Waking to ‘god music’

by Annalise on December 23, 2009

I may not have mentioned in the previous post that our guest house in Changu Narayan was right next to the temple which is at the centre and topographic apex of the town. Our rooms looked straight out to the valley below which we heard distantly more than saw due to the early morning fog.

Our first stirring though was in response to the gorgeous sounds coming from the temple next door at about 5:30 a.m. Dave was the first to rise as he quickly pulled out his clothes on and took his hand-held audio recording gear to capture this daily morning ‘god music’. This was the description given us by the daughter of Sarita, the owner of the guest house. The music was a combination of drums, a double-reeded instrument like a chanter, bells, 3-4 voices singing in harmonies, a tambourine and an accordion-like instrument which was in front of the seated player, bellowed by the left hand while played with the right.

This music resonated around the temple and after remaining in my warm bed for a little longer, I decided I should go find David in join his early morning exploration. The sun was just beginning to rise and start its work on the fog. I found David quietly taping small segments of this extraordinary sound that would continue for over two hours. I sat and listened, taking a few photos here and there and watched a quiet, steady stream of townspeople carryout their daily faith rituals. People of all ages and appearance brought their small plate or tray of offerings placing flowers, rice, brightly coloured tika (mark of blessing on the forehead) and oil or candles to the statues of their gods; working their way clockwise through the temple grounds to each of the many much adorned statues. It was a quiet and respectful procession. In the corner of the temple was the public water taps and as the daily blessings and offerings had been made, the women took up their water cans and filled them with the water they’d need for their home and family. At the gates of the temple, small groups of women and men would pause to visit and wish each other good morning.

Changu Narayan allowed us to see not only a temple as we have seen in other locations and settings. This allowed us to observe the daily practice of this blend of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. It was quite an experience.

After a great breakfast again with Alina, our new French dining mate we did a bit of shopping and then to the temple’s Western exit where we’d descend into the valley once more to walk to the outskirts of Kathmandu. Just outside the temple walls we passed the home of a very elderly gentleman who’d been among the players at the temple. Having seen David making his recordings earlier, he motioned with his reeded chanter gesturing that he’d play. David took the offer with a new twist. He asked Robin take out his own chanter and play along with this fellow. It was a very fun moment to see this man’s face as Robin took out his practice chanter and they played tune after tune, alternating one after the other with a growing crowd and mutual respect for what they were hearing. They compared reeds and we learned how they made their own reeds for this ancient instrument. We took the recordings, videos and photos and in the thanked the man for the fantastic music lesson and initiating this extraordinary encounter.
Changu Narayan

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shirley Robertson January 4, 2010 at 1:19 am

What a wonderful moment and a memory to be chrished for a long time.
I’m catching up on your Blog, not having read any while I was in Alberta.


Shirl (Grandmama)

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