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Sonic Liturgy

Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition

Guy L. Beck

Publication Year: 2012

Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition builds on the foundation of Guy L. Beck's earlier work, Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound, which described the theoretical role of sound in Hindu thought. Sonic Liturgy continues the discussion of sound into the realm of Hindu ritual and musical traditions of worship. Beginning with the chanting of the Sama-Veda alongside the fire sacrifices of the ancient Indo-Aryans and with the classical Gandharva music as outlined in the musicological texts of Bharata and Dattila, Beck establishes a historical foundation for an in-depth understanding of the role of music in the early Puja rituals and Indian theater, in the vernacular poetry of the Bhakti movements, in medieval temple worship of Siva and Vishnu in southern India, and later in the worship of Krishna in the northern Braj region. By surveying a multitude of worship traditions, and drawing upon diverse sources in both Sanskrit and vernacular languages, Beck reveals a continuous template of interwoven ritual and music in Hindu tradition that he terms "sonic liturgy," a structure of religious worship and experience that incorporates sound and music on many levels. In developing the concept and methods for understanding the phenomenon of sonic liturgy, Beck draws from liturgical studies and ritual studies, broadening the dimensions of each, as well as from recent work in the fields of Indian religion and music. As he maps the evolution of sonic liturgy in Hindu culture, Beck shows how, parallel to the development of religious ritual from ancient times to the present, there is a less understood progression of musical form, beginning with Vedic chants of two to three notes to complicated genres of devotional temple music employing ragas with up to a dozen notes. Sonic liturgy in its maturity is manifest as a complex interactive worship experience of the Vaishnava sects, presented here in Beck's final chapters.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Comparative Religion


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Table of Contents

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pp. 6-7

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Series Editor's Preface

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pp. vii-9

This new book is an important sequel to Professor Beck’s pioneering earlier book in this series—Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound,published in 1993.The earlier book focused on theoretical understandings of sacred sound in Hindu traditions from the earliest times, whereas this sequel takes us into the actual, lived world of Hindu ritual and liturgy, which the author refers to as “sacred sound in...

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pp. ix-10

This book is dedicated to all the musicians and ritual specialists of Hindu India who have diligently maintained their traditions with unswerving devotion over the centuries. Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition may be viewed as a sequel to the previous Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound (1993), also published by the University of South Carolina Press. While the former deals with...

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Note on Transliteration

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pp. x-11

For the many terms in this book that are derived from Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali,Telugu, and Tamil languages, the diacritical marks have been omitted in the main text but appear in the appropriate entries in the glossary and in the titles listed in the notes and bibliography. Several of the Hindu proper nouns are given in standardized form as Vishnu, Krishna, Siva, Sarasvati, Durga, and so on, while terms...

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pp. 1-34

THE ONLINE DESCRIPTION OF THE GRADUATE program in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, contained the following statement in August 2010: “The goal of this program is to promote the study and understanding of Christian worship as it is lived and expressed through the churches’ various traditions and cultures. It assumes that worship is at the heart of...

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1: Ancient India

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pp. 35-63

INDIAN MUSIC AND ITS EMPLOYMENT IN WORSHIP as a sonic liturgy is traceable to the earliest roots of Indian civilization. Comprising the Yajna or Vedic fire sacrifices, the Soma sacrifices, and the singing of Sama-Gana in Sanskrit, the concept of sonic liturgy in Vedic religion first developed as a uniquely Indo-Aryantradition. With the parallel rise of early classical music and its association with...

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2: Classical India

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pp. 64-102

AS WE HAVE SEEN, VEDIC INDIA was dominated by a culture that promoted fire sacrifices and the melodic chanting of the Sama-Veda. Vedic literatures provided information about the means to propitiate the gods in order to gain desirable goals, as well as about how the universe functioned. The mode of access to the Vedic gods was through the combination of the chanted text and fire and not...

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3: Medieval India

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pp. 103-145

THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD OF INDIA (ca. fourth to seventeenth century c.e.) is characterized by the rise of Hindu temple worship and devotional music or Bhakti Sangit. The rapid spread of devotional Bhakti traditions, beginning in the south and extending to the north, stimulated many new forms of architectural, literary,and musical expression. In architecture there was the splendid rise of Hindu ...

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4: Seva and Haveli Sangit

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pp. 146-172

AS THE PRACTICES OF TEMPLE HINDUISM evolved and became standardized in the medieval period, the Bhakti movements spread throughout India, and by the fourteenth century the deity of Krishna had become the most popular object of Bhakti devotional music. While there are numerous examples of devotional music directed at other deities such as Siva, Ganesha, and the goddesses Durga...

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5: Seva and Samaj Gayan

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pp. 173-199

BESIDE THE VALLABHA TRADITION OF Pushti Marg, there are three additional Krishna sampradayas flourishing in Braj that have adopted Bhakti Sangit as their central form of devotional expression. Instead of Haveli Sangit, they have cultivated the other most important form of Bhakti Sangit, Samaj Gayan. A form of northern Pada-Kirtan, it is found in at least three distinct traditions of Seva or ...

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pp. 200-206

THIS BOOK BEGAN WITH A CALL TO WIDEN the concept of liturgy and liturgical studies beyond Christian parameters. Certainly the case has been made for the importance of studying ritual and liturgy in different religions. Yet because of alack of attention to the implicit connections between ritual and music, we have adopted the category of sonic liturgy as a method of approaching the immense...


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pp. 207-221


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pp. 223-229


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pp. 231-239


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pp. 241-245

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171082
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611170375

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Studies in Comparative Religion