Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'Mata' and music

North Indians, especially Punjabis; have experienced the phenomenon called ‘Mata ki chowki’. A ‘Mata ki chowki’ is held to sing praises of Goddess Durga. Nevertheless it is more of a social gathering than a religious one.

Let me describe it to you, starting from the setting. Imagine a huge hall. Then fill up the floors with mattresses covered by white bedsheets. Three walls should be lined with chairs. Add four amplifiers at all the corners. Now concentrate on the empty wall. The ‘shrine’ or the focal point will be set up here. A small table covered by a red or equally bright cloth will be set up. On this table an idol or framed picture of the ‘maa’ will be placed. There will be a plate; otherwise known as the ‘aarti’. On that plate you may see a ‘diya’, a few ‘agarbattis’ and other stuff most Hindus use in their rituals. Around the shrine a few people acting as musicians will be sitting with a 'dholak' and maybe, a harmonium along with a couple of microphones. Do imagine all this, but with the mute button switched on.

Now, imagine the people- men woman, oldies and children. It’s frenzy. Remember the chairs? Those are for people who simply can’t sit on the floor because of various ailments. Others will be sitting cross legged on the mattresses.

Let me also tell you how to find the location of a ‘Mata ki chowki’ you would be invited to. When you reach the area and are unsure of the address just enter the building emitting a lot of noise. Once inside let your ears guide you.

You’ll know you’ve reached the right destination if you cannot hear what the person next to you is trying to tell you. For the next two hours or so, the only noise, err sound you will hear will be loud chants of ‘Jai Mata di’. The songs are sung to the tunes of Hindi movie tracks-easy to pick up. The lyrics are few and simple-easy to remember. Comparing the sound levels to a rock concert may not be appropriate, but it is accurate.

The intention of the ‘Mata ki chowki’ may be to please the goddess. I wonder if people assume that the Goddess has a hearing problem and the praises need to be shouted to be heard and acknowledged. I guess praising the goddess wouldn’t be fun unless accompanied by loud chants and louder pseudo-music.


  1. cool.......n vry true!!!

    only we punjabis no d extreme torture!!

  2. nicee writing!!!...keep it up