The antiquity of this musical instrument traces its invention to the times of Ramayana!
You would've had a chance encounter with musicians tailoring sound notes to the stringed instrument, Ravanhatha, if you have had an opportunity to explore the snaking lanes of old Rajasthan. Associated with wandering bards and minstrels since time immemorial, the antiquity of this musical instrument traces its invention to the times of Ramayana! So, let's embark upon the journey of uncovering the folklore and history attached to Ravanhatha.
Origins of the 'Demon's Fiddle'
The word 'Ravanhatha' is derived from rearranging the words- 'Ravana Hastha Veena' because this instrument is believed to have been played by Ravana of Lanka while praying to Lord Shiva. According to popular legend, after Ravana was slain by Lord Ram, Ravanhatha was brought to India by Lord Hanuman. While there is no historical record reflecting the truth of this story, both commoners and musicians of repute adhere to this account of the origin story of the 'demonic' fiddle.
Books about Ravanhatha
Ravanhatha has intrigued the interests of individuals beyond geographical and cultural boundaries whereby, many have tried to unravel and understand the mystery surrounding this instrument. Geoffery Alwyn, in his book 'The Violin Its & Story', states the 'Ravanstrom' to be a predecessor of the modern-day violin.
In Indian literary works, Ravanhatha has made several appearances. The earliest textual reference to Ravanhatha is believed to be found in the musical treatise titled- Bharatbhasya. Further, the work of 17th-century Tamil poetess, Ramabhadrambha, has also mentioned the female musicians of Tanjore court practising the Ravanhatha. Even the 18th-century writings by German missionaries, visiting the Malabar region of India, reserve a mention of this instrument.
If you are a travel enthusiast and also a music lover who cannot wait to know more, we suggest that you read Finding the Demonic Fiddle. European author Patrick Jered chronicles his journey of tracing the origin of Ravanhatha in the most interesting ways. Also, if you are looking for book recommendations that will help you explore Jaipur, then click here!
-With inputs from livehistoryindia.com