'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Jasraj and Panini - 'Devotional Linguistics'?

" does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity" -Carl Sagan

I recently bought what appeared to be a cassete of Bhajans dedicated to Lord Shiva - the artist, Pt. Jasraj. The blurb said it also contained '108 Maheshwara Sutras'. At home, I found that there were bhajans only on one side of the cassette (and they were impressively composed and rendered) - the other side was filled with what seemed to be a strange ramble - a sequence sounds repeated over and over by a chorus; one could infer that the 'Maheshwara Sutra' was being chanted 108 times. I went over the blurb again and it gave the 'text' of it: 'ai-un-rl-rk-e-o-ai-ouch-....' it went. It made no sense to me. Listening to the chant was no musical experience - or a spiritual one for that matter.

Now, wikipedia has revealed to me that the mysterious chant was Panini's celebrated phonological 'sutra' -tradition holds it was revealed to the Master by Maheshwara (Shiva) - a legend grand enough to be associated with a piece of cerebral work done in pre-Christian India and which inspires awe even among modern exponents of linguistics. The word 'sutra' has no real devotional connotation; a probable translation would be 'formula' The Shiva legend is only supreme praise for supreme work.

So, what Pandit Jasraj has done is something akin to repeating a Mathematical formula or equation as a devotional chant, an act that does not strike me as particularly meaningful. Is chanting "E equals mc2" of any help with special relativity (hope nobody would object to putting Panini and Einstein on the same pedestal - or thereabouts)? Perhaps one could take Jasraj's version of the sutra (with the chorus and the accompanying pakhawaj sounding like thunder rolling in the distance - the 'da' connection?) as music (or muzak?) for meditation.


  • At 11:58 PM, Blogger Ymdar said…

    Thanks. I just got this mystical Maheshwara Sutra the other day and google popped your blog out. Now I know they're chanting e=mc2 all the time. :)

  • At 2:01 AM, Blogger Neeta said…

    panzonsHere is the reason for reciting the sutras repeatedly. In ancient India all knowledhe was passed on vocally, the written script was not yet widely used. Hence as a student of any scripture/text the Guru's laid stress on uchharan or pronunciation. To entrench the knowledge into memory it was therefore required that one repeats it. So as to ensure that the words did not change as knowledge was passed on from one generation to another without a written script, great emphasis was laid on pronunciation. This tradition continued even after the knowledge was recorded in writing. The Maheshwara sutra is an arrangement of sounds (and therefore vibrations) which have a healing effect on the body. It was repeated 108 times which was considered the optimal time for the vibrations to bring in the healing effect on the body.

  • At 5:56 PM, Blogger Magister Ludi said…

    This practice is very similar to some Jewish Kabbalistic rites, and it has remarkable parallels in the Buddhist Manjusri Mantra and the Japanese Iroha poem. It would all seem to have to do with a very ancient and universal awareness of some sort of transcendent status of the simple everyday letters we use to communicate and conjure up worlds and beauty. The ancient Greeks had one single word for "letter" and "element" or "principle", stoicheion. Perhaps e=mc2 is not quite at that level, but in a lower rung of the cosmic structure...? As for equating Einstein and Panini, whatever sympathies I may have with the former, I don't know, I'd rather wait for a thousand years before deciding!


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