What do the Religions say about Noise?

Recently, the acclaimed Indian singer, Sonu Nigam, sparked off a controversy by firing off an angry tweet directed towards the early morning Islamic prayer call or azaan, likening it to unnecessary noise pollution for people of different faiths.

The azaan is a staple cultural sound in countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Emirates, and several other regions.

However, when a celebrity likened it to “noise”, it did not merely incite the ire of pro-religious groups but also the imagination of people like us who dove into the annals of history and myth to find signs of the deep-rooted relationship between noise and religion.

This is what we found.

Earliest Noise Pollution Law

The mention of noise pollution in a religious context dates back to the first ever piece of literature to have been written, namely the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ belonging to ancient Sumerian culture. In this epic, the punishment for noise pollution is deemed to be divine intervention and judgment by God himself! The exact part of the story that corresponds to this aspect of noise pollution is as follows:

In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said to the gods in council, “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel.” So the gods in their hearts were moved to let loose the deluge.

This part of the story recounts the incident where man-made noise pollution results in the angering of the Gods, who then proceed to release a flood to destroy humanity and regain their peace.

Mesopotamian creation myths speak of noise of the gods

Role of Noise in Creation of the Universe

Babylon, another crucial ancient civilization that is said to be the cradle of most religions as well as civilization in general, attributed a major role to noise in their creation myth. According to the prophets of Babylon and the subsequent scriptures that were preserved from this era, it was the noise produced by the lower gods, the sons and daughters of the original creators of the universe, Absu and Tiamat, that kickstarted the creation of the universe itself!

According to the scriptures, the primordial waters, represented by the salty ocean waters of Tiamat and the fresh waters of Absu, existed way before anything of the material universe had come into existence. When the waters of Tiamat and Absu mingled, several lower gods sprung forth and starting cackling and making all kinds of noises, like boisterous children. It is this noise that raised Absu and Tiamat from their slumber, thereby leading Absu to proceed to plan out their death. After this a major battle between the primordial gods and the lower gods ensues, in which the former are defeated. The dead body of Tiamat is then used to create the heavens and the Earth according to the myth. None of this would have happened if the lower gods had stayed silent and withheld the noise that resulted in creation itself.

God of Noise

The Greek God Homados was the personification of the noise that emanated from battlefields, encompassing the thunderous roar of bloodcurdling battle cries, the clanging of shield and sword, the footsteps pounding on the ground, and the cries of the wounded among myriad other sounds. This personification is similar and even synonymous with that of the God Kydoimos, who represented the confusing, erratic, abstract and chaotic aspect of the noise that emerged from the bowels of battle. One of the mentions of this God is in the epic known as ‘Iliad’ by Homer, in which the following words are inscribed on the shield of the ancient hero Achilles:

“These stood their ground and fought a battle by the banks of the river, and they were making casts at each other with their spears bronze-headed; and Eris (Hate) was there with Kydoimos (Cydoemus, Confusion) among them, and Ker (Death) the destructive; she was holding a live man with a new wound, and another one unhurt, and dragged a dead man by the feet through the carnage.”




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