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I (recently) watched the Battlestar Galactica TV series. It is steeped in religion and religious themes - the dialog and thoughts of characters, the objective events taking place, and the Colonists' and Cylons' culture and, well, religion as described in the series.

Now, I was quite impressed by the emotional resonance of the opening theme of the series; but only after I finished watching the entire thing did I take the time to try to figure out what language that was - only to discover that the theme is a rendition of the Gayatri mantra - a key Hindu-religion mantra originating in the Rig Veda, the thousands-of-years-old Hindu corpus of scripture (in the Sanskrit language).

Battlestar Galactica Opening Sequence

Is this a significant part of the series' message? (I mean, the fact that it's a Vedic mantra; of course the words of the Mantra relate to the quest of the Colonial fleet throughout the series) Are the Cylons supposed to represent Hinduism, or Brahman, the monotheistic aspect of it? Perhaps it's the other way around, and the Colonists are like Hindus, worshiping many gods, with the Cylons bringing them the message of 'proper' Judeo-Christian style monotheism?

  • In case your interested, there's a very nice rendition from a teacher and students of the Vedas here, this is really very good. Also, I was always quite taken with this Ghana-pāṭha rendition. Just for your interest – Au101 Jun 11 '17 at 0:25
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According to the show's title composer, Bear McReary, the mantra was added at the request of Edward James Olmos.

Q ... whose idea was it to incorporate the Gayatri Mantra into the Main Title?

A: That was Edward James Olmos' idea. We do as the Admiral commands. :)

Reddit AMA: Bear McReary

An interview with Perry Krootjes indicates that it was simply a song that he personally liked rather than having any deep significance. According to the All Access DVD extras for season 2, "Eddie" gave out copies of Deva Premal's albums to cast members and cited her songs (including the Gayatri Mantra) as having helped him to prepare mentally for his role as the Captain.

Olmos finds inspiration for his roles in an unlikely place: music. “Music is the key for me, to develop characters,” he said. “I have to find my music before I can actually even start to work.”

Battlestar Galactica presented an unusual problem for Olmos, he said, because he was unable to get a grip on the story’s timeframe. He eventually found his music for Adama in a small record shop in Vancouver.

“I walked in and I saw, right as I walked in, the picture of Deva [Premal] on a blue cover,” he recalled. “I had no idea who she was. I had never heard her music, and I picked it up. I didn’t know why I picked it up, but I picked it up, and I walked it around, and then I went over and I said, ‘Can I hear this?’ They put it on and all of a sudden, I said, ‘Holy mackerel!’

“I played it from the very first day I got it, to the very last day that I worked on Battlestar Galactica. I played it every single day, seven days a week, to stay inside my character and to keep Adama alive and well.”

Edward James Olmos Inspires With Humility

Obviously the deeper themes (of the Cylons being led by their belief in a benevolent god) are reflected in the show which certainly makes it a suitable choice for the opening. That being said, it's not entirely clear whether Olmos even knew what the words of the song actually meant.

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    This is an extremely disappointing answer, but that's not your fault. – einpoklum Jun 10 '17 at 23:07
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    @einpoklum - Sorry. Sometimes a song is just a song – Valorum Jun 10 '17 at 23:08
  • @einpoklum On the contrary. Translation from this page: "Unveil, O Thou who givest sustenance to the Universe, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, that face of the True Sun now hidden by a vase of golden light, that we may see the truth and do our whole duty on our journey to thy sacred seat." (Emphasis is mine.) It paints the war of extermination as the Cylons' holy war. – neilfein Dec 20 '17 at 16:21
  • @neilfein: But the thing is, the writers and show creators did not think about any of that, it's just an ex-post-facto addition by Olmos. Thanks for the translation though. – einpoklum Dec 20 '17 at 16:49
  • I see you don't subscribe to the Death of the Author. (Warning - tropes timesink link!) – neilfein Dec 20 '17 at 19:11
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Reincarnation figures strongly into the story. The Vedas also imply that humans came from the stars and that their are many places in the heavens where humans and humanoids dwell. A pre earth space faring nuclear civilisation is implied by many Vedic texts. It's not surprising that Olmos was drawn to a sound vibration which encodes an entry way to a religious teaching that affirms the story he is telling, at least not to me anyways. The Vedas also happen to teach a lot about the power and significance of sound vibration. If you can find concise information on the overall structure of the Vedic cosmology rather than individual parables of characters or deities you'll find a lot of interesting stuff that suggests tales of this nature were not only likely but common place.

  • +1, especially regarding the reincarnaton. Also, Do you have links to an exposition of this pre-Earth spacefaring civilization implied in the Vedas? – einpoklum Feb 22 '18 at 15:37

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