In addition to affecting the mood of its listeners, the vibrations of
Ragas used to have their impact on material nature as well. In this
context, the six primary Vedic Ragas used to be associated with mystical
As I heard from music gurus of Jaipur, Raga Bhairav could create the energy to rotate a grinder called kolhu,
a village machine typically driven by bulls to extract oil from seeds.
Raga Hindol could induce movement in a swing, usually hung from the
branch of a tree, probably by its effect on the atmosphere. Whereas Raga
Deepak could ignite the wick of a lamp, Raga Malkauns could melt a
stone. While Raga Megh could ‘invite’ clouds and condense water from
them to bring a monsoon rain, Raga Shri could rejuvenate a dead tree to
produce tiny green leaves again.
History of Indian Music tells us that two of Swami Haridas’s disciples in the 16th century, Tansen and Baiju, had developed the perfection, in terms of swara-lagaav (perfect application of notes), for such magical effects. Even to the present day, with a lot of knowledge lost, the tradition continues. We may not observe the promised magical response on the environment, but living beings still find it difficult to escape the influence of a Raga in a recital.
On the auspicious festival of Dussehra, celebrated to honor the victory of righteousness over evil, we should take a moment to look at the chariot that Lord Rama used in His battle to defeat Ravana in the Ramayana. While a visible chariot was delivered as an aid by Indra, the actual chariot, made from spirituality, that Rama used is described by Goswami Tulasidasa in the Ramacharitmanasa. When Vibhishana inquires how Rama would fight a war without a chariot and armor, He responded that a different type of chariot is used for victory:
Valor and patience are the wheels of this chariot; truth and morality form its flag; strength, discrimination, control of senses and good deeds are its horses, which are fixed to the chariot though the straps of forgiveness, compassion and equanimity. While God remembrance is the driver, intellect is the energy that drives this chariot. After describing the rest of the ‘artillery’, which includes the shield of renunciation, a sword made of contentment, an axe of charity, a bow made of spiritual knowledge, a quiver symbolized by a clean and firm mind, an armor from faith in one’s gurus, and arrows represented by a controlled mind and the yam-niyam of yoga, Rama continues that with such a chariot, no opponent remains undefeated.
Bringing at least a couple of elements from this chariot in our own lives may be a fruitful complement to burning the effigies of Ravana on today’s special occasion.
The second Navaratri of the year, a nine-day festival of the lunar month Ashwin, is currently being observed. These auspicious days are sufficient to remind the entire Hindu population that God can be feminine as well. God is worshipped as Mother Goddess Durga, who is Brahman Herself and the combined form of Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Kali – the trinity of Shakti, the Primordial Energy.
If you are new to the concept of Shakti, you can grasp the concept from the material end. Whether it is the energy due to gravity, the nuclear energy of stars, the energy stored in black holes, the electromagnetic energy of a lightning bolt, or the chemical energy in living cells, together they all contribute to the total energy of the universe. Hindus like to believe that the total energy of the universe is a part and physical manifestation of a greater infinite energy. They personify this infinite source of all energy and power as Mother Durga, or Devi, and worship Her for what She does for us. Her acts include everything from nurturing us to ‘destroying’ the entire universe, though She later re-manifests it according to Her own calendar. For this reason, to some spiritual seekers, all natural phenomena represent the functioning of the Goddess.
Because the Devi can supposedly bestow anything the seeker wishes for, people, while acknowledging Her, often make requests for whatever is lacking in their own lives. At times, they may make requests for a power, such as money, intellect, or physical strength, which can lead to moderate amounts of success on this planet. Others request Her for realization and deliverance from the universe. A few of Her favorite kids leave it all to Her and adore Her just for being there for all of us.
In the Adhyatma Ramayana, at the beginning of His fourteen-year long exile, when Rama asks Valmiki where He could live in the forest, Valmiki reiterates the omnipresence of Rama by responding that He, the Lord of all, lives everywhere – in all beings. Still, there are some places He certainly and preferably inhabits with Goddess Sita. Briefly, His homes include the hearts of devotees who are peaceful, level-headed, free of hatred for all beings, and who continually remember the Lord. Similarly, He resides in the hearts of mortals who have reached beyond the dualities of good and bad, gold and dirt, and happiness and sorrow, who are in His refuge, who surrender all karma to Him, or who see Him everywhere and serve Him continually.
So it should not be a surprise that Rama has fewer places to live today, at least on earth. Having diminished many of His prospective homes through our selfish guidance to fellow beings, are we expecting Him to search and build His own residence? Well, the unfortunate difficulty for the jiva is that Rama does not reveal Himself in an ‘abode’ unless He is adorably invited to stay in it. And in His absence within us, we will definitely have trouble associating Him with monuments like the Rama Setu, which He had personally touched only once.