Thursday, July 6, 2017

1048. Veena, the instrument with mellifluous music.

When I was going to primary school I remember my Amma used to play “Veena” the stringed instrument. This instrument has a large hollow wood resembling a pot at one end. It is the head of the instrument followed by a long stem of wood with ridges placed on the topside and then there is a neck with a carved head of a dragon at the other end. The neck of the dragon is supported by a hardened gourd shell. There are seven with four on the top and three in the side running from the head to the neck of the dragon.   

Amma used to sit with her legs crossed and place gourd shell end on her left lap. She would let her left arm go beneath the stem part of the instrument and meddle the 24 ridges while her right hand index finger plucked the string at the head end. This instrument can produce a divine enchanting hum like sound. This sound is so soothing to the mind.

I always wondered why there was a head of a dragon at the tail part of Veena. Though at that age I never had a chance get an answer to that, now I could read about it. There is an interesting story illustrating about the head of dragon. Once a fire spitting dragon disturbed the Yagna rituals of sages. Disapointed they went to Chaturmukha Brahma to complain. At that time Brahma was engrossed in the magic of the sonorous notes coming out of the Veena played by Maa Saraswathi. He suggested that Saraswathi could tame the beast with the enchanting music. Maa Saraswathi hid herself in the forest and started playing on the Veena. As anticipated the dragon was attracted and bewitched by the melodious music. It went in search of the source of the elusive melody. It failed to find the source of the melodious music which had made the dragon to relinquish its mayhem and became a connoisseur of the mellifluous music. Finally it requested the sages to let it know who was producing the music.

Maa Saraswathi then appeared before the dragon and played the Veena. The enchanted dragon pleaded for salvation and a permanent place near the music. Satisfied by the earnestness of the seeker, the Goddess agreed to the request of the dragon and placed it Veena so that it could remain an integral part of the Veena and thus get the opportunity to hear the music always.

I take this story as an analogy comparing the yagna to the work we do and the sages to be the proactive mind. The dragon is the restless mind which causes hindrances. Maa Sarawathi is the divine energy which aid us. The music from the Veena is the awareness. It is the awareness which can subdue the restless mind so that the proactive mind can take up constructive deed.

There are 24 frets created due to the ridges on the stem part of the Veena and this is responsible for the Swaras (Nodes) in the music. The ancients have compared the Veena to the Human vertebrae and we all know that there are 24 presacral vertebrae (7 cervical, 12 thoracic and 5 lumbar). Amazingly as in the anatomy of the spinal cord which has thicker vertebral body near the sacrum and goes on to become small at the cervical part, exactly the frets in the Veena are broad near the end and narrow at the head part.

There are many Vidwan in our country who have mastered playing Veena. They have felt that the Mandara Sthaayi Swara (Lower Octave nodes) starts from the sacrum part of human body (Muladhaara) as it is in Veena. From there it travels towards the cervical region (Sahasrara) where the Brahma Randhra (hole at the crown of the head) is situated as the pitch increases to Thara Sthaayi Swara (Higher Octave nodes). This is how the music from Veena and music of Life is experienced (one externally and the other internally).  

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