myself...well done

peace my friend
4evernite said…
I totally agree with you that this thing should not and could not replace the human-heart players that previously played. And you are right again, as a Christian (though I haven't been to church in awhile) I would not like it if a machine were playing the choir songs. I say, let your voice be heard and maybe others will too... and hopefully it will cause a change back to the original ways.
Anonymous said…
Hi, Absolutely you are not talking like a hard core traditionalist. I think religion and tradition go together. Technical advancements should not have a place in religion worldwide. Tape recorder in Christian Churces? I would not like it at all. (It would be so rediculous!). Temples, Churces, Mosques, I agree, have a greater purpose than religion.I say, let your voice be heard. I hope it will cause a change to this situation ..
Brian Miller said…
one of the things that makes worship beautiful is the heart that is shown...this would be hard to get from a tape recorder. very well put friend.
Cathy Clementz said…
My place of worship is in one of the prettiest parts of our campground; it is where I feel closest to God.

You are a very in depth thinker and observor.
Anonymous said…
I'm a bit of a traditionalist myself, and although I'm currently a non-practicing Christian, I would be offended if I stepped into a Christian church and found an mp3 player instead of a choir. Same goes for plastic Christmas trees. Convenient? Yes. Representative of the human spirit that created the traditions they stand for? Not at all.

Traditions, religious or otherwise, are an important part of the fabric of a society. A machine can never replace the element of humanity it tries to represent.
Eva Gallant said…
I would have to agree that no mechanical contraption can emulate what originates in the human heart!
prongs said…
Yep. A mechnical device is really stupid. But hav u asked around if this labour saving device is putting people out of jobs or whether it has come about because the temple authorities don't find enough takers for the job? Just curious. U cud do a feautre article on this.
Kaiserin Sisi said…
Technical advancements is something that we cannot runaway from. And I certainly enjoy having most of the advancement. I mean, I can't really imagine my life without the internet, mobile phone, DSLR etc. However, there are a few things that I feel should stay as it is. For example, as mentioned by some here, I certainly do not want to go to church and listen to an MP3 player playing the songs instead of a Choir. Also, can you imagine if the priest or pastor stopped giving "live" sermons and instead just "plug & play" his recorded sermon? Might as well stay home!

Speaking of inventions. In the old days, a person is actually responsible for ringing the church bells. Nowadays it is automated. Someone came up with a clever idea and hooked it up with a timer.

Have you seen those prayer wheels? I was in Tibet once and I got really fascinated with this thing. Everywhere I went, I would for sure take the opportunity to spin it, clockwise of course! And then, one day I saw one inside a restaurant, it was automated and has a sign that says, "DO NOT TOUCH" :-(

My personal opinion is that, sometime things that has to do with traditions & cultures are better to be left alone!
Kelly Muys Wood said…
Oooh... great post. Good point. I agree with you about the enjoyment fot the human element, but not out of principal or anything. I think what's most important is that technology aids humans by making their tasks more efficient or productive; not by replacing people.

Lily said…
Our choir is lifting their voices to God. It is a form of worship. Letting a machine do it for you is not what God wants. But if someone has taped music to accompany them for a special song, it is common here, though I would prefer the musicians.

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