Chants of India

Anoushka Shankar plays the sitar while performed with the jazz ensemble Jazzmin. (Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

Anoushka Shankar plays the sitar while performed with the jazz ensemble Jazzmin. (Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

Sanskrit chants from the Vedas, Upanishads, and other texts have been handed down through the centuries by Traditional Scholars in India. In these renditions, Ravi Shankar reconfigured existing forms and composed new numbers to convey the spiritual force of these Sanskrit mantras and chants.

Oftentimes, it's the repetitive use of mantras that calls upon the internal spiritual self. And, it's the primordial, and shortest, sacred sound Aum or Om that is used before or after each prayer.

These chants, Shankar notes, "were mainly prayers for the well being of the universe, physical, mental, and spiritual selves of everyone, without pollution, turmoil, illness, discomfort, and misery of any kind and for overall Shanti (peace)."

Listen to a sampling of these musical forms and read the English transliterations and translations of the Sanskrit.

Asato Maa [RealPlayer, 7:11]
Om Asato Maa Sadgamaya Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya Mrityor Maa Amrtam Gamaya. Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih.
O, Lord please lead me from the unreal to the real. Lead me from darkness to light (i.e. from ignorance to knowledge). Lead me from death to immortality. May there be peace, peace and perfect peace.

Vandanaa Trayee [RealPlayer, 4:32]
Vakratunda Mahaakaaya Suryakotisamaprabha. Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarvakaaryeshu Sarvadaa.
Yaa Kundendutushaarahaaradhavalaa Yaa Shubhravastraavrtaa Yaa Veenaavaradandamanditakaara Yaa Shvetapadmaasanaa.
*(Yaa Brahmaachyutashankaraprabhrtibhir- Devaissadaa Poojitaa Saa Maam Paatu Sarasvatee Bhagavatee Nishsheshajaadyaapahaa.)
Gururbrahmaa Gururvisnuh Gururdevo Mahesvarah. Gurussaakshaat Param Brahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah.
O, Lord Ganesha of the curved trunk and massive body, the one whose splendor is equal to millions of Suns, please bless me so that I do not face any obstacles in my endeavors.
May that Goddess – Bhagavati – the blessed Saraswati presiding deity of learning and remover of our lethargy, laziness, and ignorance, kindly protect us. She is pure and white like the Jasmine, the full moon and the garland-like formation of dewdrops. She is dressed in a spotless robe. She has in her hand the auspicious instrument Vina. She is seated on a white lotus. She is the one who is always respected by Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shankara the annihilator and other Gods.
The Guru is none other than the creator, Lord Brahma; he verily is Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and he truly is Mahesvara, the destroyer. He is the supreme Brahman himself. To such a Guru I offer my salutations.

Managalam [RealPlayer, 4:03]
Bhoomimangalam. Udakamangalam. Agnimangalam. Vaayumangalam. Gaganamangalam. Sooryamangalam. Chandramangalam. Jagat Mangalam. Jeevamangalam. Dehamangalam. Manomangalam. Aatmamangalam. Sarvamangalam Bhavatu Bhavatu Bhavatu. Sarvamangalam Bhavatu Bhavatu Bhavatu. Sarvamangalam Bhavatu Bhavatu Bhavatu.
May there be tranquility on earth, on water, in fire, in the wind, in the sky, in the sun, on the moon, on our planet, in all living beings, in the body, in the mind, and in the spirit. May that tranquility be everywhere, and in everyone.

Sahanaa Vavatu [RealPlayer, 4:26]
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai. Tejasvi Naavadheetamastu Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih.
May the Lord protect us together. May he nourish us together. May we work together uniting our strength for the good of humanity. May our learning be luminous and purposeful. May we never hate one another. May there be peace, peace, and perfect peace.

Gaayatri [RealPlayer, 3:28]
Om Bhoor Bhuvassuvah Om Tat Saviturvarenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhemahi Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayaat.
May there be peace on mortal, immortal, and divine planes. I meditate upon the most brillian splendor of the Sun God. May he stimulate our intellect (so that we are inspired to take the right action at the right time.)

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is a musician, actress, and author of Bapi, The Love of My Life.

is the author and translator of many books, including the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita.

is professor emeritus of Church History at Emory University and author of A Place to Pray.