Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Jahnavi Harrison examines the power of mantras. She explores the many ways people of faith use the repetition of certain words as a formula to draw themselves closer to the divine.

Musician Jahnavi Harrison examines the ancient practise of mantra recitation and charts the spread of mantras from their Eastern origins to Western pop-culture.

The origin of the word ‘mantra’ lies in the ancient Sanskrit language. It means literally ‘mana’ or mind/heart and ‘tra’ to transport or transcend. In a religious context, Jahnavi explains, a mantra is a sacred sound formula - an arrangement of words with meaning, that have the power to connect the reciter with a specific spiritual goal. But the meaning need not necessarily be understood in order to have an effect, just as you don’t need to know about all the ingredients in cough syrup to feel it doing something.

Om, believed by Hindus to be a 'primordial sacred sound' is perhaps the most well known of the traditional Eastern mantras. Jahnavi introduces us to an extraordinary recording of 10,000 people chanting Om as part of a project organised by the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhatten. We also hear the music of George Harrison which features this ancient chant.

The belief of Hindus and Buddhists, that reciting mantras can transform the body and mind, are now the subject of much scientific study which has shown that regular chanting brings about changes within the brain. In addition to reaping the spiritual and cognitive benefits, Jahnavi explains that she chants daily in order to put on a suit of "sonic armour" that seems to protect her from the noise and intensity of the urban environment.

Presenter: Jahnavi Harrison
Producer: Max O'Brien
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4

28 minutes

Last on

Sun 28 Oct 2018 23:30

Music Played

  • The Radha Krishna Temple

    Hare Krishna Mantra

    • The Radha Krsna Temple.
    • Apple Records.
  • Bada Haridas (feat. Karnamrita)

    Om Purnam

    • Om Purnam.
    • Bada Haridas.
  • George Harrison

    Singing Om

    • Wonderwall Music.
    • Apple Records.
  • Jahnavi Harrison

    May All Be Blessed Hari Om

    • Mantra Lounge Vol 2.
    • Radha Krishna Records.


Title: Miss O’Dell

Author: Chris O’Dell

Publisher: Touchstone


Title: Just Say Om

Author: Joel Stein

Publisher: Time Magazine


Title: Svetasvatara Upanishad

Author: Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester

Publisher: Signet Classics


Title: The Brahma Creation, a fusion of the story as told in the Srimad Bhagavatam and Brahma Sahmita

Publisher: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Today’s programme was presented by Jahnavi Harrison

The producer was Max O’Brien