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10/9/2018 A Short History of the Bobbili Veena | Indianbijou


Art, handicrafts & jewelry from India

A Short History of the Bobbili Veena

MARCH 16, 2016MARCH 14, 2016 ~ INDIANBIJOU

Goddess Saraswti

Instrumental music has been an integral part of Indian culture for centuries. The “Saraswati Veena” has
become synonymous with the tradition and culture of India. Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of learning
and the arts, is never seen without a Veena. Although string instruments of almost all types are
commonly referred to as “Veena”, there are multiple types of Veenas. Some of the main types of Veena
are the Rudra Veena, the Saraswati Veena, the Vichitra Veena and the Chitra Veena. Veenas are also
known by the town where they are made, for example, Tanjore Veena, Mysore Veena, etc. Veena players
are often referred to as Beenkars or Vainikas.

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Bobbili Veena

The Saraswati Veenas made in Bobbili, in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, are referred to as
Bobbili Veena. The town has a unique style of playing the Veena, the “Bobbili veena sampradayam”,
developed over three centuries. The history of making these veenas dates back to the founder of Bobbili
Kingdom, established in the 17th Century by Pedda Rayudu, when playing Veena was an important
activity in social events. Veenas are made of jackfruit wood which is lightweight and possesses qualities
like excellent reverberation, clear grain lines, great durability and minimum swelling in moisture. The
uniqueness of the Bobbili Veenas is that they are carved out of a single log of wood. Such Veenas are also
called ekandi Veena.

Artisan with Bobbili Veena

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The Bobbilli Veena have been traditionally supplied by Sarwasiddi community craftsmen. They obtained
GI status for the instrument in 2012 and thus, protected it from extinction. The Bobbili veena is the second
veena instrument in the country to be awarded the GI after The Thanjavur Veena. But Bobbili Veena has
remained a rural, small-scale industry. There are around 30 families in a small village called Gollapalli
near Bobbili, that are dependent on making this musical instrument for their livelihood. Bobbili and
Vadada have now become more famous for producing ornamental miniature Veenas rather than the
actual Veenas.

Making Of A Bobbili Veena

Sarvasidhi Achutanarayana is the grandson of Sarvasidhi Acchanna, who invented the famed Bobbili
Veena during the tenure of Raja Ravu Venkata Kumar Krishna Ranga Rao, the 12th king of the kingdom
of Bobbili. Carrying on with the family tradition, Sarvasidhi Achyutha Narayana still keeps busy crafting
these unique musical instruments at the age of 76 and guides the next generation in the art. But he says
that notwithstanding its fame for its unique treble, the instrument no more enjoys its former status. “The
professional Veena is vanishing, with not many people willing to learn it. Hence, we are now
manufacturing the miniature versions which are gifted as mementos and memorabilia, to save the dying

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Parts of Veena

A Bobbili Veena will take an average of 20 days to be made. Veena making is not a skill that can be
mastered quickly; it’s not an instrument that anybody can make. First the craftsmen will select the
jackfruit wood from the outskirts of the city. He will then create the bridge or ‘gori’ (the round part of
Veena); a wooden sheet is later used to cover the bridge. Then a variety of designs, such as Goddess
Saraswathi and peacock, are carved on it. A wide fre ed neck is later a ached to this round body.
Pumpkin is used as a resonator to increase the duration of the note played, and also for balancing the
Veena to stand still when musician is not holding the instrument. All the fibrous ma er in the pumpkin is
removed and dried in sun for around 3 days before a aching it on the underside of the neck..

A pipe is screwed to the top of the pumpkin and connected to dandi to transfer the sound to pumpkin. A
major change in the material has occured in the decorative inlay work, which used to be done on elephant
tusks, now replaced by plastic. The most difficult & time-consuming task in manufacturing a Veena is
embedding the 24 metal frets on a hardened wax. The artisan uses brass plates and strings are tied to
them. He has to make sure that the tune of one string is perfectly in-sync with the other. The smallest
mistake on the part of the artisan will spoil the instrument. But when perfection is maintained, the music
that resonates from this instrument of Saraswati is divine and magical.

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