Government neglecting traditional veena makers

It is a double whammy for traditional veena makers here with general patronage for this musical instrument coming down and the State Government offering no encouragement in the form of providing loans or helping in procurement of raw material – Jack wood.

About 60 veena makers used to flourish in this small town with sufficient orders. There existed a Saraswati Veenala Owners’ Sankshema Sangham, a society that coordinated their welfare issues with District Administration, but today it is defunct.

Getting wood from jackfruit trees in forests Aswaraopet, Sileru, Kovvuru and other areas had become the biggest challenge for them as they are penalised heavily at check posts for carrying the wood logs, though they were not on the prohibited list, a veena maker Durgaprasad told The Hindu.

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Types of Veena~The Rudra Veena (रुद्रवीणा)~1

One of the most ancient Indian string
instruments the Rudra Veena Is believed to have
been made by Lord Shiva by taking inspiration
from the form of Goddess Parvati. The Rudra V
eena was so made; the dandi is the hand of Shiva.
The frets are the bangles, the strings the Kesh
of Shiva. The pegs symbolize the Sapt Rishis, 
The peacock the vehicles of Goddess Saraswati 
and the bridge itself Goddess Saraswati. The two
gourds are Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu.

[From Baha’uddin Dagar’s website, Ancient Indian Strings]

An ancient stringed instrument (albeit one that has
undergone changes over time), the Rudra Veena or bIn is a
large instrument and played by only a few. The bIn almost
fell into total obscurity, but is enjoying a resurgence due
to the efforts of a few dedicated bInkArs (veena players).
Usually, the DhrUpad form of North Indian classical music
is played on the bIn.

The Rudra Veena was probably used as an accompanying instrument for DhrUpad singers and TAnsen (1510-1589), who was one of the navratnas (nine jewels) of Emperor Akbar’s court (r. 1556-1605)is believed to have used it as an accompanying instrument.

Structure of the Rudra Veena (source):

[The Rudra Veena]

belongs to the family of tube zithers, a later development of the stick zither. It consists of a long wooden or bamboo tube (dandi) beneath which two resonators (tumba) made of dried and hollowed-out gourd are fixed. Numerous high wooden frets (sarika) are arranged on the tube with the help of a resinous substance or with linen cords. Four melodic metal strings are stretched out on these frets, while two slender rhythmic strings (chikari) and a drone string (laraj), also metallic, are fastened laterally along the length of the tube, on both sides of the frets…

[go here for more and for an interactive diagram]

How is a Rudra Veena Made?
A short educational film taken from the archives of the Asian Music Circuit.

Holding the BIn:
The BIn can either be held in a diagonal manner across the shoulder or across the lap, depending on the school of Veena playing the BInkar belongs to. The traditional posture is to sit in Vajrasana and hold it across the left shoulder. See/hear videos below of late Ustad Asad Ali Khan and Ustad Shamsuddin Faridi Desai who sit in the traditional posture:

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Ustad Shamsuddin Faridi Desai (1938-2011)

Another Rudra Veena Maestro, Ustad Shamsuddin Faridi Desai has passed away. Excerpts from interview with Lyle Wachovsky, “The Qadri Sufis regard music as a pathway to God” ( April 2004) can be found here. Downloads of Ustadji playing Ragas Bhupali and Darbari Kanada are available here. Scroll down to listen to Raag Komal Rishabh Asavari and Raag Yaman on the Veena by Ustadji.

Image credit:

Raag Komal Rishabh Asavari

Raag Yaman

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Documentary on Ustad Asad Ali Khan and the Rudra Veena (Hindi)

Documentary produced by Doordarshan (Hindi) on Ustad Asad Ali Khan and the Rudra Veena. Features footage of Ustad Asad Ali Khan talking about his musical lineage, the history of the Rudra Veena, learning music etc

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Vichitra Veena by Dr. Lalmani Misra playing Raga Tilang

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