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Music extends a healing touch

RANJANI GOVIND

There's more to the seven notes of Carnatic music, Ganapati Sachidananda Swami explains.

PHOTO: R. RAGU

FOR WELL-BEING: Ganapati Sachidananda Swami sings.

``There is so much music in Chennai, the city is referred to as `Nada Chennai' in America," said Sri Ganapati Sachidananda Swami of Avadhoota Datta Peetam, Mysore. Those who attended ``Meditation and Healing - Nada Chikitsa" that the Swamiji had organised at the Music Academy on Tuesday last, learnt how music not only gave pleasure but also helped tackle ailments. There were 12 artistes on stage, including some veterans such as N. Ramani (flute), Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman (mridangam), and Mysore M. Nagaraj (violin). V. Suresh (ghatam), Shankar (mridangam), Jaitra Varanasi (violin), Mani Sharma (harmonium) and Mahesh Bhat (tabla) were the other accompanists.

In his brief lecture, the Swamiji explained the therapeutic value of music. Nada should be approached with reverence and devotion, he said. ``Hindu scriptures and our ancient Raga Ragini Vidya and Raga Chikitsa have reiterated the advantages of healing through music and spiritual music therapy. I am only expanding on this ancient tradition and bringing them to you in a 20th century format," said the Swamiji, a master of keyboard/synthesiser. Identification of the Indian classical ragas and their consonance with the elements of nature (Panchabhootas) helped him trace the concepts related to `music for meditation and healing.' ``The ragas I use for enhancing the effect of medicine are also based on astrology, psychology and Patanjali yogasutras," he said.

Five elements

The Swamiji's method involves the appropriate use of raga scales for the five elements. The vibrations activate the chakra (human body has a number of energy centres called charkas and metaphysical energy channels called Nadis) related to the organ. ``I am not saying that doctors, surgery, disease and medicines can be forgotten," the Swamiji clarified. In 1978, he had explained to a set of curious doctors in Germany about the effect of making patients listen to certain ragas before and after the operation. His Music Therapy Research Center has patients of varied disorders registered for therapy sessions. There is a `Nada Mantapa' in his Ashram in Mysore, with 72 pillars (for the melakartha ragas).

The seven notes in Nada are covered by SAgaram, pRItvi, GAganam, MAnushya and Pakshi, PAramapurushartam, DAnam and Dharmam and NIvarthi (Karma and Dharma).

It was not a kriti-based, ragam-tanam-pallavi kind of concert, that evening. The accent was on musical scales that highlight the raga passages. The Swamiji brought in sahitya, swara and raga in combinations, depending on the raga chosen.

After directing some sparkling crystals towards the audience for studying the energy patterns and absorbing all negativity, it was time to invoke Ganapati through raga Rishikeshapriya. ``Music should also include sahitya and voice," said the Swamiji while he brought in a crisp prayer-like passage in Varaali that had the entire team join in unison. Varaali is good for Vayu tatva, heart and skin ailments, the Swamiji told the audience.

Vaasanthi can clear the fog of confusion when a series of medical tests has to be analysed, the listeners were told. The Swamiji exhorted senior musicians to use these ragas more. Raga Kokilam helped prevent stone formation, burning sensation, sleeplessness and anxiety, he said. His elaboration with enjoyable variations from his synthesiser and accompanists brought in vilamba and madhyamakala phrases for deep relaxation. Ganapathi Swamiji's magic lies in synthesising both orchestrated phrases and improvisations to energise the atmosphere. After playing Hemavathi, which sooths the back and painful joints, the Swamiji walked along the aisles of the auditorium with his crystals for harmonising energies, before he presented a fast number in Madhuvarshini ragam. Another unique touch was using Sama for Mangalam. The raga is good for the nerves, Swamiji explained.

Betal leaves and water were distributed for energy absorption and balancing.

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