Gandhi was a great fan of music, especially devotional hymns. One of his favorites, Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, a song about Lord Rama and his partner, Sita, their story told in the Ramayana. Much in the same spirit that took place in the African American Freedom Struggle, where spirituals were made political, where songs transformed from, “Woke up this morning with Jesus on my mind” into “woke up this morning with freedom on my mind…” Gandhi added one important change to this otherwise traditional song. In the song’s refrain, he added the lyric, “īśvar allāh tere nām, sab ko sanmati de bhagavān,” “Ishwar and Allah (names for God in HInduism and Islam) are your names. Bless everyone with your wisdom, Lord.” So great was his passion to unite Hindus and Muslims, he brought it into song. Not just any song– an otherwise traditionally religious one. And this song, by the way, was made even more precious as it was sung by the thousands who walked along with him on the 1930 Salt March campaign. Making the sacred the political: this is a key insight into his nonviolent strategy.
In these days when so much hate and falsehood is done in the name of religion, and it makes us shun religion altogether, it’s striking to see how King and Gandhi kept it and made powerful use of it for the opposite purpose.
Can you think of a way of using the same technique, of changing or “improving” a song lyric, so it speaks to nonviolence and a current political struggle?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org