Ravanhatta – A mystical musical instrument invented by Ravan
The demon King Ravana was a learned man. A dahagranthi (expert in 10 books) brahmin he was a scholar par excellent and said to have made lots of original contribution to maths, chemisitry, astronomy. architecture and music. Ravana invented a musical instrument similar to fiddle. This was made popular by a book by Patrik Jered through his book Demon’s Fiddle.
What is the story of Ravan Hatta ? It is a musical instrument similar to violin. You must have seen it played by Rajasthani folk artists. This is the musical instrument that eventually reached Europe who turned into violin. Part of the reason why Violin despite being a wester instrument plays really well with Carnatic classical music.
In Indian and Sri Lankan tradition, the ravanahatha is believed to have originated among the Hela people of Lanka during the time of the legendary king Ravana, after whom the instrument is supposedly named. According to legend, Ravana used the ravanahatha in his devotion to the God Shiva. Ravan is a well known Shiva bhakt and is also composer of Shiva Tandan Stotram. Lord Hanuman as we all know was also an Avatar of Shiva himself.
Ravan is said to have played this Ravanhatta the night before his final battle before Lord Rama had has sung praises to Lord Shiva. Upon Ravan’s death by the hands of Lord Rama, It was hanuman who found this mystical musical instrument. Very few people know that Hanuman was not just a genius and warrior but was also one of the greatest musicians of all times. He instantly recognized the greatness of this instrument and took it with him back to Nothern parts of India.
Today this instrument is seen very commonly in the hands of Rajasthani folk singers who play it with great ease and supreme melody.
Readers of this blog are always looking for mystical elements. It so happened that Lord Hanuman played the praise of Lord Ram with this instrument. Being an immortal there was simply no end to Hanuman’s praise of Lord Ram and this instrument continued to exist in his hand for some time but eventually he outgrew it. He said to have figured out that this instrument had tremendous power. When played correctly and nicely it would allow an individual to control other people’s emotions, nature and animal kingdom. When played incorrectly the instrument had great power of destruction.
Sensing that this instrument is not meant to be in ordinary human hands, Hanuman said to have given it to a Naga. A serpant and ask it to hide it in the naag-loka which is basically paatal loka. The Naga took a journey to his home in Nagloka. The entrance of it was near a secret lake in Rajasthan. The guard at the entrance recognized the Naga but was suspicious of the instrument in the hands of this Naga. He wanted to know why this piece of wood is worthy of entering the realm of treasures guarded by Nagas.
To demonstrate the strength of this instrument Naga tried to play the instrument but it would not make any sound. Either Naga was not worthy or perhaps Hanuman had cast a spell on it. But to their luck a Gandharva was present in the lake along withi his apsaras. The naga approached him as Gandharvas are well known musicians. It is said that the Gandharva played the instrument with such beauty that man, animals and ghosts go attracted to the place. He played the instrument continuously for 7 days without a break.
This convinced the Naga guard and he allowed the instrument to come to Naagloka. What happened in the process however is that the 7 days of music remained in the hearts and minds of everyone who lived near the lake. With great efforts some humans tried to make a similar instrument as they remembered. It was said that the beautiful tunes of that instrument made a permanent mark on all the people and their descendants. Every child is thus born with the memories of those sounds in her heart. Over time various artists tried to recreate that music and the search continues.
Also, there are many myths of kings and explorers trying to search secret treasures in Rajasthan. Some of them have tried to find this very instrument but have not succeeded yet. If they did, we would know.