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Focus on veena's exalted status

``VEDA JANITHA Vara Veena'' — The sacred Veena that was born out of the Vedas. That is how this musical instrument is described by Tyagaraja. It requires deep study and research to explain what this exactly means. That is what the well-known veena player, E. Gayathri did in her lecture demonstration at the Indian Fine Arts Society on Sunday.

The scriptures, she explained, talk of two veenas — Deivee and Manushi. The human body itself is the Deivee Veena. The wooden instrument that human beings play on is the Manushi.

Gayathri, quoting the scriptures, explained how the distance between the centre of the eyebrows and mulaadhaara is 48 inches, the same as the distance between the bridge and the beginning of the frets of the veena. In the same way as the vertebrae sections become smaller and smaller as they go up, the distance between the frets also get narrower. She pointed out that the ``Veena is the only instrument prescribed by the divine scriptures as an instrument containing many universal code secrets to help reveal the ultimate truth to the human being. That is why it has been given an exalted status in Carnatic music''.

The human body itself is a model of Sri Chakra. The various chakras, from mulaadhaara (beginning with the spinal cord) to Sahasrara (top of the head) can be activated by musical notes. This is described by Muthuswamy Dikshitar in his Navavarana kritis. Gayathri played these nine songs — some in full.

Gayathri disapproved of the recent practice of mangling the veena (dismantling and reassembling it) to facilitate foreign travel. ``Veena will not be a veena once it is dismantled,'' she said. Her spiritual reverence for the instrument is obviously not shared by others for whom it is just a wooden piece useful in producing sounds that earn money. Gayathri stressed this point — that while Carnatic music tried to liberate the human being from this samsara, other systems of music only promoted the baser or animal instincts in man. That the spiritual approach produces a superior quality of music was evident from the soulful ragas she brought out. When she played the vibrant, masculine Sankarabharana, the placid, feminine Kalyani, the stately Bhairavi, or the beautiful Ahiri, she was peerless.

Papanasam Sivan

In another very educative lecture demonstration, Sethalapathi Balasubramanian, a disciple of the composer, gave an arresting description of this life and work of Papanasam Sivan, hailed as the Tamil Tyagaraja. Born as Polagam Ramaiah, Sivan went to Thiruvananthapuram and studied Sanskrit. He did it so well that he was able to produce a masterly book of Sanskrit terms that can be of immense help to others in composing lyrics. Neelakanta Sivan, a well-known composer was a role model for Ramaiah, whose admiration and devotion to the former was so great that he himself came to be known as Sivan — Papanasam Sivan though the ankitam remained in his original name — Ramadasan.

Papanasam Sivan has to his credit 40 to 50 songs in Sanskrit. The disciple rendered many of these songs bringing out the greatness of the composer.


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