My first tryst with Veena Conference

My first tryst with the first-of-its-kind International Veena Conference was around 3 to 4 years back in 2018 and 2019 held in Ravindra Kalashetra in the city of Bengaluru. To a humble student like me being in the presence of the divine sound of Veena for 72 hours was nothing short of an inner transformation. The mesmerizing continuous sound of the Veena over the 3 days has had the amazing ability to balance my emotions even after I traveled back home and stayed with me for weeks after the conference ended.

I along with many fellow disciples and contemporaries of Veena from other cities was part of this grand event structured so well with hour-long single Raga-based concerts by Vidwans from different parts of the country interspersed with fascinating paper presentations from research scholars of myriad disciplines in the field of Veena. These mono raga concert hour(s) by the Vidwans led the listener in me to intangible planes and had deeper effects on me. In the past, I have heard of Raga rasas – where some ragas have the power to evoke diverse feelings in the listener. These concerts over 3 days were witness to such an effect on the audience and me. During or after the concerts some of the experts cheerfully and enthusiastically shared tips of playing the Veena with the audience. Some of the tips were unique to the journey of the Vidwans themselves which they have mastered over the years. Such open-hearted sharing brought forth respectable awe in the audience. Some of the techniques like distinctive plucking methods, and revising the gamakas not just piqued my interest in the instrument but have stayed with me even years after the event was over.

The 20 minutes research papers ranged from history to astrology to medicine to many other disciplines and fields in connection to the instrument of Veena leaving me to wonder if such exploration was even possible. Some of the researchers and presenters have perceived an in-depth analysis of the instrument in quite unimaginable ways. One such presentation was a study by a radiologist on the MRI results on the instrument Veena showing stunning similarities between the human spine and the Veena. One can easily conclude the proximity of this ancient instrument to our very own human body through this paper. A few of the presentations had a mesmerizing story-like quality with instances of Veena in the days of mythology and history.

Some of these presenters both of the concerts and the paper were not full-time Vidwans and were people having other careers. The dedication with which they showcased their passion and talent inspired me to be more disciplined in my Veena sadhana and did change my belief that a lot is possible even when a person may have some other career. Achieving in both fields didn’t look any more like a ‘hard impossible to achieve dream’ to me.

For a small player like me who probably thought Veena playing was just another hobby, these conferences have been an eye-opener. My interest in the Veena’s playing and practice has intensified, and I owe this influence to the Veena conferences. Witnessing the sheer grandeur of this event, the humble camaraderie and friendship between the Vidwans coming together for a common cause were admirable in my view.

The three days of attending the conference each time have been rewarding to me as this seemed like part of the ‘slow moment’ that is gaining momentum as against the present-day fast-paced life. In the earlier days, I have been told by my Guru were similar to these events where such conglomeration amongst music-seeking and music-loving people was common and one interest was pursued for long periods. These conferences effectively brought back those practices that will help aid in good mental health improvement in the community that one lives in. An atmosphere of soothing music on the sound of Veena through the concerts and with intellectual stimulation from the research in the field was a complete experience for me and I am sure it united hearts and spirits over the three days each time.

Asha Rao