Some background and translations of the Hindu chants sung during this production of A Christmas Carol.
A Note on Cultural Additions to the Adaptation:
For Hindus, mantras are intended to (re)connect us with our highest, innermost self—that infinite, omnipresent, omniscient being that pervades the universe and all consciousness. The mere utterance of the syllables in a mantra creates a vibration that is a powerful reminder of our resonance with earth and the cosmos.
During our production’s Christmas dinner the Cratchit family chants one of the oldest and most universal mantras across Hindu denominations. Originating earlier in oral tradition (though in written form dating to c. 1500-1000 BCE), the “Gayatri Mantra” appeals to the invisible force in all of existence, manifest and unmanifest:
Om bhurbhuva swaha
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat
Hari Om Tatsat
Om shanti, shanti shanti
"Gayatri Mantra" Translation
Om—the divine illumination which pervades the consciousness of
the physical plane, the life-force and intermediate space, and the divine mind / heavens –
on that illumination, whose nature is that of effulgence, I meditate.
May that divine intelligence awaken our spiritual consciousness.
Absolute reality is truth.
Peace, peace, peace be unto us, and all the beings of the world.
“Om Namo Narayanaya”
At Tiny Tim’s funeral during “Coventry Carol” the Cratchit family chants a prayer for the wellness of all beings, “Om Namo Narayanaya,” meaning “let us bow to Narayanaya.” This reminds us of our connection with the divine in life and in death. Narayanaya often refers to Vishnu, the embodiment of the preservation of life and nature in Hindu mythology, and can also refer again to our inner being. In bowing to the divinity within ourselves and each other, we recognize the divine itself.
Today, these ancient mantras are recited all over the world by families, yoga practitioners, pandits and spiritual seekers alike. When selecting prayers the Cratchit family might sing, we found the universal message in the “Gayatri Mantra” and “Om Namo Narayanaya” a natural fit in this timeless story of Scrooge’s spiritual awakening and his joyous effort to redeem himself in the present.
South Asian Cultural Consultant, A Christmas Carol
Co-Artistic Director, Chitrahar Cultural Academy Chicago
Photos from the 2021 production featuring Sriram Emani as Bob Cratchit, Alka Nayyar* as Mrs. Cratchit, Simi Gandhi as Martha Cratchit, Sanjay Manoharan as Peter Cratchit, Alexis Anu Thakkallapalli as Belinda Cratchit, Sri Chaitra Prasadula as Tiny Tim and Marta Rymer* as Storyteller.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association