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Title: The Sounds of Satyagraha: Mahatma Gandhi's Use of Sung-Prayers and Ritual
Author(s): Snodgrass, Cynthia
Supervisor(s): Flood, Gavin
Fitzgerald, Timothy
Keywords: Gandhi
Roy Rappaport
Ashram Bhajanavali
Sri Karunamayee
Issue Date: 12-Dec-2007
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The Sounds of Satyagraha: Gandhi's Use of Sung-Prayers and Ritual M.K. Gandhi's work towards Indian independence was influenced significantly by sung-prayers found in a collection entitled Ashram Bhajanavali, a collection which, in turn, gives fresh insight into the satyagraha movement. Gandhi's employment of sung-prayers, chant, and ritual has, however, gone unrecognized until this time. The Sounds of Satyagraha presents detailed information concerning how formative and how important these sung-prayers were to Gandhi and to the national independence movement. Chapter One sets forth this thesis, along with methodology, historical context, and certain terms defined. Chapter Two consists of a preliminary historical overview of the Ashram Bhajanavali, along with a descriptive summary of the sung-prayer materials found within it. (An analysis of ritual practices presented in Chapters 3 through 5 also provides additional information regarding historical context and development.) This collection of chanted prayers used by the Indian sayagraha community, has sometimes been referred to as a hymnal. However, the collection is much more than what the word "hymnal" might imply, both in the scope of its contents, and in its significance as a tool with which to understand the developments of Gandhi's satyagraha community. Chapters Three, Four, and Five examine in detail how the Ashram Bhajanavali was used in ritual contexts, and how these sung-prayers supported Gandhi and the nation in its work for social change. The ritual theory of Roy Rappaport is utilized to discover the Bhajanavali's sitz im leben. Chapter 3 discusses the use of these sung-prayers in ritual prayer meetings that occurred twice daily. Chapter 4 looks at additional ways in which these songs were used by Gandhi and the satyagraha community to achieve their purposes, as the movement grew into a national initiative. Chapter 5 considers how it is that this sung-prayer repertoire, being specifically sung and chanted (rather than spoken or read), had a significant power for India and appeal for the satyagraha communities. By placing this collection in its historical, social, and ritual contexts, the extent to which these sung-prayers influenced and shaped Gandhi's sayagraha in India becomes clear. Chapter 6 considers the life and work of one spiritual musician, Shri Karunamayee Abrol, who teaches the Ashram Bhajanavali, its melodies and its history. Shri Karunamayee's family were freedom fighters, and, as a child, she sang for Mahatma Gandhi, receiving his blessing. Shri Karunamayee represents a living tradition. Inspired by childhood experiences and her respect for Gandhi, she has a special devotion to this repertoire. As a spiritual musician, she is a "tradition-bearer" of the Ashram Bhajanavali. The chanting of these sung-prayers has been her daily devotional ritual for decades. Her teaching, which stems from both musical knowledge and Æ⁄¿‰ò™ experience, provides additional insight into satyagraha. Chapter Seven concludes with a review of the evidence, illustrating the large extent to which Gandhi was guided by the sung-prayers and principles found in the Ashram Bhajanavali collection. It also consists of reflections in an analysis of the success or failure of satyagraha. Ashram Bhajanavali offers insight into the Indian independence movement, which has not been acknowledged or identified previously. Final reflections place this collection within the on-going East-West dialogue, indicating its continuing importance in the current discussion.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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