Every Tuesday night at 6:30pm the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati fills its airways with the bass-heavy rhythm of the dholak, a double-headed hand drum, and its traditional accompanying instrument, the harmonium. The two instruments provide temple-goers a resounding, energetic medium through which their minds can transition from daily thoughts to the flow of the Hanuman Chalisa, forty lines sung (five times) in respect and admiration for the Hindu deity Hanuman.
The temple, which is open seven days a week, has been hosting Hanuman Chalisa every Tuesday for the past twelve years. Pratap Jani, whose musical prowess as a singer and keyboard player is well respected within the community, has been an active participant throughout that time. "Initially we were five or six people, and over the years more people started coming. Over fifty people now attend [the event] regularly. They come, recite Hanuman Chalisa and disperse. The temple is now booming."
Hanuman's symbolic representation is associated with the human mind. "In monkey form, Hanuman is a rudra avatar [incarnation] of Shiva, said to remove ignorance and negativity. His gadha [mace] represents that, bad thoughts," says head priest Kailash Sharma. In relation to the human intellect, the monkey form is symbolic of that which is ever restless, never still.
For Hindus, the reasoning behind such beliefs relate to our unique ability, as humans, to condition our minds and realize the power associated with changing the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Hanuman, as a champion yogi, represents a mind capable of calming and controlling senses. Through faithful devotion and selfless service, Hanuman devotees aspire to still their minds and overcome ego in an approachable way. Although Hinduism is deeply complex, Hanuman offers simplicity, says Kailash Sharma.
You can visit the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati at 4920 Klatte Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. On Tuesdays, chances are you'll see priest Kailash Sharma, Pratap Jani and a diverse group of regulars from a variety of backgrounds and regions of India enjoying music and singing Chalisa.
For more information about events and activities, visit the temple's website.