Indian music has its own distinct, enticing quality. You know it when you hear it. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it has a religious origin. Hinduism is the world’s oldest faith and lays claim to many of the contemplative practices (yoga being the most obvious) which we use in a secular context today. There’s a great deal of overlap between classical Indian music and what could be considered “meditation music.”
Here’s my selection of the best “Indian meditation music” CDs. They’re absolutely wonderful for relaxing or meditating to. Some are specifically geared towards aiding meditation whereas others aren’t but suitable nonetheless. A lot of the good music that’s termed “New Age” (a phrase that’s garnered a lot of negative connotations) takes a great deal of inspiration from traditional Indian music, so it’s always worth expanding your listening to include artists like Deuter, Karunesh and Paul Horn (to name a few).
108 Sacred Names of Mother Divine – Sacred Chants of Devi (Anuradha Paudwal)
A very diverse album, despite the fact it only has three tracks. There’s a good balance between intensity and calmness. The second track “Devi Prayer” is exceptionally peaceful whilst the third has a truly enchanting feel to it. You can easily use it either as a meditative aid or for relaxing. Easily one of my favourite pieces of music in the genre.
Sacred Chants of Shakti (Anuradha Paudwal)
Another great album by the same musicians responsible for the first pick on this list. All the recordings are wonderfully ambient. Anuradha’s devotional singing is accompanied by the bansari (Indian flute) and an arrangement by Craig Pruess. Both this CD and the one above are part of the “Sacred Chants” series by the label “Heaven on Earth.” If you like the music you’ll probably want to check out the other releases.
In the OM Zone 2.0 (Steven Halpern)
Steven Halpern, the man responsible for this recording, is a big name in ambient music. Most of his work draws inspiration from traditional sacred music. His CD is another of my favourites, and one of the best for meditation. It’s simple and repetitive (in the best possible way). There’s eighteen tracks, each with their own unique flavour, so you won’t get bored. If you like the “OM” sound, this is a must-buy!
Inside the Taj Mahal (Paul Horn)
In 1968, whilst staying with the Beatles in India, Paul Horn sneaked a tape recorder into the Taj Mahal and made this exceptional series of flute and voice recordings. Pared-down and sublime, this is a perfect meditation soundtrack. Sometimes referred to as just “Inside.”
The Very Best of Ravi Shankar (Ravi Shankar)
Not strictly a CD containing music for meditation, but there are some very peaceful tracks. “Raga Malkauns (Alap)” is one such example that could be used as background meditation music. It almost demands that you light up some incense and dim the lights. You may have to listen to the whole CD first to find the suitable tracks but it’s a great collection by a true master. If part of the reason you’re drawn to Indian music is because of the sound of the sitar then this is also a must!
Classical Indian Music for Healing and Relaxation – The Ancient Beauty of the Veena
A collection of tranquil compositions (ragas) played on the veena, an old Indian instrument. The music has a very relaxing depth to it. Again, excellent as background music for meditation, although you may prefer something a little slower-paced. A great album.
Image credit: Flute Player at Lakshmi Temple by Ignas Kukenys