Monday, 24 May 2010

My Work: Vedic Gurukul

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

During my Theyyams of Malabar Photo~Expedition™ in early 2009, I had arranged for a photo shoot at an ancient Vedic 'gurukul' (or training/boarding school very similar to the Buddhist monasteries for novitiates, or a Muslim madrasa) in Thrissur, where we were treated to a demonstration of this way of teaching the sacred Vedic scriptures.

The Vedas are the earliest literary record of the Indo-Aryan civilization, and the most sacred books of India. These are the original scriptures of Hindu teachings. The oral tradition of the Vedas consists of several rhythmic recitations and ways of chanting the Vedic mantras. The traditions of Vedic chant are often considered the oldest unbroken oral tradition in existence.

While photographing and watching the hypnotic chanting by the young boys, I was reminded of the similar recitation styles used by the Buddhist novices and the Muslim children at madrasas, who sway their torsos in time with the cadence of their chant. Moreover, many Jews also sway their bodies during prayer; a practice called shokeling in Yiddish.