Tag Archive: sound mapping


Goa

State: Maharashtra (North Goa) & Karnataka (East & South)
Population: 1,457,723

Old Goa Well

Old Goa Well

Goa, known for its beaches and party scene, sits on the Arabian Sea in the middle of West India. It can be divided into three sections: the northern part of Goa is replete shopping and activities as well as quiet beach resort hotels and houses; the middle of Goa holds the capital Panaji which is full of restaurants and home to the Bollywood Film Festival, inland spice plantations and waterfalls; and to the south are quiet remote beaches with natural landscapes to enjoy.. One of the smallest districts in India, Goa has packed in it fair share of occupants ranging from the Sumerians to Buddhist emperors to Jains. By the 14th century, Goa had been in constant war between sultanates until the Bahmani sultanate championed them all and formed a capital city, which is now called Old Goa.

Old Goa

Old Goa

When the Portuguese colonized Goa by pushing the sultanate out of power in 1510, their European ways of living and religion spread out around the region. One can see evidence of this in the architecture of homes in Old Goa – small, colourful, quaint single-family homes and attached terraced housing.

The Portuguese introduced Christianity into their new colony and instilled its doctrine and ideals on Goans (known as the Goan Inquisition). This is evident in the number cathedrals that were erected in Goa and along the coast of the Arabian sea. Some of the more famous cathedrals are the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se de Santa Catarina and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. It wasn’t until 1961 that the Indian army marched into Goa and reclaimed it for their own. After almost five centuries, Goans were finally free from Portuguese rule.

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Agra – The Taj Mahal

State: Uttar Pradesh
Population: 4,380,793

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

Perhaps the most beloved site in all of India is the Taj Mahal. Built in only eight years by Shah Jahan during the 17th century from 1632, it was a mausoleum for Shah Jahan’s third wife, Mumtaz, who had died while giving birth to their 14th child. Sadly, when it was finished, Shah Jahan was then overthrown by his own son, Aurangzeb, and was subsequently imprisoned in the Agra Fort, which overlooked the Yamuna river and the Taj Mahal. When Shah Jahan died, his body was buried beside Mumtaz deep within the Taj Mahal. When you enter into the main structure of the Taj Mahal, you can see the replicas of their resting place in the entrance way while their real tombs lie down below, cordoned off to the public.

The amazing art of pieta dura work

The amazing art of pieta dura work

This beautiful structure is one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World and is built of marble and inlayed with malachite, lapis, jade, carnelian and obsidian. The main tomb area is structured with one main dome in the center topped with a lotus motif; traditional Hindustani designs and four smaller domes open up into the tomb area to provide light. Each corner of the 30 meter high base the Taj Mahal sits on, has a minaret which stands about 40meters in height and are slightly tilted away from the main mausoleum so that if there is any potential destruction, such as an earthquake, the minarets will fall outwards away from center. Their traditional use was for the call to prayer but the minarets are now closed off for safety reasons.

There are quotes from the Qur’an written on the main entrance to the tomb, the main entrance area, the mosque and the guest house. The quotes, stretching from the bottom to the top of each structure, are designed uniquely by the widening the writing so that as you look up at, it appears as the same size all the way up. Flanking the Taj Mahal are two identical buildings made from red sandstone – to the left (or west) is the mosque and to the right (east) is the guest house. To the north lies the Yamuna River venerated as a holy river in Hinduism and referred to in the Rig Veda dated back to 1100 BC. The beauty of this structure is awe inspiring. It simply takes your breath away.

Varanasi

State: Uttar Pradesh
Population: 3,682,194

Varanasi, also known historically as Benares, is considered one of the oldest cities in the world. It is also a center for education, housing the Banaras Hindu University which is the largest residential university in Asia. It’s primary manufacturing product is silk weaving, in particular gold and silver threaded silk Banarasi saris that are often used for weddings. Sarnath, only a few kilometres away is considered the birthplace of Buddhism because in 538 A.D. Buddha gave his first sermon after gaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya.

Varanasi - Ghats along the Ganges

Varanasi – Ghats along the Ganges

With about 23,000 temples, Varanasi has been called the “city of temples.” Steeped in religious history, the heart of this city sits on the banks of the Ganges, the holiest river in India and is the center of cultural Indian traditions, Hindu mythologies and legends. It is considered the ultimate location to pass away in, be cremated and placed into the river, thus bringing salvation to the individual. It is often that one can see bodies wrapped in saffron shrouds covered in marigold garlands being carried through the windy streets of old Varanasi to Manikarnika Ghat for cremation. The rawness of humanity abounds everywhere in this complex ancient city and touches all that come to the banks of the Ganges.

Amritsar

State: Punjab
Population:  1,132,761

Amritsar is in the state of Punjab which borders Pakistan and is considered the spiritual centre for Sikhs. Although the site is fraught with violent historical events that resulted in many lives lost, Amritsar is famous for the most beautiful temple called, Harmandir Sahib or The Golden Temple.  One of the many dark marks of Britain’s occupancy of India is the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that took place in 1919 where the British open fired with machine guns on the people of Amritsar killing almost 400 Indians and wounding 1200. Decades later, long after India had been liberated, Indira Gandhi headed Operation Blue Star in 1984 which extracted militant Sikhs hiding in The Golden Temple which left 83 dead.  But perhaps the more significant event that Indira Gandhi participated in was the burning down of the Sikh Reference Library which created animosity toward her resulting in her own Sikh bodyguards assassinating her only months later.  This instigated retaliation on the Sikhs and resulted in about 3000 deaths.  It is this event that the Sikhs refer to as “the great massacre”.

Sikh man at the Golden Temple

Sikh man at the Golden Temple

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Traffic in Varanasi

Complex traffic conditions  in India

Complex traffic conditions in India

Varanasi traffic is no different than any other busy city in India. The dodging of both pedal and auto rickshaws, cars, trucks, bicycles, cows, goats, water buffalo, children and adults makes for a potentially stressful situation. The trust in rickshaw driver’s ability to navigate successfully through this maze is crucial. This cacophony of horn blowing definitely can put one on edge after constant exposure – one of the many ways that India forces you to grow in different areas (patience and acceptance) – or get out!

We were trying to make it to the Ganges for the evening aarti ceremony when we hit a traffic jam. Our driver did an amazing job of making it through the traffic and help us to land at Dashashwamdh Ghat with plenty of time.
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Aarti Ceremony – Dashashwamedh Ghat

Waiting for aarti to begin

Waiting for aarti to begin

We had arrived late in the afternoon but in time to visit the Dashashwamedh Ghat for aarti.  We jumped in an autorickshaw and zipped along until we arrived at the old city of Varanasi where traffic condensed and we lurched and edged our way through to the closest place for parking that was allowed.  Our guide walked ahead of us leading us through the maze of pedal rickshaws, cows, goats, pedestrians and shops to the edge of the ghats.  We climbed down the steep steps and arranged for him to meet us in a certain spot after the ceremony.  I led us to the front of the five platforms to landings that were already populated by Indians and tourists alike.  We sat there waiting for the ceremony to begin and just took it all in.
Varanasi - boatsThe feeling of heightened anticipation and the smell of incense permeated the entire area.  Some people were eating with families while others were selling kum-kum (coloured powder to place on your forehead), offerings made of marigolds with rose petals filled leaf bowls with a dollop of ghee in the center to light before releasing it into the Ganges with a prayer.  Boats filled with tourists lined the waters edge and layered out into the middle of the river – a sea of boats everywhere.  Kids darted in and out running up and down the stairs while devotees sat on the stair landing above already in reflective prayer.  And then the ceremony began with chanting and the ringing of bells.  They resounded crystal clear, shattering any mental thoughts you may have had before and bringing your attention to the present moment, centered and attuned to their ritual.  We sat mesmerized as Hindu priests performed their religious rituals using incense, fire (from ghee), chanting, bells and movements that flowed in all four directions.
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Sunrise on the Ganges

Veejay & FamilyWe had befriended an auto rickshaw driver named Veejay while in Varanasi who took us everywhere we wanted to go. He had a kind heart and was so helpful in fulfilling our early demands and late shopping sprees – very touching. This morning we had arranged with him to pick us up at 5:30am to take us to the Ganges to watch the sun rise over the Ghats. After the ceremony the night before, we were exhausted and found our pace towards Veejay’s auto rickshaw slowed and sleepy. It was still dark and in preparation for the cold temperature, I brought a blanket from the hotel for us to wrap ourselves in. We zipped along the virtually empty streets – a vast difference from the traffic of yesterday’s drive to the Ghats. We arrived and were led down a dark tented area where people were still stirring. Veejay took us to the boat area and told us what to pay – 300 rupees total. As we waited for the boat to arrive, the quietness of the Ghats was in such contrast to the ceremony the night before.

Manikarnika Ghat - the burning ghat

Manikarnika Ghat – the burning ghat

The sun began to light the sky with pink hues and we stepped onto our boat with the help of our boatman and began to row toward the sun away from shore. The early morning at the Ghats brings a whole other side and experience of this holy river. Men and women alike are bathing (in separate locations) while laundry is being beaten to cleanliness and then laid out to dry. Sadhus arrive and begin their meditation while blessing those that come before him and further up the river at Manikarnika Ghat, bodies arrive shrouded in saffron and marigolds and are laid on a funeral pyre and burnt at the rivers edge. If the body it not fully burnt, they’re still released into the river for salvation.

Varanasi Sunrise

Varanasi Sunrise

As we rowed along the river, the sound of water lapping, birds chirping, boat vendors calling out and the odd boat with chanting devotees passing by were the only expressions here. As the sun rose up off the horizon burning its way through the pink hues and turning the sky blue, we headed back to our boat docking location. Veejay was there to meet us and take us back to our hotel to dine, nap and enjoy our afternoon.
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Map of Varanasi Soundscapes

Here is a map of the soundscapes conducted in Varanasi. The blue markers give brief information of where each location is. I hope you have enjoyed listening and sharing in my experience.
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Basilica of Bom Jesus

Old Goa houses many cathedrals including the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1594, the Basilica holds St. Francis Xavier’s body elevated in an encased silver casket. It is said that every ten years, this casket is lowered for devotees to pray next to. St. Francis Xavier arrived in Goa in 1542 with the intention of restoring Christianity to the Portuguese settlers and their illegitimate children. He began a Jesuit hermitage and after three years of catechizing children, he traveled to Indonesia to carry of with his work.

Basilica of Bom Jesus

Basilica of Bom Jesus

We arrived by bus close to Basilica of Bom Jesus during the morning and walked to the Basilica in the hot morning sun. We could hear the singing of Christian songs as we approached from a block away and as we got closer, we could see a canopy or tented area that had been set up outside the cathedral where hundreds of people had gathered. After a relaxed security check, which confirmed that our knees and heads were covered, we went through the main entrance of the cathedral to find many people lined up to take communion.

Basilica of Bom Jesus

Basilica of Bom Jesus

The main alter was gilded in gold filigree with angels and depictions of St Xavier’s life. Many people were actively praying on in pews while tourists were snapping shots. The feeling inside was very different than the singing outside where the service was taking place. In some ways it seemed almost “busy” and impersonal and I found myself feeling conscious of turning on my recording device. As I settled in though, listening to the Basilica of Bom Jesus, watching how the sunlight flooded through the side windows, the coolness of the pew beneath me, the soaring arch of the high baroque architecture, the feeling of the cathedral’s intention began to wave through me—the glory of God.
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Britto’s on the Beach

View of Baga Beach

View of Baga Beach

It was our final day of our residency in India. We had spent the day presenting our chapters of Popular Culture in a Globalised India and then watched / listened to the famous speech Martin Luther King, Jr. had given, “I have a dream.” We learnt that our professor, Michael R. had been present for this infamous speech all those years ago. He described his circumstances around the event and when we watched, I found that was not alone as tears welled up in me—the connection between Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s vision of a free people, working in harmony and creating the change we wish to see in the world resonated loudly as the speech came to a close. It was a kind of silence you never want to leave for to break it through movement or words shatters the purity of the moment. It was like listening to the most beautiful piece of music—in that hushed moment before applause lies the whole lived experience of it, pregnant with possibility. We left our classroom to spend free time and planned to meet up for our final dinner together.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

I took the shuttle bus provided by our hotel to the beach to meet at Britto’s which is a restaurant right on the beach. With a wooden roof and a plethora of tables and chairs, a “c” shaped table had been reserved for all 17 of us. The smell of the Arabian Sea wafted in—a subtle scent of salty sewer (we had heard that Goa has been known to dump sewage into the ocean), the sound of birds, people talking and music playing in the background and watching the waves rolling in onto the shore made me feel grounded—reflective. As I was one of the first people there, I decided to conduct a soundscape and placed my recording device on the dinner table.

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Map of Goa Soundscapes

Here is a map that shows the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Britto’s where our Last Supper took place in Goa. I hope that you have enjoyed listening and sharing in my experience.

Bhagsunag

State: Himachal Pradesh
Population: unknown

Bhagsunag is located about 2 kilometers north of McLeod Ganj in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is most noted for its temple and waterfall which legend reveals that a demon king, Bhagsu, had tried to take some of the water in Dull Lake by Dharamsala to help the people in Rajasthan. Before he reached his destination, the snakes that lived in the area discovered that some of the water was missing and fought with King Bhagsu, making the container of water fall – which metaphorically is the water fall that remains today. Before killing King Bhagsu, they gave him one wish – and he chose to have a temple built in his honour and declared that the waterfall had healing powers. From that day, people from all over the world have come to visit the snake temple of Bhasu and swim in her waters. The actual town of Bhagsunag is quite small and functional for it’s townspeople and is often visited on a day trip from McLeod Ganj’s busy tourist area.

Bhagsunag, snake temple, McLeod ganj, waterfall, No Name Cafe, India, soundscape, goats,

Bhagsunag, snake temple, McLeod ganj, waterfall, No Name Cafe, India, soundscape, goats,

State: Gujarat
Population: 7,208,200 (2011 poll)

Ahmedabad has been at the heart of many political uprisings in the fight for independence and fair treatment. Dating back to the 18th century when the British tried to occupy the city to the Dandi Salt March in the 1930s the people of Ahmedabad have worked hard to survive its oppressors. Mahatma Gandhi took residency in Ahmedabad along the Sabarmati river from 1917 – 1930 and established the Sabarmati Ashram which is now a museum and the headquarters for the Gandhi Portal.

Ahmedabad is very well known for its crafts and textile industry and many of its citizens are thriving through non-government organization (NGOs) that assist laborers and factory workers to be paid fair trade value. Other NGOs such as the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) are working hard to protect, educate, and empower women in the greater Ahmedabad region. The word of their groundbreaking work has spread across some parts of India and beyond its borders in an effort to unite women. Ahmedabad is also considered an educational center in Gujarat and has many universities and colleges for higher education.

The diversity of soundscapes in this city expresses a full spectrum of lived experience from the stillness of Gandhi’s reflection to the generocity of citizens to the determination to keep traditional foods alive to the absolute fortitude and relentless passion to educate, empower and inspire woman and men to choose their destinies and create the change they want to see in the world.

Rishikesh

State: Uttarakhand
Population: 102,138 (2011 poll)

Rishikesh or the Gateway to the Himalayas is located very close to the holy city of Haridwar and is virtually a “carless” community nestled along the river Ganga. Rishikesh is the point where the Ganges flows from the Himalayas into northern India. Because of this Rishikesh is also considered a holy city and is completely vegetarian by law. It is the home of many yoga centres, and spiritual centres that preserve Vedantic studies (study of the Vedas).

Rishikesh, the beatles, meditation, India, Meditation caves, soundscapes, music, holy city, ashram,

The famous British band, The Beatles visited one of the larger ashrams in Rishikesh – the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in 1968. They recorded around 50 songs while living at the ashram, some of which can be heard on their album White Album.  The ashram has been closed for many years, but here is a picture of the meditation caves that are spread out around the perimeter of the ashram grounds.  

Rishikesh: Soundscape

rishikesh, beatles, soundscape, ganges, the ganga, shiva, aarti ceremony, tabla, We arrived in the late afternoon and didn’t quite understand why the driver dropped us off before we were in the town of Rishikesh.  We soon learnt that there were no cars allowed in the Eastern side of town where our hotel was.  The air was cool but the sky was a bright blue and full of sun.  We started to make our way across the suspension bridge over the Ganges where it is said that Rama did penance for killing Lanka (a demon king).  Once across we walked along the store lined path along the river and eventually found our way to the hotel.  That afternoon we heard the amplified call to aarti and followed down our windy street to the river.  I was delighted to see a giant white Shiva in the middle of the river lit up in pink hues, the sun slowly falling toward the horizon.  I sat down on the steps to the left of the tabla, harmonium and zither players.  An older man chanting into a mic caught me watching him and smiled as his voice resounded throughout the streets.  I took a deep breath as boys dressed in saffron robes and shaved heads, ran past me to gather around a fire pit.  I watched as they moved around and settled in before the fire keeper watched over the fire.  I looked out at the water, Shiva’s reflection rippling off the Ganges and felt a surge of belonging – not necessarily to this particular place, but on a grander scale, to the unity of humanity and the expression of different cultures.  More and more people gathered, tourists, local families, more young boys and then the sadhus arrived and sat in the center and the ceremony began.

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Map of the Soundscapes of Rishikesh

Here is a map that shows area where aarti was held. I hope that you have enjoyed listening and sharing in my experience in Rishikesh.:
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