Place of Rudra Veena, In Indian Classical Music
4.1 History and Ancient glory of the instrument

Rudra Veena is the mother of all stringed instruments. In fact according to Hindu
Myth, Rudra means Shanker or Shiva, the Greater of the universe hence, the instrument is associated with him. It in believed that shiva made the first Rudra Veena & used his own intestines as strings of the same. Even Ravana the demon who was a devotee of lord Shiva, is believed to be a player of Rudra Veena & used it to, create devotional music so as to please Shiva. There is a myth about Ravana, who was playing Rudra Veena to please Shiva. Lord Shiva was so engrossed with listening to the Sweet sound, was enjoying the Same. But, while Ravana was playing it, one of the Strings broke, yet he Continued to play the remaining Strings, as he did not want Shiva to be disturbed. Interestingly Ravana replaced the broken string with his own nerve. This is how he respected Shiva by maintaining peaceful & happy atmosphere.

The Hindu literature also considers Rudra Veena as an instrument played by gods & Goddess in heaven. It is believed, that Shiva Passed on the art of music to Saraswati and Saraswati gave that to Narada & Hanumantha, who brought it on Earth. That is how man was able to learn the same. A variety of Veenas, drums, pipes, gongs and bells are shown is the ancient sculptures of Bharhut, Gandhara, Amaravati, Sandhi, Nagaijuna konda, konark, the temples of southern India and the frescoes and paintings of Ajantha, Bagh Tanjavoer etc.

4.2. Structure of Rudra Veena

The Rudra Veena consists of a bamboo fret board, about 26 inches long and two
and half inches wide, upon which are fixed 24 metalic frets, one for each of four octaves. The fret is fixed on the stem, by a resinous wax like substance. This fret board is mounted on two large gourds, in about 54 inches in diameter.

The instrument has four main strings for playing, it also has the side stings. The diagram given below depicts Rudra Veena and its parts.

  1. Stem also known as Dandi
  2. Pegs also known as Khunti
  3. Beads also known as Badak
  4. Brass also known as pitali screw
  5. Pumpkin also known as Bhopala or tumba.
  6. Frets also known as Padade.
  7. Mogra also known as Panja.
  8. Kara also known as Kara only.
  9. Main Bridge also known as Ghodi
  10. Small Bridge left side also known as Davi Lahan ghodi
  11. Small Bridge Right side also known as Lahan ghodi
  12. Pumpkin also known as Bhopala, or tamba.

Regarding the Structure of Rudra Veena, Late Ustad Murad Khan, the Guru of Late Krishnarao Kolhapure, revealed to that, Beens structure is based on the concept of a peacocks body. How the structure of Rudra Veena corresponds with that of peacocks body can be well understood from the analogy given below.

Table No. 4.1
Sequence of Rudra Veena Strings

S.No. String Sequence Note or Swar Western Chord

(1) Side Strings
Chikari Strings Sa ( Kali 2) D Sharp
Madhya Saptak ( Middle Scale )

(2) Chikari Strings Sa (kali-2) D Sharp (Tar Saptak) (higher Scale)

(3) Baj String or Ma (Madhya Saptak) F Chord
first string in (Middle Scale)
the centre

(4) Second String Sa (Mandra Saptak) D Sharp
(Lower Scale)

(5) Third String Pa (Mandra Saptak) G (Lower Scale)

(6) Fourth String Sa (Ati Mandra Saptak) D Sharp
(Lower Scale)

(7) Side String Sa (Kali 2) or D Sharp
(Tambora String) Mandra Saptak (Lower Scale)

Given the background of the structure and styles of Rudra Veena.
Let us now take lessons of Rundra Veena in ten Raghas namely
1. Yaman Ragh
2. Bhup Ragh
3. Brindavan Sarang Ragh
4. Bhageshree Ragh
5. Bihag Ragh -
(i) Dhandi or Bamboo Corresponds with the Central body of peacock.
(ii) The Kara or bridge made up of ivory peacock, which is on the right side, Corresponds with peacocks feathers.
(iii) The strings on the bamboo & the Is its Corresponds with the stick like structures attached to every long feather of the Peacock.
(iv) The seven Strings on right, left & middle one pulses of the feathers.
This information was revealed to Late Krishnarao Kolhapure a student of late ustad Murad Khan (his teacher) himself about 70 years ago. Infact late ustad Murad Khan was requested by the Balwant Sangeet mandali to teach Been to pt. Krishnarao Kolhapure.

Diagram 4.2
Sketch of Rudra Veena

4.3. How to Tune Rundra Veena.

Rudra Veena has seven Strings in all, and each String produces a note or swar. The sequence of the same is given in table No.4.1.

6. Mal Kaunse Ragh
7. Puriya Kalyan Ragh
8. Darbari Kannada Ragh
9. Miya Malhar Ragh
10. Bhairavi Ragh

These lesson are given in the appendix section of this book.

4.4. Masters of Sound and Silence

This section of chapter four presents an account of the famous Beenkars (Rundra Veena players), of India, Although, Rudra Veena in an ancient instrument, and that its origin is linked with shiva, there is not much information about Rundra Veena per formers from pre-vedic & Vedic times. However, records & reference of Rudra Veena Players or Beenkars are available Since the reign of Mughals in India.

Data collected by the authors of this book, form the elderly Beenkars in India, reveals that, most of them can trace back the history from Veena players from Ustad Bande Ali Khan (Beenkar). Ustad bande Ali Khan was originally from North India & his birth date revealed in literature is some where in 1830. He died in Pune & his grave is under the new bridge apposite Shaniwar wada. Bande Ali Khan was known for Playing dhrupad baj and Khayalia baj on the Rudra Veena. Out of many, of his disciples two were popular, namely ustad Murad Khan and Ustad Rajab Ali Khan. The Specialty of ustad Murad Khan & Ustad Rajab Ali Khan was that, besides being Beenkars, they were great singers as well.

The flow chart No. 4.2 given below directs some famous Rudra Veena players & theirs disciples, starting fromUustad Bande Ali Khans time.

Flow Chart No. 4.2
Rudra Veena Players from 1855 to date Ustad Bande Ali Khan

From the above flow chart a brief account of the Beenkars & their efforts to preserve and popularize Rudra Veena is given below.

(1) Late Ustad Bande Ali Khan (1830 to 27th July 1895 )

The Beenkars of Pune always pay homage to Late Ustad bande Ali Khan on Guru Pornima, by offering an incense stick, flowers or at least touch grave. This ritual is done to seek the blessing of Late Ustad bande Ali Khan. Ustad Bande Ali Khan hailed from North India, born in 1830. He belonged to the musician gharana of Hasan Khan. An admirer and a lover of music. Khan Sahib took interest in learning Been & mastered it. He got married to the daughter of Late Haddukhan a famous vocalist during Mughal rule.

Ustad Bande Ali Khan was very popular Been player during his time. Being a court musician in Indore, he also performed in most royal courts of North India. He even gave Rudra Veena lessons to the son of Maharaja of Gwalior, Shri Balwantrao Bhaiya. He also performed concerts in North India.

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