Reviving the chitraveena

The unmatched player of the instrument - Gottu Vadyam Narayana Iyengar

The unmatched player of the instrument - Gottu Vadyam Narayana Iyengar  

KEPT AWAY from concert platforms for more than 400 years and introduced to rasikas just over 130 years ago, this instrument is as rare as it can get. Sadly, there are only a few who play this instrument, lead by the talented Ravi Kiran.

The chitraveena or gotuvadyam as it is known, was re-introduced to Carnatic music by Tiruvidaimarudur Sakha Rama Rao, who then re-designed the instrument. His famous disciple, `Gottu Vadyam' K. S. Narayana Iyengar, grandfather of Ravi Kiran, standardised the internal structure, string arrangements, tuning and playing methods of the Gotuvadyam. His birth centenary falls this year and efforts are on to popularise this divine instrument.

A host of programmes have been organised under the aegis of Chennai Fine Arts, including the release of a souvenir, presentation of awards to prominent musicians and the renowned music critic, Subbudu, and a ten-day music festival this December in Chennai.

Speaking about the centenary celebrations, chitraveena exponent, P. N. Muralidharan of the CFA, who was in the city recently, said plans were afoot to train 25 students in this instrument under the gurukula system. "The project will be launched within a year and we are looking for sponsors," he said.

Looking forward to the centenary - Muralidharan

Looking forward to the centenary - Muralidharan  

"The objective of the centenary celebrations is to popularise the chitraveena. The souvenir will trace the struggle involved in bringing it to the concert platform," he added.

The speciality of the chitraveena is that it produces a sound close to the human voice. Since the fingers glide over the strings and not stroke them, there is continuity in sound.

Bison horn was used to glide over the strings, before Ravi Kiran introduced teflon. The CFA is also working out a common agenda along with Swami Dayanand Saraswathi to promote this Vishesha Vadyanubhava (rare divine instrument).

When in town, Muralidharan also met with the heads of some schools to promote the chitraveena as an instrument that improves the concentration in children.

"Playing the chitraveena awakens consciousness. Music improves concentration and gives mental peace and physical well-being through its positive vibrations. One develops the power of observation. While playing this instrument, eyes have to remain open and in focus. Both body and mind are controlled by the instrument," he says.

By Subha J Rao

Photo: K. Ananthan

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