Exquisite piece of art work:
Rose Wood `Ekanda Veena' carved without using hammer and chisel
Coming under the list of several traditional items which have their roots in Mysore is the Mysore Veena too. Associated with Goddess of leaning Saraswathi, listening to Veena, soothes the mind and calms the nerves.
Veena comprises a Resonator (Kumbha), the cross bar (Dandi), the dragon face (Vyala) and finally a small gourd like attachment (Kayi). The normal practice to make a Veena is to chisel it from seasoned jack wood as it is quite soft to work with. The main parts namely Kumbha, Dandi, Vyala and the Kayi are made separately and then joined together. This is the traditional and the most common way of making a Veena and are called ‘Khanda Veena’ (with parts). If the Kumbha and the Dandi are made by carving out of single piece of wood, then such a Veena is called ‘Akhanda Veena’.
These Veenas are rarely manufactured, only if specially ordered by an affluent client. The amount of wood required to carve such a Veena is naturally more and requires special skills. But Veenas with all the three parts, the Kumbha, Dandi and Vyali carved entirely out of a single piece of wood is a real rarity. This type is called 'Ekanda Veena'. This gives the best resonance, as there are no joints in the entire body of the Veena.
However, the Kai or the Gourd is manufactured separately and attached in all the above types of Veenas. So also the wooden plate to cover the entire unit.
Though Jack wood is the preferred choice, a Veena can be carved out of any other wood and is considered a real challenge, especially so if it happens to be Rose wood, as it is very hard to work with. Therefore it is not used even for making an Akhanda Veena, let alone an Ekanda Veena. But if somebody ventures to make an Ekanda Veena using only Rose wood, the news is sufficient to evoke curiosity and surprise.
MK Narasimhan, a retired Dam Safety Civil Engineer of Mysore, has taken up this daunting task of carving out the Ekanda Veena from a single log of Rose wood. Even the Kai or the gourd is also made out of hollowed rose wood. Narasimhan, who is 64 years old, has also served in the Irrigation Department at Mysore. He has completed his BSc and BE and using his education has base and started carving veena.
The Veena when completed measures a total of 54 inches from Kumbha to Vyali, while the diameter of the Kumbha at its width will be13 inches. The height of the Veena from the ground to the highest point is 12 inches. The bridge carries four main strings and three Tala strings. The main strings rests on 24 frets. The frets are made out of Silver rods. The gourd is decorated with 999 touch silver inlay work, while the entire Veena will be decorated with 72 silver flowers representing the 72 Mela Karta ragas. The neck of the gourd will be engraved with seven petals to represent seven Swaras, on which animals whose voice represent each Swara will also be engraved.
The strings of the Veena after passing on the frets, rides on a bridge located on the resonator. The vibrations from strings gets amplified in the resonator. The tala strings are also passed on the side with small hook-like projections. The bridge of Ekanda Veena looks like the Beejakshara of Ganapathi, 'Gam' written in Kannada alphabet.
Speaking to Express, Narasimhan said the musical instrument fascinated him so much, that made him resolve to carve a Veena all by himself. `It was my desire since my childhood to learn playing Veena, but I could not do so. But with persistent efforts I started collecting every bit of information on how to make a Veena which went on for 35 long years until my retirement, when I started working on it. I spend about 60 per cent of my pension amount to carve this Veena.’
`This is an Ekanda Veena, without any joints, made from a single log of rose wood. Carving the Veena is very difficult and it took me 4 years just to select the right piece of log. I do not use hammer or chisel as it reduces the strength of the wood. I use only sand paper to rub the wood and bring it the required shape.’ he said informing about his working method. He has completed making the dragon face for Vyali.
After making an in-depth study of the structural and behavioural properties of wood, especially Rose wood, he finally spotted a century old rosewood in the Thithimati forest area of Kodagu. Drawing a rough out-line of the Veena on the log of rose-wood, he got the extra wood chopped and brought it home and began his carving work.
Narasimhan claims that before taking up the work, he made a detailed study of the physical properties of the wood, metal and adhesive that he would be using in his Veena, as well applied several Engineering techniques to carve the shape, geometrical designs, aesthetics and inlay work while still adhering to the ancient scriptures.
Rose being very tough to work with, making a Veena by hand demands much care and skill. Working relentlessly for the past 4 years, Narasimhan devouts about 8 hours daily on his project. It may require another year to complete the Veena, and would probably be only one of its kind in the entire world.
He claims that his Ekanda Veena is the only Veena carved in Rose Wood and is the strongest Veena on the earth, yet the lightest one by weight. Normally a Veena weighs between 9.5 kg and 13 kg, but his weighs even less than that and especially made without hammer and chisel. He hopes to make a entry in the Guinness world creating several records.
Even the wooden box to house the Veena is unique
After any wood or carpentry work is completed, the normal practice is to burn the left-over wood pieces as firewood. But Narasimhan has found a new use for them.
When he started working on the Veena, he thought of making an appropriate wooden box to place such an exquisite piece of art work. He simultaneously took up making a traditional wooden box (like the one the ancient kings used to store their treasure) using the wood pieces that were discarded after the furniture work in his newly constructed house was completed.
Collecting all the scrap wood, he bought a plywood sheet and placed the scrap wood pieces on them fixing it with a adhesive. He polished it give it a finishing glow. The wood pieces of different hues placed in a zigzag design gives a special look to the box. Even the locks for the box is made by him using Brass. Shortly he is planning to invite Engineers and other musicians to inspect his Veena and elicit their opinion.