Tritha's 'Dharani': A 55-minute melodic journey of 1,00,000 Buddhist mantras

Tritha's 'Dharani': A 55-minute melodic journey of 1,00,000 Buddhist mantras

A unique music album, recorded in a Buddhist monastery in the French Alps, translates Tibetan chants to Sanskrit shlokas.

Mantras are getting their own orchestras across the world, with sounds, colours and tones by different spiritualists. Take Tritha, singer, composer, producer, activist, entrepreneur and voice teacher. She recently released Dharani, a 55-minute-long album that plays 1,00,000 Buddhist mantras recited in Sanskrit. The stated aim is purifying the soul. “It’s a gift to earth from the Buddha,” says the singer.

Overall, it is a captivating melange of melodies. She chants the mantras in her lilting voice, accompanied by soothing strains of a variety of instruments such as sound bowls, Tibetan trumpets, bells, and conches. The composition is interspersed with rhythmic beats of nature—gentle waterfalls, the pitter patter of rain, the wind rustling in leaves. It is the reflection of an unconventional devotee searching for a new element, one where communion and communication have different methods and melodies.

When she was a child, Tritha’s family members fondly called her ‘pagli’ (mad). However, it was a loving moniker acknowledging her unbridled spirit. Years on, as an adult, she would effectively channel the free spirit into composing her own brand of eclectic music. Born in Kolkata, and now flitting between the City of Joy and Paris, her first guru in Indian classical music was Pt MS Kulkarni of the Agra gharana.

She also attended a Vedic school where her knowledge of Sanskrit and Carnatic music was further enhanced. Tritha was equally attracted to contemporary world music, because her brother was a Nirvana and Pink Floyd fan. Such influences led her to dabble in diverse genres: trip-hop fusion, raaga scatting, and psychedelic rock. Over the last 15 years, she has released 17 albums, and many EPs and singles. However, Dharani’s story is the most interesting of them all.

The Buddha has a way of transcending time and space; at the Shangpa Karma Ling Buddhist Institute located in a sacred forest in the mountains in the French Alps, between Lyon in France and Geneva in Switzerland Tritha found her musical muse. Here she was asked to present her music a few years ago. Her proficiency in Sanskrit came to light during the performance.

She was invited by the head monk of the institute Denys Rimpoche to oversee the translation of 1,00,000 Tibetan mantras into Sanskrit. She explains, “It was a dream of Kalu Rinpoche, a great Buddhist master from Tibet and a contemporary of the Dalai Lama, to have Tibetan chants sung in Sanskrit, since he felt the effect of the sounds and pronunciations would be more impactful in the original language they were derived from, which is Sanskrit.”

The original plan was to create simple chants for the young monks. Since she is both a musician and a composer, Tritha created an entire soundscape around the mantras inspired by the falling rain, the flow of streams, forest sounds and suchlike. Buddhist temple instruments appear in her work. “At the Shangpa Karma Ling Institute, I was asked to attend the morning and evening meditation sessions held in the main temple. Otherwise I was free to work on my translations. Once the electricity would go out, I would work by candlelight, reciting and recording chants in the silence of the night,” she shares.

Tritha credits her inspiration as nature and the silence of deep meditation. She had already learned to appreciate the tonalities of music in the temples of Chennai and Kolkata where she grew up. Simultaneously, she exploited the overlap between instruments used during the meditations at the institute, which she had learned in Indian temples. The result was many hours of chants, the best of which she culled into an album. “These are meant to purify spaces with their healing sound frequencies, which is the very essence of Naadchikitsa or the ancient Indian practice of sound healing.”

Following the release of her album, Tritha is currently on a UK-Europe tour, as part of which she will conduct sound healing workshops and participate in wellness retreats. This spiritual melodist has reinvented modern devotional music into a outlier genre of its own.

The New Indian Express