The GI-Tagged Bobbili Veena Of Andhra Pradesh

A look into the art and craft of making the revered Bobbili veena
The Bobbili veena. Credit Wikimedia Commons / Rajasekhar1961
The Bobbili veena. Credit Wikimedia Commons / Rajasekhar1961

Carefully crafted from pansa/phanas or jack wood, the Saraswati veena&nbspis better known as the Bobbili veena. Made with painstaking precision, this veena&nbspis famed for its distinctive notes. An integral part of the music culture of India, the Bobbili veena, was invented in the 17th century and now has taken the spotlight once more with the granting of the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

Call It By Its Name

The home of the Bobbili, or Saraswati veena, is the town of Bobbili, 55 km from Vizianagaram city, Andhra Pradesh. Veenas&nbspare usually known by the places they are crafted in, such as the Thanjavur veena&nbspand the Mysore veena, etc. Although there are many types of veenas&nbspknown today, such as the rudra veena, or been, the vichitra veena, the chitraveena, or gottuvadyam, the Bobbili veena&nbsphas retained its exclusivity and devotion. 

Past Perfect

Pedda Rayudu, the progenitor of the 17th-century Bobbili empire, patronised the veena, as it was an integral part of the social activities in those times.&nbspEven now, veena players&nbspare often referred to as beenkars&nbspor vainikas. During the Bobbili reign, the Bobbili veenas were played especially by the women and crafted by the Sarwasiddi community from Gollapalli village. The master craftsman was Sarwasiddi Acchanna, who was appointed to the king's court. Since then, over the ages, the art of making the veena has been continued by the Sarwasiddi people.

Playing It Right

A bastion of Carnatic music, the distinctive manner of playing the Bobbili veena&nbspwas curated over 300 years. This community is called the Bobbili veena sampradayam, and the artists have found international fame.

Patience And Creation

A labour of one-month results in a single unique&nbspveena. The lightweight pansa&nbspwood's grain is ideal for the distinctive sound of the Bobbili veena also there is minimum swelling in the wood due to moisture. Plus, the wood's strength and thickness add to the veena's tone. Pansa wood is taken from local deposits created by the Indian Government Forest officials. The Bobbili and Nuzvidu veena is made from a single piece of wood and, therefore, called ekandi veena

First, the pansa&nbsplog is cut to the required size, around four to five feet in length. At the base of the central limb, the thumba&nbspis fixed. It is spherical and is made from hollowed-out pumpkin or aluminium sheet. It acts as the resonator, which increases the duration of a note. It also performs the simple task of balancing the veena&nbspwhen it is not being held. To be used as a thumba, the pumpkin is hollowed and sun-dried for three days. Then a metal cylinder is fixed to it, to attach it to the main limb, or dandi. And this is how sound is transferred to the thumba. In recent years, the decorative inlay work has been replaced by plastic/polypropylene due to a ban on ivory. Yet, the intricate designs on each piece make it exclusive and much sought-after. 

A New World

Nowadays, more than the actual veena, miniature veenas are being made to scale. There is an increasing demand for these souvenirs, as learning the Bobbili veena&nbsprequires deep dedication, time, space, and strength to store and cart the instrument. The artisans from the few families in Gollapalli craft the miniatures using the same material as the actual one, thus striving to keep the business and the focus on the art, skill, and artisans of the Bobbli veena

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