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ANCIENT MUSIC - THE RAVANAHATHA

Ravanahatha- Music from the epic

 " Where words fail, music speaks "

Hans Christian Anderson

India,

Believed to be the oldest ancestor of present day violin, Ravanahatha, the ancient bowed fiddle is possibly the world’s oldest stringed instrument. Fabled , ancient and royal , the simplicity of the instrument is captivating. The street musicians make their own instrument out of simple bamboo and halved coconut shell or wood , acting as soundbox. This is covered with goat skin. The strings are made of horse hair or steel.

 

My quest to explore this instrument and its music stemmed from its very name. Literally meaning ‘ Hand of Ravana’ , Ravanahatha has a very intriguing story – one that spans across epics and decades and now two countries closely knit by the famous epic Ramayana.

 

Believed to have originated in Sri Lanka, Ravanahatha finds its mention in the Ramayana . According to the legend King Ravana used the Ravanahatha to sing in devotion of Hindu God Shiva.  After the epic war between Lord Ram and Ravana , Hanuman returned to North India with this instrument. Thereafter Ravanahatha found its patrons in form of Kings and Queens who enjoyed the music and encouraged its learning.  This instrument and its music has thus remained for generations with local musicians and singers and now become a part of the folk music of Rajasthan , Gujarat and parts of North India.

Arab traders brought Ravanahatha from India to the East between early seventh and tenth century, where it inspired the Arab Rebab, and early ancestors of the violin family.

 

The Ravanahatha produces slow, soulful music – one that leaves you wondering of  legendary influence on the cultural fabric, folk art and the heritage of the country.

Listen to the music of Ravanahaatha.