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hanumath veena
g k kaushik


Veena vadhan
There are three principal musical instruments mentioned in the vedic literature, Veena, Venu and Mridanga. While veena is a stringed instrument, venu the flute is a wind instrument and mridanga is beat instrument. All these instruments have found mention in the Hindu puranas and considered as divine. Out of these veena is considered most sacrate. Often Hindu Gods and Goddesses are depicted as playing Veena. Sri Saraswati Goddesses of Knowledge is seen as sitting on a white lotus and playing veena. Veena is known from time immemorial and Puranas, Vedic literatures in fact describe various forms of veena. Veenas with various numbers of strings, starting with the ekatantri (single string) veena to one with one hundred strings are found mention in vedic texts.

Ramayana and Veena Vadhan
There are mentions of veena vadhan in great time grandhas like Ramayana and Mahabharata. In Ramayana we find mention of the veena at many places. In Sundra canto while Anjaneya was in search of Sri Sita Devi, at Lanka, He comes across women in intoxicated state clenching to the veena and sleeping at the palace of Ravana. There is mention of Vipanchi veena (which has nine strings) also in the same sarga. It is also mentioned that Valmiki after composing the Ramayana declared that the Ramayana is best suited to be sung with veena. For that matter when the Ramayana was first sung (not recited) by Lava and Kusa in the court of non other than Lord Rama Himself was accompanied by an Ekatantri veena. Ravana the Lankeswara is a veena exponent himself, is said to have played veena with great skill that he could please any Divine power with this accomplishment and get the boon he wished. 

Veena Vidhwans (Exponents)
From the ancient time, veena is considered as a divine instrument and playing veena is considered to be yoga. Yagjavalkya Maharishi observed that one could attain salvation effortlessly by playing veena. Effortlessly since it is simple prescription compare to the ways prescribed in Vedanta. If veena is played with devotion and void of ego one can get liberation. Playing veena is like yoga (for that matter practice of any music is yoga) that it could please divine powers and can bring happiness to both the Divine and the human. Many sages had practiced keerthan with veena and engrossed themselves in the divine music through which they obtained liberation and realised the end. When thinking of such accomplished sages, Sri Narata’s name comes first along with Ekatantri veena. Sri Tumburu is another. Both these sages are exponents in playing string instrument Veena with fret. There is another Divine who was a veena player par excellence. He is nobody other than Lord Anjaneya. Sri Anjaneya is one up with his playing fretless veena. 

Anjaneya the sangeetha exponent
In carnatic sangeetha tradition there are two classes of sakas (branches), one is known as Narada tradition and the other is known as Hanumath tradition. The three tycoons of carnatic music known as Sangeetha Trimurthi are Saint Tyagaraja, Sri Muthuswamy Dhikshathar and Sri Shyama Shastrigal. Legend has it that Saint Tyagaraja the follower of Narada tradition was gifted with the “swararnavam” palm leafs by Saint Narada. Sri Muthuswamy Dhikshathar is follower of Hanumath tradition.

The two namavallis in Hanumath Sahasranamam is worth mentioning here. One is “Aum Naradaya Namah” meaning one who is a triloka sanchari and profound keerthana priya. The second is “Aum Tumburuve Namah” meaning one who is an exponent of Veena vadhan.

The legendry Competition
The celestrial sages, Sri Narada and Sri Tumburu, were great players of the fretted veenas. But there was clash of ego between them leading to bitter rivalry. Both of them would participate in function and compete in all the competition. At the end of the duel nobody would be able to say who is superior. Their ego was seeking a final decision as to who is best. The matter was brought before Lord Narayana (Sri Vishnu), who with a mischievous smile hugging His face suggested seeking the remedy for this from Lord Anjaneya who is an exponent in Sangeetha Keerthanas. Both agreeing that there could be no better judge then Lord Anajaneya they approached him. A date was fixed for the contest at the convenience of Lord Anjaneya. The encounter was expected to be hot and decisive, since Lord Anjaneya is known for his judicious decisions and judgements.

On the day fixed there was a big assembly of Devatas and the competition was a big draw. Both Sri Narada and Sri Tumburu were seated on either side of the dais with their fretted veena ready to play and Lord Anjaneya was seated in the center. Lord Anjaneya announced Sri Tumburu would play first followed by Sri Narada. The congregations of Devatas were eager to listen to the sound of the most divine instrument Veena from the sages who had mastered the playing on the instrument.

Firstly Sri Tumburu started playing the veena vadhan and the Devatas forgot to wink their eyes, all their attention drawn by the mystical tones emanating from the instrument. Slowly they could realise that world was coming to a standstill position devoid of any activity. Even sea waves stopped, oceans started freezing, birds stopped flying and those flying stopped mid air. Such were the effects of the music of Sri Tumburu. He was playing the raga Amirthavarshini which is normally played for bringing rain when effected by drought. But the raga can be sung other wise also. In the recent times Sri Muthuswamy Dhikshathar had sung kriti "Anandamrutha karshini..... " in Amirthavarshini in order to stop the incessant rain.**

Now Lord Anjaneya signaled Sri Narada to play the instrument. Sri Narada started playing his fretted veena and the mesmerising tones emerging from the veena vadhan started moving around like a sweet fragrance enveloping the atmosphere. So sweet was the tone that it brought realisation in every thing. Bringing back dynamism, ocean started melting, waves started tiding, birds started flying with renewed verve. Sri Narada was playing the raga Punnagavarali. In the recent times Sri Thygaraja Swamigal had sung the kriti "Ghandamu paiyarul......" in the raga Punnagavarali. This kriti when sung, will make you feel the fragrance enveloping around you.**

Lord Anjaneya’s judgement
Now that the contesters had finished playing, the attention of the congregation turned towards the His Lordship the Judge Lord Anjaneya. Since this time also both had done their best, how Lord Anjaneya is going to judge as to who is better then who was the wonder of the Devas.

Lord Anjaneya paused for some time and got up from the seat and took possession of both Sri Narada’s and Sri Tumburu’s veena vadhan. Returned to his seat and patiently started removing each of the frets in the instruments. Everybody started wondering as to what Lord Anjaneya is trying to do. Sri Narada lost his cool and asked Lord not to monkey around the instrument and to give the judgment. Lord Anjaneya replied that both of them had played well, but before the judgment could be given asked them to play the Veena in the present state (ie, veena instrument without fret). Both Sri Narada and Sri Tumburu said it is impossible to play the veena without fret.

Hanumath Veena
Lord Anjaneya with a smile in his face took a small bamboo piece (bamboo in wholesome is cylindrical in shape) and slides this bamboo piece over the melody strings and by using his nails as plectrums plucked the melody strings. The melody that flowed out was no compare to the one that was played by the sages. The melodious tone along with the drone with a soothing continuity had drowned the audience Devas in an immense pleasure and joy as that of having the nectar. Lord continued playing, making both Sri Narada and Sri Tumburu realise the power of pure music.

The audiences were so immersed in the music, they had not noticed that Lord Narayana Himself had come to the scene to witness the music of Lord Anjaneya. When Lord Anjaneya concluded playing, both the sages accepted that their music is no match to that of Lord Anjaneya.

Sri Anjaneya saw Lord Narayana and he pastorated before Him and welcomed Him. Lord Narayana told that He was drawn to the place by the music produced by the Adi Veena, the one without fret and a forerunner to the present veena used by both Sri Narada and Sri Tumburu. Lord explained to the sages that music however good it may be, with ego mixed it becomes lifeless and music with devotion is life, pure, real, and divine. The music of Sri Anjaneya was enchanting since it was over brimming with devotion, but that of the sages were with ego hence devoid of purity. Lord Narayana declared since Lord Hanuman had reinvented the original form of fretless veena it will henceforth be called as Hanumath Veena.

Other Names
In times the Hanumath veena was known by names as Chitra veena, Mahanataka veena, and in recent past it was popular as Gottuvadyam. But the instrument was restored to new glory in the modern time with the traditional name Chitra veena.

Structure
The Chitraveena has a hollow trunk made of resonant wood, about thirty-two inches long and four inches wide. It has a flat top and is placed on two chambers, the main sound chamber is made out of wood and a second chamber made of gourd is the resonator. It contains six melody strings and three secondary strings for marinating continuous drone. The remaining strings are sympathetic and run parallel to and below the melody strings.

A couple of plectrums, worn on the finger of the right hand are used to pluck the six main melody strings; a cylindrical block, made out of ebony, now with Teflon to glide over them with the left hand.

Yoga on Music
In conclusion, playing veena is yoga, as it unifies the anandam of the human to Brimhaanandam. Yoga literally means union. By playing veena many rishimunis have unified with Brimhaananda. With playing of Hanumathveena (chitraveena) it is even more relevant.

-As told by Gottuvadyam Sri Kittappa to g.k.kaushik

** Though Sri Kittappaji had named the ragas, I am unable to remember the names of the ragas. The ragas mentioned here is out of my little knowledge and I would welcome if any corrections were required.


 

LET ANJANEYA SWAMI BLESS US ALL
in you we trust

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