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When music makes a mark

R. Sivaraman
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The ‘Thanjavur Veena,’ the first musical instrument to get GI registration in the country, on display at a gallery in Thanjavur.— Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
The ‘Thanjavur Veena,’ the first musical instrument to get GI registration in the country, on display at a gallery in Thanjavur.— Photo: B. Velankanni Raj

The famous ‘Thanjavur Veena’ is likely to get a Geographical Indication registration shortly, making it the first musical instrument to get such a registration in the country. The GI registration will help the ancient instrument get the tag ‘Made in Thanjavur’.

The Thanjavur Musical Instruments Workers’ Co-Operative Cottage Industrial Society Limited has submitted the application to the Geographical Indications (GI) Registry.

Chinnaraja.G. Naidu, Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks and GI Registry told The Hindu that for the first time his registry had received application for registration of a musical instrument.

“After receiving the application, we have advertised it in our journal. As per procedure, after the statutory period of 120 days, we will issue the registration to the applicant,” he added.

Making of the four-foot long Thanjavur Veena involves painstaking work and superior craftsmanship. ‘Ekantha Veenai’ is carved from a single block of wood, while ‘Sada Veenai’ has its resonator, neck, and head joined together. Jackfruit wood is used for making veena.

Though the instrument was mentioned in ancient scriptures and literature, Raghunatha Nayak, Ruler of Thanjavur (1614 - 1632), and his prime minister and musicologist, Govinda Dikshitar, modified the then existing Veena - the Saraswati Veenai with 24 fixed frets (Mettu) — so that all ragas could be played. Hence, it is called ‘Thanjavur Veena’. Ragunatha Nayak is now considered as the Father of the Thanjavur Veena.

The style of presenting Carnatic music has grown largely around the Thanjavur Veena technique, and many of the noted south Indian musicians, musicologists and composers of the past have been Thanjavur Veena players. Since the 17th century, artisans from the Viswakarma community are involved in the making of the Veena.

P. Srinivasan, past president of the Society, said great art and craftsmanship were required in the making of the Veena, and even a minute flaw in workmanship would spoil the tone and reduce the value of the instrument.

“Today, only 75 persons in Thanjavur are involved in the profession and the younger generation is not coming forward to join us. Securing GI mark will be of great encouragement to the artisans.”

P. Sanjai Gandhi, an advocate who was instrumental in the filing of the application, said, “We have submitted our material based on historical records, method of production, construction, uniqueness and others. If the registration is granted, it will be a great recognition to the artisans.”


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