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When Strings speak… the Bobbili Veena from Andhra Pradesh

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on February 14, 2011

When strings speak

Author: APARNA MENON
. 

(India-February 14, 2011) – Instrumental music has always been a part of Indian Culture and Heritage. String instruments were used in ancient India and through the ages they have changed in size, shape and quality of sound, depending on the musician’s requirements and the instrument maker’s creativity.

The veena is a string instrument, which is popularly known as the Saraswati Veena. This is because the mythological character Saraswati is always pictured with a veena in her hand. These veenas are made in various parts of Southern India and are hence named after the place they are made in. We have the Tanjore veena from Tamil Nadu, the Mysore veena from Karnataka, the Trivandrum veena from Kerala and the Bobbili veena from Andhra Pradesh.

The Bobbili kingdom was established in the 17th Century by Pedda Rayudu, who, like all other rulers of India was interested in art and music. Playing the veena was a leisure activity initially. But it became an integral part of every royal and social event. The Veena was made by the craftsmen of the Sarwasiddi community of Gollapali and the women of Bobbili played these instruments. The kings gifted veenas to British visitors and lauded the craftsmen with gifts.

The Bobbili Veena from Andhra Pradesh was made by the craftsmen of the Sarwasiddi community of Gollapali.

The Bobbili Veena from Andhra Pradesh… made by the craftsmen of the Sarwasiddi community of Gollapali.

Veena making has continued over generations in this community, however, today only 40 craftsmen are involved in the making of these instruments. Veenasare made from the wood of the Jackfruit tree, as the wood is light and has excellent reverberation, clear grain lines, durability and the ability to sustain moisture.

The Veena is usually made out of a single log of wood. A semi circular base with a long neck is carved out of the wood to make the main part of the instrument. A spherical hollow gourd, used as a resonator and for support is fixed at the other end of the neck. At the tapering end of the neck, the head of a mythical animal is carved. There are 24 brass frets set in wax and charcoal on the top of the instrument. There are four melody strings that run over these frets from one end to the other. Three drone or rhythmic strings run alongside just below the fret board. The artist sits cross legged, placing the resonator gourd on the left thigh and the base of the instrument is supported by the right knee.

“In 1994 the Crafts Development Centre was set up, in the Bobbili Fort, and the manufacturing and marketing of the miniature form of the Veena was introduced,” says Jagan Mohan Rao, Manager of Lepakshi Emporium in Vishakapatnam. “These miniature veenas,” he continues, “are available in four sizes of nine inches, 13 inches, 18 inches and 24 inches length.

They are used as gift items and are a big success in the national and international markets.” Ornamental miniature veenas, especially the ones with peacocks carved on them are customer favourites.

(Source: 02/14/2011 – The Hindu | FEATURES » YOUNG WORLD) 

Short feature about the Bobbili instrument makers…

Special Bulletin on Bobbili veena…

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