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Prayer in the time of coronavirus

In a time of global pandemic, prayer is absolutely as important as ever, but some of the habits and rituals surrounding prayer are having to change – and so are their soundscapes.

As you can hear in this recording from Chennai, India recorded by Sathya Tamizharasan, “amidst the chaos on the streets during this Covid-19 lockdown, on a beautiful evening, there are the distinct sound of prayers from two beautiful religions: Hinduism and Islam resonates together bringing in strong vibes.”


Here’s how call to prayer is working in the midst of the US lockdown, as recorded by Katharine Horowitz in Minneapolis.

“In order to maintain stay-at-home orders, Minneapolis issued a permit for a mosque in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to broadcast the “adhan” during Ramadan so that Muslims can still pray, but do so safely apart.

“This recording was made at 5pm on May 7, 2020. The prayer can be heard starting at 2:52.”

Even the role of bells is changing in some small ways, as you can hear in this recording from France by Mike Tupling.

“Dusk, rural Normandy. Across France bells are being rung to thank all the medical personnel putting their own health on the line in the service of others. The bells that can be heard in the background above the dusk chorus are those of Église Saint-Pierre in Feugères.”

We close with a truly beautiful recording from North India by Christiane Strothmann, who tells the following story:

“This is the morning prayer sung at sunrise in Dolanji, the Tibetan Bönpo refugee settlement in North India.

“The sound is recorded from the balcony of my room in the guesthouse of Menri Monastery. From here I can overlook the valley of Dolanji having a free view on the public school down in the valley, and to the nunnery on the opposite mountain on the other side of the valley.

“The community is responsible and mindful concerning the coronavirus. All precautions are taken, social distancing is working well. Fortunately, the valley isn’t visited very often anyway, and there is so much space between the rooms and houses of the settlement that it doesn’t take too much to adept to the situation, at least compared to other places in India.

“However, since the medical facilities are not comparable to that of the Western countries it is challenging to completely get rid of all worries, especially when thinking of intensive care.

“Nevertheless the Tibetan monks are spreading an atmosphere of calm and confidence. There is still heartfelt laughter and smiling among the monastics as well as among the Tibetan villagers.

“Yesterday, the last day before the complete shutdown of India, we could still listen to the sounds of the ritual performed as usual by monks and students of the Tibetan medical college at every new moon in order to bless their hand made medicine.

“Also the sounds of the rituals performed at the nunnery and at the monk’s monastery had been going on so far.

:From today on it will most probably be the sounds of individual practices stemming from the nuns’ and monks’ rooms, since due to the shutdown the big assembly halls for greater rituals have been closed.

“However, it is assumed that this will not do anything to the effectiveness of their practices. So it is nice to know that in this extraordinary global situation next to their daily routine the nuns and monks perform special rituals for the wellbeing of the whole world.

“The main protector of the Bön tradition is Sipe Gyalmo, a healing, wrathful, and highly potent female aspect of the universe.

“Sometimes, when thunderstorms are crossing the valley it seems as though Sipe Gyalmo was talking to us, proving her existence and granting us her determination to heal and protect the world by whatever means.”