Another context where the female sādhus exercise agency and power is their devotional song, bhajan, performances. Most of the female sādhus consider bhajan singing to be a powerful vehicle for receiving sacred knowledge and experiencing the divine directly; it may even catalyse their divine visions. Further, bhajan singing is understood to effect religious power for the female sādhus. Gangagiri often says, ‘My bhajans are my power.’ This statement indicates her perception that bhajans function as a performative medium by which means sādhus express bhakti to God. Gangagiri’s comment suggests that her bhakti is the basis of her own power and authority.
Female agency is explicitly linked to devotional practice by these female sādhus. By comparison, the male sādhus rarely discussed bhajan singing as a means for meeting God and rarely considered nirguṇī bhakti to be the basis of their own power and authority.

Found in ‘My bhajans are my power’: Performing Nirguṇī Bhakti through Devotional Song, from: ‘Crossing Over the Ocean of Existence’: Performing ‘Mysticism’ and Exerting Power by Female Sādhus in Rajasthan, by Antoinette E. DeNapoli.

Source: The Journal of Hindu Studies 2010

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


” “Art.” By “art” is meant the ability to perceive the things of God and to be sensitively aware of the sacred in life; it is a man’s inherent ability to see through the apparent to the real, to separate the false from the true, and to discern the good; but not only this. It is also, and essentially, the power of communicating knowledge, and a knowledge which is basically neither the learning from books nor sheer doctrine, but a mystical experience. Elders of the movement say that they will only accept a man with this “art.” “Not every man with a beard is a Rasta- man-We take a man with art. ” In a sense, also, “art” means the art of understanding the minds of other men. This is something inborn, which cannot be acquired by study and good works if it is not already there, but which can be sharpened by discussion with right- minded people and by ritual observance. A man may discover it in himself after living the major part of his life in dis- solute unawareness. It was there all the time, but he did not know it. The more men can learn about themselves and their natures the more they can draw out this skill and develop it. When a man is expounding doctrine movingly, or praising God in powerful fashion, his listeners call out “Art I Art I Mighty art I Ja Rastafari I” Nothing can make up for the absence of art. In the words of one Rasta informant, “Some have all the zeal of God, but not the knowledge.”

Found in Doctrine,  from: Protest and Mysticisim: The Rastafari Cult of Jamaica

Author: Sheila Kitzinger
Source: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Autumn, 1969)

Image source: http://www.islandoutpost.com



A word spoken in a certain tone shows subservience, and the same word spoken in a different tone expresses command; a word spoken in a certain pitch shows kindness, and the same word spoken in a different pitch expresses coldness. Words spoken in a certain rhythm show willingness, and the same words express unwillingness when spoken at a different degree of speed. Up to the present day the ancient languages Sanskrit, Arabic and Hebrew cannot be mastered by simply learning the words, pronunciation and grammar, because a particular rhythmic and tonal expression is needed. The word in itself is frequently insufficient to express the meaning clearly. The student of language by keen study can discover this. Even modern languages are but a simplification of music. No words of any language can be spoken in one and the same way without the distinction of tone, pitch, rhythm, accent, pause and rest. A language however simple cannot exist without music in it; music gives it a concrete expression. For this reason a foreign language is rarely spoken perfectly; the words are learnt, but the music is not mastered.

Language may be called the simplification of music; music is hidden within it as the soul is hidden in the body; at each step toward simplification the language has lost some of its music. A study of ancient traditions reveals that the first divine messages were given in song, as were the Psalms of David, the Song of Solomon, the Gathas of Zoroaster and the Gita of Krishna.

When language became more complex, it closed as it were one wing, the sense of tone; keeping the other wing, the sense of rhythm, outspread. This made poetry a subject distinct and separate from music. In ancient times religions, philosophies, sciences and arts were expressed in poetry. Parts of the Vedas, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Zend-Avesta, Kabbala, and Bible are to be found in verse, as well as different arts and sciences in the ancient languages. Among the scriptures only the Quran is entirely in prose, and even this is not devoid of poetry. In the East, even in recent times, not only manuscripts of science, art and literature were written in poetry, but the learned even discoursed in verse. In the next stage, man freed the language from the bond of rhythm and made prose out of poetry. Although man has tried to free language from the trammels of tone and rhythm, yet in spite of this the spirit of music still exists. Man prefers to hear poetry recited and prose well read, which is in itself a proof of the soul seeking music even in the spoken word.

The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan: Volume II – The Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word – Part I: The Mysticism of Sound. Chapter VII MUSIC