Friday, August 20, 2010

Sufism on Veena

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan

The Sufi saint and Saraswathi Veena player, Hazrat Inayat Khan had authored several books regading abstract and unstruck sound ('anahatha shabda'). He used Veena as his vehicle to attain self-realization. His daughter, Noor Inayat Khan (visit website www.geoffreyarmes.com for more details about Noor) was a fine musician herself and played the Saraswathi veena. She authored the book, Sufi Princess. Noor Inayat Khan was born in the year 1914 in Moscow, Russia to Hazrat Inayat Khan and Ameena Begum. Almost all her youth was spent in Paris. After her father's demise in 1927 and the declaration of the 2nd World War and the invasion of France, Noor had no option but to move to England and she returned to France (Paris) in 1943 as an Allied spy radio operator. Captured by the Gestapo, she was held in solitary confinement and subjected to cruel interrogation methods. Despite the torture, Noor never revealed her identity to her captors. At the age of 29, in the year 1944, she was executed by the Gestapo. England and France posthumously awarded her the "George Cross" and "Croix De Guerre" respectively.
In one of his innumerable Sufi messages Hazrat Inayat Khan has stated that the Sufi knows of the past, present and future, and about all things in life, by being able to know the direction of sound. Every aspect of one's being in which sound manifest has a special effect in every direction. The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole Universe. Whoever has followed the strains of this sound has forgotten all earthly distinctions and differences, and has reached that goal of Truth in which all the Blessed Ones of God unite. Space is within the body as well as around it; in other words the body is in the space and the space is in the body.
This being the case, the sound of the abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Man does not hear it as a rule, because his consciousness is entirely centred in his material existence. Man becomes so absorbed in his experiences in the external world through the medium of the physical body that space, with all its wonders of light and sound, appears to him blank.
This can easily be understood by studying colour. There are many colours that are distinct by themselves, yet when mixed with others of still brighter hue they become altogether eclipsed; even bright colours embroidered with gold, silver, diamonds or pearls serve merely as a background to the dazzling embroidery. So it is with the abstract sound compared with the sounds of the external world. The limited volume of earthly sounds is so concrete that it dims the effect of the sound of the abstract to the sense of hearing, although in comparison to it the sounds of the earth are like that of a whistle or a drum. When the abstract sound is audible all other sounds become indistinct to the mystic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Aadi Pooram - Ariyakudi

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Above is a photo of the street on which the Carnatic Music Emperor, Sri. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar lived. The first photo is of the legend himself.

I had performed in the Vairavar Temple (Kala Bhairavan) in Vairavanpatti on Aadi Pooram (August 12th). As it is a small, remote village my mother and I had to stay in Kaaraikudi which is around 15 kms from Vairavanpatti.That day being Andal Jayanthi, in the morning my mother and I went to Ariyakudi (5Kms from Kaaraikudi where we stayed) to Lord Venkateswara temple (famously known as "Thenn Tirupathi"). I asked the temple priest to give me guidelines to go to Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar's house. I was eager to see where the Monarch lived. Saying "Vaango" the temple pujari walked with me all the way outside the temple and pointing towards the opposite street he told me, "Ado avaaloda veedu inda theruvule daan irukku!"
Awestruck,I stared at the street. From there I clicked with my mobile.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Miracles of Veena

Maithraayanniya Upanishad states-"A drop of blood as it circulates within a human body takes along with it one breath of the human being. This drop of blood along with one breath takes nearly 7 minutes to circulate within the human body. Similarly, when the veena string is plucked once, the nada wave emanating from it takes nearly 7 minutes to travel back and forth between the bridge of the veena to the base fret of the veena."

The different properties of the woods used have an effect on the tonal characteristics of the veena. The grain pattern of the jackfruit wood used is important for veenas. The choice of wood plays a vital part in the aesthetics of the instrument.
Veena playing is not only about chemistry between 'nadam' of the veena and 'life-force energy' of the player. The interaction between human-body cells and the wood grains in the veena are equally thought provoking. Coming to think of the interaction between cells and grains/ 'nadam' and kundalini', we are able to understand how types of veena affect the player. The veena, appearing deceptively innocent has a potent nature and life of its own which can directly affect the player (provided he/she adapts the posture and breathing patterns required for veena-playing).
Continuous practice on a good veena (wood of fine quality due to seasoning at spiritual places, temples, on the banks of holy rivers or under a banyan tree, thereby devoid of doshas) yields results corresponding to the nature of the veena such as- sudden spurt of energy, sense of positivity, improvement in complexion, lush hair growth (in the case of middle-aged and the old, reduction in hair fall), shedding fat, agelessness, youthful looks etc. Playing on such veenas bring about good fortune, spiritual elevation and general prosperity. While such is the case with good veenas, one should watch out for any untoward events, ill health, bad luck, general disharmony, deterioration in physical complexion/ lack-lustre looks, fatigue, depression etc while playing on certain veenas. While all events and circumstances in life cannot be attributed to the veena one is handling, continual turn of bad events or atmosphere could certainly be attributed to the veena one is handling at the time of occurrence of bad happenings. This could be due to doshas in the wood, alignment of the frets (bad 'melam' of the veena dandi) etc. I have seen a veena that was made only on full moon nights. The veena maker would keep the wood aside on all other days except full moon nights to periodically transform the wood into a veena. Such veenas contain great spiritual powers and also lend a heavenly glow to the player.
Even the size of the veena plays a major part in affecting the player. It is essential for the player to feel comfortable while running his left hand across the dandi and plucking the strings with his right hand. Any strain on his/her biceps, elbows, hands and the chest region means the veena he/she is handling is not the corresponding size of the player. Normally a Saraswathi veena measures roughly upto 24 and a half 1/2 inches from the base note to the top note and 4 and a half feet from the simha mukha to the end of the kudam. Any addition or subtraction even by an inch or two to the length of the veena could be due to the size of the kudam (right side of the veena), resulting in an overall distinction in size yielding corresponding effects on the player. An ideal veena merges with the player to become his/her extension.

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