Tag Archives: Traditions

Crafts: Kondapalli Toys

Continuing our Series on Arts & Crafts  is the native ancient style of wooden toys known to all Telugus. Appreciated by Andhraite and non-Andhraite , young and old alike is that iconic handicraft we all grew up with: Kondapalli Bommalu.

History

Kondapalli an important town near Vijayawada, in Krishna District. Meaning ‘village of hills’, it is also a village of toys. 16 kilometres from Bezawada, it is celebrated in story and song for its famous fort, immortalised during the reign of the Reddi Rajulu.

Around 500 years old, if not older, this art is credited to and preserved by a community known as nakarshalu (though by some they also called ‘Arya Kshatriyalu’).

There is reference to this group in the “Brahmanda Purana”. This community claims its origin to Muktharishi, who was endowed with skills in arts and crafts by Lord Shiva. These chitrakaras claim that it was their ancestors who sculpted the numerous sculptures like the garuda, nandi, simha and the vahanas in the many temples in Andhra Pradesh.[2]

 It is claimed that this art was brought by migrants from Rajasthan, though these claims still need to be verified by history. One account lends credence to the theory.

 In the 16th century, Anavema Reddy invited around 10-12 families, all wooden handicrafts specialists from Rajasthan, to his court, says Nageshwar Rao, 37, a toy-maker. “All these families from the Nakarshalu community migrated to Kondapalli.” The Reddy kings, impressed by their skill, patronised the artisans and asked them to stay there forever. [7]

Characteristics

Made primarily from a soft wood known as Tella Poniki, which is found in large numbers around Kondapalli itself, these toys have not only become characteristic of Andhra, but have a number of standout characteristics.

Distinct from their Telugu cousins, Etikoppaka Toys, these Kondapalli carvings carry with them a special significance during Sankranthi and Dasara.  They are displayed in bommalakolavu or kollu. Both vahanas and veritable vigrahas of pauranic figures are depicted and showcased during these festivals. They are used to enshrine and enact the various stories contained in our epics.

Prices of these toys range from Rs. 15 to Rs. 800 and the Corporation is offering 10 per cent discount on the purchase during the expo. [5]

At the high end, many toys even reach 5,000 rupees. Themes from Dasavatara and Hitopadesa are common. Nevertheless, the ambari elephant and the kuchipudi dancers remain the most iconic favourites. And the appeal is universal. These craftsmen have a unique place in the hearts and minds of Telugus, young and old alike.

Equipped with ‘bavudari’, ‘palapa chekka’ and ‘aakurai’, generations of these toymakers have managed to bring a smile on the faces of little kids across the world with their pieces of art. [3]

Process

Unlike most modern toys, Kondapalli bommalu use almost all natural ingredients in the process. Tools come in various shapes and sizes and are developed by the craftsmen.

The wood is treated to a slow heating process to dry its moisture content. The limbs of the toys are carved separately and later joined to the body. The essential carving tools are axe, chisel, hammer and drill. [5]

Glue consisting of tamarind paste, lapum, and sawdust is used to assemble them.

This tamarind paste is called makh. Batana (cooked tamarind seed paste) is then rubbed on it along with resin from the tumma tree.Gold and silver foil used to be added for ornamentation. Although water colours, vegetable dyes, and oil paints are now used, traditional rangulu relied on stones, herbs, various gums and other bases. Even the paint brush comes from goat hairs, demonstrating the stress on organic materials.

Ladies are also an integral part of the process, much of the artistry of these dolls being attributed to their skill with a brush. Finished products are often given a coating of enamel paint to enhance their sheen.

Future

Kondapalli Bomma retains an international reputation and is frequently purchased by tourists during their travels in our region. It received a Government sanctioned Geographical Indication in 2007-2008, thereby crediting this handicraft to Andhra. Despite this accreditation, the future of this iconic tradition remains in question.

Over the centuries, the skill moved beyond the Nakarshalu community, and it is no longer a caste-specific occupation. Members of various communities and castes, including Padmashali, Kamsali, Vishwabrahmin, now work in the Kondapalli toy industry. Records of the Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (MACS), established in 2002 by the artisans, show that in February 2017, of the 229 toy-makers in the village, 107 are men and 122 women. Of these, 53 are Dalits, 128 are from Other Backward Classes, 26 are Muslim, and 22 are from other, landed castes.”  [7]

As with many traditional Arts and Crafts of United Andhra, Kondapalli Toys are also on the brink. The community that preserves this ancient art is finding itself in difficult financial straits. 50 families live in Bommala Colony in Kondapalli, fulfilling large orders on the infrequent occasions they materialise. Dependent upon Lepakshi outlets and various art exhibitions, they require reliable and equitable distribution channels to maintain their livelihood and craft.

At the annual Lepakshi Expo, the turnover is around 3 Lakh rupees. While there are cooperatives supported by Lanco group and various efforts ( such as this and this and this and this) to market these products, society-at-large must come together to help these traditional workers compete with the global market of competitors with products sourced from China and elsewhere.

Though there have been some redesign drives to both update the toys and their relevance to the contemporary market, much more work needs to be done in this regard.

The nouveau riche of Andhra again have an opportunity to step and support these workers and protect our common heritage.

In the olden days, Kondapalli artists received patronage from the local rulers. But today these artisans are neglected due to the advent of mechanised toys. Many artisans have given up their profession and are seeking other lucrative jobs. Though the government is trying to rehabilitate this art form, it is up to us to encourage it. It is our duty to do so. [2]

Click here to Buy Kondapalli Toys Today!!!


References:

  1. Gajrani, S. History, Religion, and Culture of India. Vol 2.Delhi: Isha Books. 2004
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20160127053030/http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/yw/2003/06/21/stories/2003062100470300.htm
  3. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Toying-with-heritage-No-heir-to-Kondapallis-amazing-art/articleshow/47336094.cms
  4. http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/News/ 283_1_REGISTRATION_DETAILS_OF_GI_TILL_DATE_March_2012_Till_Date.pdf
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20140626104254/http://www.hindu.com/2011/01/12/stories/2011011261670200.htm
  6. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/379894/tales-kondapalli-toys-narrate.html
  7. https://ruralindiaonline.org/articles/no-longer-a-toy-story/
  8. http://www.lepakshihandicrafts.gov.in/blog/kondapalli-toys.html
  9. http://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/know-all-about-the-kondapalli-toys/article7611347.ece

Happy Ugadi (2017)

Happy-Ugadi-2017

From all of us at ACP, in this Hevilambi Nama Samvatsara we wish you a happy and prosperous (Telugu) New Year.  Ugadi Subhakaankshalu!

Ugadi comes from the Sanskrit term Yuga Adi, or new era.

Typical greetings include: Nutana Samvatsara Subhakaankshalu or Ugadi Subhakaankshalu.

Today we celebrate the arrival of the year 5119 (Kali Yuga reckoning), which is named  Hevilambi (last year was Durmukhi), in this 28th Chaturyuga of the 7th Manvantara (Vaivasvata) in Sveta Varaha Kalpa.

Here is our Post from 2014 explaining the Festival and its Traditions in detail.

Ugadi-2017-Pictures

Normally, Ugadi naturally coincides with the Pan-India Yugadi, and notably Gudi Padwa—united Andhra Pradesh’s neighbour to the west, Maharashtra. This year, there was a mild controversy over calendrical dates and the was a 1 day divergence. Here is the explanation.

So whether you celebrated yesterday (along with the rest) or you are enjoying the Utsav today, we wish a happy Hevilambi Samvatsara.

Per tradition, here is the 2017-2017 Hevilambi Samvatsara Panchanga Sravanam.

Thanks to all our loyal and regular readers for your interest, comments, and support. We look forward to another great year of Preserving and Passing on our wonderful common Culture and Tradition.దుర్ముఖి నామ సంవత్సర శుభాకాంకషాలు! Happy Ugadi!

Kalakada & Andhra’s Great Past

The following Post was composed by Spandana garu. You can follow her on Twitter.


Kalakada Temple

Andhra Pradesh is now making its move towards becoming a technology giant, industrial giant, and what not —all these are positive signs to the growth of our newly re-born State. But at the same time, here we should never forget, we are nothing without our identity…and our identity is our culture, our past, our roots. Just a small introspection is needed for us. How well are we treating our monuments, our old temples, old forts (signs of our past)? Penukonda being the second capital of Great Vijayanagara Emperors, how is its present condition…how many actually visit?

Its not about Penukonda alone; it’s similar condition with all our monuments. Hope we realise monuments are not just old walls and buildings, but they are remnants of our ancestors.

#History of #Kalakada (Chittoor District) has an interesting back ground.

Kalakada

1. #Siddavattam was a kingdom in Kadapa District. According to the oral histories of the region, around the 15th century C.E,  there was a king by the name Chandra Sekhar Varma, of the Vydhaba dynasty. He was an honest but strict king. He had a beautiful daughter, Princess Sathyavathi.

2.It so happened on God’s wish that Sathyavathi became pregnant, despite being unmarried. The Raja became harsh and questioned Sathyavathi about her pregnancy, demanding to know who was responsible for her condition. Sathyavathi replied that she was innocent and unaware of the cause. He couldn’t believe  her.  ‘Sathyavathi’ was a great devotee of Lord Siva. She prayed to him to prove her innocence.

3.Being ashamed of his daughter, Chandra Sekhara Varma wanted to get rid of her. As per his strict view, she had committed an unpardonable crime. The King ordered his daughter to cross Seven outskirts of villages by carrying a pot full of toddy on her head (Kallu), under which there was a Cobra.The pot was made  of wet clay. The punishment imposed on his daughter was unfair and humanly impossible, and at any moment, his daughter would die due to Cobra bite. Sathyavathi agreed to her father’s command and started her journey.

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4. The King sent his trusted soldiers along with her. Praying to Lord Siva devoutly, Sathyavathi crossed 7outskirts of villages successfully, and she put down the pot after journeying to an appropriate place. To her astonishment, there was no Toddy (Kallu) in the pot, and instead there was ‘Siva linga’ and a Cobra with its hood on it. The pot disappeared. The Siva Linga is named as “#Kallu #Ghateswar” as it appeared from a pot of toddy (Kallu). It is told that due to her virtue, Sathyavathi turned into a river. Today, there’s a Sangamam (confluence of rivers)with  #Bahuda and #Sathyavathi, where the Siva Linga was installed by Sathyavathi.

5. The local people worshipped Lord Siva and Sathyavathi wholeheartedly. The king came to know the story and repented much for  his foolishness in punishing his innocent daughter. He did namaskaara before ‘Lord Siva’ and asked for forgiveness for this sin. This name of Lord  Siva (‘Kallu-Ghata’) in due  course of time became Kalakada today. Because he fulfilled the wishes of the people, Sadashiva is called “Siddheswara”, which means fulfillment of wishes to those who prayed to Him.

This local legend is considered a real historical story that took place . To this day, people from the 7 outskirt villages come to Kalakada, through the same path by which Sathyavathi travelled, every year and offer their prayers.

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There’s a Pallava period monument in the Town (which is under the Archaeology department). At the same time, the pathetic condition of monuments isn’t hidden as well. Kalakada is not the only place. This wonderful state is blessed abundantly with historical monuments, beautiful architecture, and many old Temples.

Another completely neglected monument, probably a #pallava structure and later improved by #Vijayanagara, is this one. It is a temple with great history. Once a grand structure, it is  now prey for our negligence. Our monuments are in utmost need of care and protection.

Heritage sites in Andhra Pradesh are in really bad state and many monuments are ignored and neglected without a record.

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Loot by thieves in search of treasure in ancient monuments is not new, here is an epic example of it.It is heart wrenching for any heritage lover to see such old monuments in this vulnerable state. Please share this post to the maximum,and let government act and preserve our roots and heritage.

#Heritageisourpride #Heritagemustbepreserved

Location: Location of the Mandal:- #Kalakada Mandal is located on N.H-18,towards North of #Chittoor, which is 90 K.Ms from District head quarters.

Chittoordistrict.svg

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/13th-century-temple-a-picture-of-neglect/article6795604.ece
  2. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/110117/hyderabad-thieves-looting-antiques-without-any-fear-of-law.html
  3. http://www.chikalakabp.appr.gov.in/home/-/asset_publisher/QOkpuc6kj83c/content/about-kalakada/pop_up?_101_INSTANCE_QOkpuc6kj83c_viewMode=print
  4. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/200-year-old-temple-cries-for-attention/article16546761.ece

Spandana also runs the GloriousIndianPast and NeglectedMonuments Blogs.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Carnatic Classical Instruments: Veena

veena

Introduction

From very early times Andhras had a special aptitude for music. They did much in times of yore to develop that art (gaanakalaa) and contributed a special raga called Andhree after their own name to the series of musical notes. This fact is known from a treatise on Music named Brhaddesi written by Matanga muni. The author states in his work that in the opinion of Saardula Maatava-pancama has six raagainis of which Andhri was one. [4, 418]

To date, Andhra Cultural Portal has focused primarily on the many brilliant Andhra Composers and singers. Specific names include Annamaya, Thyagaraja, Narayana Theertha, and of course, the recently deceased Dr. Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (who will be sorely missed).

Nevertheless, another critical aspect of the Carnatic tradition is its instruments. Indeed, instrumentals are, today, more important than ever in reaching out to “modern/post-modern” youth who are alienated from their roots. Carnatic music may seem regimented and orthodox, but as Balamurali garu proved, it can certainly keep up with the times. Indeed, the greatness of it is that while not all who are trained in other traditions can do what Carnatic virtuosos can, even the average Carnatic performer can do what other traditions can. As such, understanding the role instrumentation plays is key.

Seven chapters (28-34) of the Natya Sastra deal with music. Bharata muni discusses both aatoodya (instrumental) and gaana (vocal) music. [2, 106] While the voice is the most personal of musical instruments, Classical Indic music hosts a panoply of percussion, strings, and woodwinds alike.

The Musical instrument (Aattodya or Vaadya) [2,110] in Carnatic music is of four kinds: Thatha vaadyam, Sushira vaadyam, Avanatta vaadyam, and Ghana vaadyam. “They are respectively called stringed instruments, thulai (hole) instruments, leather instruments and metal instruments.”[1, 97]

Thatha (stringed) instruments are generally made out of wooden pieces or chips and joined together with strings made of copper and similar materials. They are played by nail or other such devices. Instruments such as the Veena fall into this category. The Veena in particular can be played with three different techniques: tattva, anugatha, and oogha. “In tattva, the instrument is played mainly to denote the rhythm, the time-measure etc. of a particular song. In anugata, the instrument is played to follow the tempo of the song. In oogha, the instrument is played to embellish the song with no particular significance attached to it.” [2, ]

rudravina
Rudraveena.org

Sushira (thulai)instruments wind instruments and typically are made either out of wood or bamboo planks. They have holes, are blown from the mouth, and manipulated with the fingers. Instruments such as the flute (murali or vamsee) fall into this category. “Depending on the number of quartertones, the notes of this instrument are of three varieties—dvika or two, trike or three and catushka or four. The same are respectively known as ardhamukta or half open, kampamaana or pulsating, and vyakta mukta or fully open.”[2,110-111]

Avanatta (leather) instruments refers to percussion. “These are made out of wood and tied with leather. They can be played by the hand or small sticks.” [1, 97] These drums are usually hollow instruments with leather coverings on one or both sides.Silt and wheat/barley flour are used to fill in order to ensure consonance with the main note.

Ghana (metal) instruments are generally made out of bronze. These are commonly called cymbals and referred to as thaala (within the tradition). This is because they are used to measure time in a musical session.

The division for instruments are as follows:

Sruthi instruments: Tambura (Thatha)-Otthu (Sushira), Sruti box (Sushira)

Sangeetha Instruments: Veena (Thatha), Gottu (Thatha), Flute (Sushira), Nadaswaram (Sushira), Jalatarangam (“Water is poured in porcelain cups and then played by stick”). [1, 97]

Laya Instruments: Mridangam (Avanatta), Thavul (Avanatta), Keethu (Thatha), Moorsing (Ghana), Kanjira (Avanatta), Ghatam (Mud pot), Jalar (Gana-Bronze)” [1,97]

There are of course other instruments in use today, such as the violin and the harmonium. While their inclusion shows the versatility of Carnatic,  these are not traditional, and thus, are not considered for the purposes of this collection of articles.

We begin this Series with an instrument that has long been denied its due. Indeed, Classical Indic Taste has been pushed aside for parvenus. No more. It is time to restore the traditional place of one of Indian Music’s most magnificent contributions: The Veena.

History

veena-statue
Meenakshi Madurai Temple

The Veena is verily the classical of all classical Indian instruments.  It is one of three main vaadyaas first mentioned in Vedic literature, notably the Rig and Sama Vedas. The origin of all musical instruments is told by Bharata muni himself:

Sage svaati went to a lake to fetch water on a holiday when it rained heavily. The torrents of rain fast as wind, falling on the lotus leaves in the waters of the lake, excited the birds which produced inexplicable sweet sounds. Svaati was astonished at the rich melodious sounds made by the falling water drops and the low, the medium and the high notes produced by the birds. He went back to his hermitage and pondered over the possibility of producing musical instruments incorporating these sounds. He sough the assistance of viSvakarma, the celestial architect, and constructed various drums including mridanga, paNava and dardura.”[2, 111]

Maharishi Svaati then created the various instruments and crafted them with strings, wood, and iron. Percussion instruments in particular are mentioned. The famed divine drum dundubhi, along with others such as the tripushkara (mridanga, paNava and dardura) which are major instruments,  as well as the jhallari and paTahi (minor instruments) are mentioned.[2, 112]

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One who plays the veena is known as a vainika/vainikaa. There have been many a talented Vainika in Purana and Charitra. The Veena, of course is most identified with two deities in the Hindu pantheon. The first and foremost, is the Goddess of Knowledge, Sarasvati Devi. Invoked throughout auspicious educational occasions, she is in many ways, the patron deity of music itself. It is not for nothing the most famous Veena is her namesake. After all, she is called Veena Pustaka Dharini.

Next of course is Mahadev himself. Lord Shiva is famed as a dancer and a destroyer and a wielder of the damaroo. Nevertheless, he is credited with the creation and mastery of another instrument, which fittingly bears his majestic name.

Narada muni-He is always seen with his veena, known as Mahathi, praising Lord Vishnu with his keerthanas.

Maharishi Agasthya-The great Saptarishi was an exponent of the veena and famously had a competition with Ravana (whose flag featured the veena). [9]

These of course, are sacred figures from our Puranas. But human history proper itself lists many talented veena players. Sculptures throughout India mark the centrality of the Veena, whose traditional role, ostensibly, has been usurped by the violin.

Siddhartha Gautama-“The Buddha reinforced his teachings with music from his Veena known as Parivadhini. It had twenty-one strings made of gold (Swarna Sutra).” [8]

Perhaps most celebrated of all, is the famed Emperor Samudra Gupta. He whose shadows cast their sway from Valhika to Varanasi and Kashmir to Kanyakumari was undoubtedly a most masculine of royals. And yet, he conquered Bharatavarsha with vaana (bow) in one hand and veena (lute) in the other.

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Maharajadiraja Samudra Gupta with veena & vaana

Moving on into the medieval period, we find many accomplished performers and even rulers.

Purandara Dasa-The Pitamaha of Carnatic music was also a vainika in his own right. His successors in turn would follow in his footsteps as vainika-gayakas.

Raghavendra Swami-The patron Saint of Mantralayam was divinely inspired by Veena music, and used it in his own compositions.

Thyagaraja-Saint Tyagaraja brings out with all lyrical beauty and brilliance about the importance of this divine instrument in his song Mokshamu Galada!

vINA vAdana loludau Sivamano
 
vidha merugaru, thyAgarAja vinutha
 (Meaning)
 Is salvation obtainable to those who are not able to perceive the mind of Shiva who derives indescribable pleasure from listening to the divine music of Vina!” [3, 2]

Syama Sastri

 http://www.andhraportal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/1985-shyama_sastri.jpg

Muthuswamy Deeksithaar

Veena Kupayya-A student of Thyagaraja. He composed many krithis featuring the veena.

Culture and Competence (in manhood or otherwise) go hand-in-hand and are not antipodal. The days of the popinjay oversophisticates and the rustic barbarian must be set aside.

It is possible to be both strategically serious and sophisticated in song and the other arts. The great King Bhoja was a sishya of Sarada and Skanda alike. We need not be alienated from our roots and artistic endeavours in order to tackle the modern world.

Indeed, there is a veena for every occasion. Here are some of its many types.

Types

Govinda Dikshitar of the Tanjavur court first constructed a veena with 24 fixed frets, 12 for each octave. This was a key factor in the development of the system of 72 melakarta ragas.” [6] He is considered the originator of the Sarasvathi Veena in its current form. Nevertheless, the Veena obviously has a far greater antiquity (and variety). There were at one point as many as 25 different kinds of veenas. Kanakaveena or brahma veena may very well be the origin of them all.  In fact, Palkurki Somanatha, famed Telugu Poet of the Kakatiya era,  in his poem Panditharaadhya Charitramu gives us 41 [6]:

1. VEENOTTAMAMU 2. BRAHMA VEENA 3. KAILASA VEENA 4. SARANGA VEENA 

5. KOORMA VEENA 6. AAKASHA VEENA 7. PINAAKA VEENA 8. RAAVANA VEENA 

9. GAURI VEENA 10. GANDHARVA VEENA 11. BANA VEENA 12. KASYAPA VEENA 

13. SWAYAMBHOO VEENA 14. BHUJANGA VEENA 15. BHOJA VEENA 

16. KINNARA VEENA 17. TRINARI VEENA 18. SARASWATI VEENA 19. MOLLI VEENA 

20. MANORADHA VEENA 21. GANANADHA VEENA 22. KAUMARA VEENA 23. ANIVANI 

24. RAVANA HASTAM 25. TIPIRI 26. SAKANEY 27. VALI 28. VICHITRAKA 29. NATA 

30. SAGARIKA 31. KUMBHAKA 32. VIPANCHIKA 33. SARA VEENA 34. PARIVAADI 

35. MALLARI 36. KOLAASHTI 37. SWARAMANDALAM 38. GHOSHAVATI 

39. AUDUMBARAM 40. TANTRI SAAGARAM 41. AMBUJA VEENA. 

Here is a listing of the ones that are prevalent in the present time.

rudra-veena

Rudra veena-Undoubtedly the most august and masculine of all the Indian lutes, the Rudra Veena commands respect even today.  Legend has it that Lord Shiva was inspired to construct it when he caught glimpse of Parvathi Devi taking rest. Struck by her beauty, the Rudra Veena was the result of the saundharya of this most Divine of muses.

 

sarasvati-veena

Sarasvathi veena-The Sarasvathi veena is the most iconic of all the varieties. The very mention of the word Veena brings to mind this image. While the current form is traced to The Thanjavur Nayak court, it is in fact more ancient. Its measurements and structure are considered the standard.

Brahma Veena-The Veena of Lord Brahma, which helps facilitate his creation of the universe.

vichitra-vina

Vichitra Veena-Commonly used in the Hindustani style of music. A veena of seven strings (played with the fingernails). Does not have any frets.

Ghoshavathee Veena-Thought to be the predecessor to the comparatively recent Vichitra Veena.

Vipanchee-A  Veena of nine strings. Has 6 karanas (roopa, pratikrita, pratibheed, roopa sesha, oogha and pratisushka). It is played with a plectrum.

Tritantri Veena-It is often said that the Sitar is merely a renamed and re-tuned Tritantri. It is called so for the 3 strings that it has.

Saradiya Veena-This instrument is now called a Sarod, and has carved its own name in the Hindustani music world.

a_mohan_veena_string_musical_instruments_of_india

Mohana Veena-Considered to alternately be a modification of the Sarod and guitar. As such has two variations.

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Yaal (Yazh)-Commonly used in Tamizh Nadu and considered an ancestor of the Veena.

Mahathi Veena-the Veena of choice of Narada Muni.

bobbiliveenaBobbili Veena-Today seen more as a toy than an august instrument of music, the Bobbili veena has nonetheless carved out its own name in the world of crafts. In fact, it historically had a golden age under the Rajas of Bobbili, and the instrument was a serious one for musical performances in the small kingdom. It was frequently given as a gift, and as most of the pre-modern varieties, was often gilded.

Characteristics

Although there are numerous variations of the veena, the structure is generally the same. Number of strings aside, the Veena typically has a head (called a kuppam), 24 frets, with 4 strings (representing Chaturveda and also Purushartha), and 3 on the side (called thaala strings). The latter are said to represent Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti, and Kriya Shakti. [3,4]

The 24 frets represent 12 swarasthanas in two octaves (24). Just like the 24 frets of the Veena, human back bone has 24 divisions. According to the human anatomy, the back bone has 7 cervicles (7 strings), 12 thorasic (representing the 12 swara sthanas) and 5 lumbar vertebrae (representing the 5 notes R, G, M, D,N –S and P are not included as they are prakrithi swaras or natural notes). The 24 frets get their importance by the nada produced from them. [3,4]
manushiveena
“Veena is of two kinds – Deiveeka Veena and Maanushi Veena (Man made Veena).
The human body created by God is the ‘deiveeka veena’.
 
The veena made out of wood by human beings is called as the ‘maanushi veena’.
 
Both these Veena are made and intended to produce the divine Nada or Music.”[3. 3]
Plucking of the strings is called meetu. There are  16 varieties of this.
Due to this divine nature, the Veena is said to facilitate vocal training as well. Singing along with veena is a form of Naada yoga (Yoga of Sound). If that is the case, manufacture of the veena is another type of yoga as well.

The best veenas are made from a single block of wood, typically jackwood. These are the instruments that stand the test of time and become veritable heirlooms in eminent families, as in the Royal Family of Mysuru. They may very depending on region and taste.

Process

The veena is most often constructed in 3 parts. Though made from a single piece of jackfruit wood (called panasa), it consists of a head, a neck, and a resonator. A stabiliser (thumba) is made from hollow pumpkin. The wood itself is lacquered after carving and construction.

The fret board is hollow, and generally includes 24 brass frets. These are set on black honey wax and wooden tracks. A soft black coal powder is used to give it colour.

making-veena

The strings themselves are usually brass.

The Thanjavur variety is typically 4 feet in length. Due to lack of patronage, there are less than 100 artisans in that craft today. In Bobbili it is around 30 families. These artisans, and the pandits preserving the traditional knowedge, require patronage, once given by feudal nayaks. The established business families of this era have a responsibility to fill this void.

Legacy

rudras-veena

Veena is the Divine Instrument. Verily, it represents the concept of Moksha through music.

From Lord Shiva and the Rudra Veena to APJ Abdul Kalam and the Sarasvathi Veena, this instrument has captured the imagination of ancient and modern India alike.

Veena is our national instrument. It is a treasure. [5]

Famous Players

A viiNaa player must be untiring and must be an expert in handling the citraa tupe of viiNaa. A flute player must be physically strong, steady and must have long breath” [2,115] And yet, despite these demands, Veena players (and vamsee players for that matter) have run the gamut. Some are of course established expert performers in Carnatic Classical or Hindustani. And others are perhaps better known in other areas (such as our own Yamini Purnatilaka garu), and yet, are accomplished artistes in this most divine of instruments, nonetheless.

Venkataramanadas

Emani Sankara Sastry

Chitti Babu

Yamini Krishnamurti

Sundaram Balachander

R.Venkataraghavan

Asad Ali Khan

Doraiswamy Iyengar

Brahm Sarup Singh

TN Seshagopalan

Jayanti Kumaresh

Punya Srinivas

Future

The future of the veena is at a crossroads. Rootlessness among metro youth and adults alike have reduced interest in traditional heritage as it is. The violin’s usurpation of the veena’s traditional place as primary vocal accompaniment has exacerbated matters.

While there are veena virtuosos even today, it will require collaborative efforts with an eye on modern dynamics to restore this cultural treasure to its rightful place. It will require some effort from current connoisseurs and some adjustment from traditionalists. Not only should instrumentals be promoted but even fusion efforts given due credit.

Fusion

To be fair, there have been general attempts outside of fusion to promote the veena. But these have been isolated. To restore Rudra’s vaadya to its proper place will require not only comprehensive and cooperative efforts across a state or many states, but also some tough decisions about current musical accompaniment.

rudraveena-movie
More movies like this Chiranjeevi garu

The violin is a beautiful instrument, and credit to the European classical tradition for evolving it. Yet, it is possible to appreciate the foreign while preserving our own. Perhaps the best service stalwarts of Carnatic can do today is to encourage the reintroduction of the veena as the mainstay in katcheris, and even in less formal performances. The Rudra veena and the Sarasvathi veena (in its most popular measurement) may indeed be difficult to transport (as part of a troupe) for our peregrinatious performers of the post-modern period. Nevertheless, a suitable veena should be decided upon and encouraged to take the place of violin.

Violin invariably will continue in the forseeable future, and one does not wish to discourage those talented Carnatic performers who have devoted their lives to this delightful instrument. They should continue to perform with patronage & certainly  demand for “fusion” only continues to expand. But tradition is tradition. While the artistic spirit of musical experimentation should be encouraged, the integral core must be preserved.

Incipient steps must be taken to restore our National Instrument to its rightful place. Sarasvathi herself would expect nothing less for her namesake.

Saa Me Vasatu Jivhagre Veena Pusthaka Dharini
 -May Goddess Saraswathi, holding the Veena and the Vedas, always reside in my tongue. [3,8]

References:

  1. Iyer, A.S. Panchapakesa.Karnataka Sangeeta Sastra: Theory of Carnatic Music.
  2. Appa Rao, P.S.R & P. Sri Rama Sastry. A Monography on Bharata’s Natya Sastra. Hyderabad: Natyakala Press. 1967.P.110-112
  3. Mahesh, Anuradha. Shanmukhapriya School of Music. 2016 https://www.scribd.com/document/305207642/Veena-the-Divine-Instrument
  4. Somasekhara
  5. http://www.thehindu.com/chennai-margazhi-season/nirmala-rajasekars-mission-is-to-keep-the-veena-flag-flying-across-the-globe/article6735447.ece?widget-art=four-rel
  6. http://www.theveena.com/veena/
  7. http://www.forbesindia.com/article/recliner/the-last-notes-of-the-thanjavur-veena/32670/1
  8. http://www.jayanthikumaresh.com/about-the-veena/
  9. http://www.gklokam.com/2015/10/important-instrument-player-exams.html
  10. Divekar, Hindraj. Rudra Veena: An Ancient String Musical Instrument. New Delhi: DPH. 2001
  11. Dutta, Madhurima.Let’s Know Music and Musical Instruments of India. New Delhi: IBS books. 2008
  12. http://www.firstpost.com/living/thanjavur-veena-to-be-first-indian-instrument-to-get-made-in-thanjavur-tag-545793.html
  13. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/visakhapatnam/Melody-of-Bobbili-Veena-dying-out/articleshow/47451422.cms
  14. http://gaatha.com/bobbili-veena/

Viswanatha Satyanarayana about Pandit Chelam

Viswanatha-Chelam

Those of you who also read Indic Civilizational Portal would have noticed an article yesterday called “An appeal to Young Indologists”. It was a reprint of a blog Post with a direct account from Pandit Kota Venkatachalam. He was an author of 24 books on history in Telugu and English, many of which can still be found.

Indian History in general, and Andhra history in particular…even very recently, have been subject to many manipulations. The entire chronology, in fact, may be off…by a lot. But Pandit Chelam was not the only voice decrying the propaganda that was being sowed during colonial rule.  A number of other Bharatiyas were concerned about what was being done.

One such Telugu was the famous Kavisamrat, Sri Viswanatha Satyanarayana. Needing no introduction to any Andhraite of good taste, he was the author of the celebrated Veyi Padagalu. In a preface to Sri Kota Venkatachalam’s book “The Plot in Indian Chronology”, the Kavisamrat wrote extensively and effusively about the efforts of his contemporary. He too, like the average Indian, hoped to know the truth about our history.  Here is what he had to say [Emphasis and Proofing Ours]

The following Post was published at True Indian History on July 3, 2010


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About fifty years of the life of Sri Kota Venkata Chelam , the author of this book, have been spent in untiring quest after truth, regarding   the ancient history of India. He has ransacked the indigenous literature dealing with our history as also the great bulk of the eastern and western books, the writings of the western Indologists, and has refuted the illogical arguments of the western historians, and established the  truth of the correctness of the historical data detailed in our Puranas. English education has banished sound scholarship in our ancient lore and also genuine zeal to probe into its secret depths. Now-a-days scholarship means being at home with what is written by the western scholars. The  western scholars have discredited the hoary past of our ancient culture and tried their very best to bring down the dates to suit their purpose.  A thousand changes they have made in the dates and in the names of the kings. The whole thing is confusion worse confounded.

It requires a Himalayan effort and unquenchable thirst on the part of a real nationalist to lay bare the scheme and the conspiracy that was responsible for throwing dust upon the veracity of the Puranic account. At present it is not possible to know the true history our ancient India. Sound scholarship in Sanskrit and the same in English are generally divorced from each other, and the special merit of this book is that it is based on a critical examination of the original Sanskrit texts and attempts to point out the defects in the Indological literature in English.

    A correct approach to the study of Indian history, to start with, is to understand clearly the three great Eras that were in vogue in ancient India. Sir William Jones, and the other historians like Dr. Wilson, General Cunningham, Prof. Max Muller, Dr. Hultzsch, Dr. Buhler and Dr. Stein have all  accepted that the Kali Era began in 3102 B.C., on Feb. 20th by 2 Hr. 27’ 30″. Thirty six years before this year the Mahabharata war was waged.  That means the Mahabharata war took place in 3138 B.C. . Thirty six years after the beginning of the Kali Era i.e., 3076 B.C. Dharmaraja and his brothers renounced their kingdom and repaired to the land of the gods.   That year was the beginning of the Saptarshi Saka or the Loukika Era which continues to be in vogue since that time in Kashmir.   These are the three Sakas according to which all calculations in our Puranas and historical records are made. The western historians had known the existence of these three Eras and yet they wrote that no possibilities to ascertain the dates of incidents and kings ever existed in our Puranas. The present  author has quoted the very same historians and proved the validity of the dates in the Puranas.

    The whole confusion began when the western  scholars, rather wilfully ousted Gupta Chandra-Gupta and made Maurya Chandra-Gupta usurp his place.   Gupta Chandra- Gupta Flourished in 327 B.C.,  and was the contemporary of Alexander.   Maurya Chandra-Gupta lived in 1534 B.C.   But the western historians wrongly identified Alexander’s  contemporary with Maurya Chandra-Gupta. This Himalayan blunder upset the whole scheme and brought terrible chaos into our Puranic dates. And now  if this little correction is made, every detail in our ancient Puranas is found to be correct. If this correction is not accepted the vast bulk  of the Hindu, Jain and Buddhistic literature appears to be a spurious account of facts and dates. One can know from this that the western scholars have found our historical dates incorrect because they have confounded between the Chandraguptas of the Gupta and Mauryan dynasties.

     The author of this book has proved to the hilt that this confounding is wilful and Sir William Jones, the first historian of India, has changed this date to effect a sort of similitude between the Biblical and the Hindu conceptions to time. Even Max-Muller, known to be a great lover of Hindu culture, accepted what Jones has written, saying in so many plain words, that he accepted this to bring harmony between the Greek and Hindu Chronology. Twelve centuries of time after the Mahabharata war and ten centuries before that are struck off like this and the history we get now  is put upon this wrong base. The whole plot is revealed in this book; and the spurious arguments advanced by the Western historians have been proved here to be the results of prejudicial minds. The author of this book has spared no pains to prove the correctness of the Puranic data. He quotes copiously from Astronomical texts, which in the Puranas are based on the movements of the Great Bear and asserts that it is 5092 years since the Mahabharata war to this day (in 1954; 3102+36+1954=5092)  and that it is 2811 years since the Mahabharata  war to the end of the Andhra dynasty or the beginning   of the Gupta dynasty, and the interval is 1500 years between the Mahabharata war and the coronation of Mahapadmananda, and the period elapsed between the coronation of Mahapadmananda and the beginning of the rule of the Andhras is 836 years. It is proved beyond doubt that the  traditional calculations of our ancient sages are correct to the decimal and the history of the Kali yuga kings written in different Puranas is genuine.

In short the author has successfully cleared the doubts that are made to linger in our minds regarding our ancient history and set right the differences that arose because of the western scholars’ wrong conjectures in the histories of Magadha, Kashmir and Nepal. Mihirakula and Toramana are said to be Hunas. They were kshatriya kings. They flourished before the Christian Era. They are said to have lived centuries later.  And this is a case where a discrepancy of 1200 years is shown to the discredit of the author of Kashmir history (Kalhana). The western scholars  have not only bungled facts and tampered with texts, but they even went to the extent of hurling abuse at our ancient historians and sages. The   whole mischief is plainly revealed in this book.  This book has thrown light upon many other things. The author has discussed at large the many  debatable points in Indian history. After reading the 6th chapter of this book none can contend that the Chandragupta of Megasthenes is the  Chandragupta of Kautilya. The chapter is a store house of erudition and a brilliant attack upon his antagonists. The facts marshalled herein are  irrefutable.

The seventh chapter discusses Asoka’s edict wherein is proved that the Yona kings are not Greeks of the 3rd century B.C., and the kings who ruled Abhisara, Uraga, Simhapura, Divyakataka and Uttara Jyotisha in the 15th century B.C., are Yavana Kshatriyas and that the present Greece was called Ionia at that time because it was occupied by these Yavana Kshatriyas and that the present Greeks are a mixed race. These new facts are to be studied and noted by one and all.

The 8th chapter is like a treatise upon the science of unearthing, reading and interpreting inscriptions. What mischief could be played in this field is portrayed with illustrations. Where there is no date, a historian with no respect for truth says there is one as is done in the case of Kharavela’s Hati-gumpha inscription. A date was given and it is found in all the text books. This colossal untruth is proved in this chapter.

The 10th chapter is a detailed account of the history of the  tampering made in the Aihole inscription. The author gave us the original and showed how the letters of the inscription were changed to suit the  date of the modern historians. It was changed from B.C. to A.D. The author basing his arguments even upon this inscription proved that the date  of the Mahabharata war is 3138 B.C., and the other era used in the same inscription is the Cyrus Era of 550 B.C. It is the duty of a good historian exactly to find out what era is used in what inscription.

Long before Sri Venkatachelam garu, a great Western scholar Prof. M. Troyer had raised his voice of protest against the modern historians. Many  other oriental scholars have written many books disproving the accounts of the western historians. Mr. T. S. Narayana Sastry is one of them, and  the present author has borrowed much from him in the ninth chapter of this book to prove by astronomical calculation the date of the Mahabharata  war, which took place in 3138 B.C.  He has studied our Puranas, and the English books written by the western historians and their Indian followers and spent all his time and much of his money to set right this great wrong done to our nation. But to what extent  he will be successful God only knows. Faith is instinctive. It is not a child of conviction and conviction is born of argument.   In this sad  process self interest is an interlude. God is great. If there will come a day when Indians realise the wrong done to their history, this book will be of very great value.

    I am no historian and I am asked to write this preface. Perhaps the author saw in me a zeal akin to his to see the resuscitation of our ancient glory which has suffered much at the hands of the enemies to our culture.

V.Satyanarayana

30-3-54

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Our sincere thanks to G.D. Prasad garu, who is the grandson of Pandit Chelam, for graciously granting permission to reprint this article, which published sections from Sri Kota Venkatachalam’s work.