Indian traditional systems of health and healing include various musical treatment approaches. Few healing traditions are also integrated in modern classical music therapy practice in India. All these approaches integrated with music not only prayer, but also yoga and meditation and guide the participant in the art of living.
There are some rituals and traditional practices which are en-vogue even today reflecting strongly that music and sound are used to alter states of consciousness to reduce perception of pain. It is popular for the Hindu devotees to perform the troublesome acts in order to impress Gods in the festivals. For instance, Fire-walking. Fire-walking by thousands of Hindu devotees is an integral part of religious Hindu festivals. The devotees, fully pierced by silver pins on their body carrying heavy burdens, walk on coal fire. Although, it can be considered as a superstition in today’s era, but the devotees performed this act to signify that the pins destroy all the desires and evils in man and purify the mind. The will, faith, concentration, piety and hope of the devotee alter their states of consciousness in such a way that no pain sensation is evident and strangely not a single drop of blood is seen oozing.
The devotees bring themselves to an altered state of consciousness in trance by the loud beats of drums and shouts with religious fervor “arohara” and the religious songs. The specific kind of rhythm based music and sounds contribute easy piercing of the skewers and pins into the body, which also prepare the devotees psychologically and physically to have a sense of control for performing these vows. It is this ongoing audio ambiance that alters the state of consciousness and takes away the perception of pain.
Nowadays, music therapy practice involves use of archika, gathika and samika verses (Vedic verses with single, two or three notes respectively) to enhance focused attention and to improve concentration and to help get into meditative and rejuvenated states. These recitals called proto-ragas are used in special education for kids with special needs for treating mental disturbances, loss of personal identity or confidence. With these proto-ragas and rapid rhythms, special children respond readily and more quickly than to medium-paced ragas.