Friday, 15 November 2013

The story of a tamburi

Mention Tamburi and the image that comes to our mind is that of Purandara Dasa wandering around south India with a tamburi in hand, bells on his feet and a melodious voice that spreads the message of Madhwa philosophy.
The first mention of  an instrument similar to the tamburi in Indian texts is when we are given a beautiful description of Sage Narada who goes around all the worlds, with his divine veene in hand.
Both the tamburi and the veene are plucked string instruments and both are used in Indian music.
The tamburi come in different sizes and it can have four or five wire strings. These strings are plucked one after the other to create a harmonic resonance on the basic note. This basic note is called as the Shruti.
If the Haridasa used tamburi extensively, Carnatic musicians prefer the veene.
However, the first mention of the tamburi as an accompaniment of a Haridasa is when Achalananda, who is regarded as the first ever Hari dasa, goes all over India, singing the glory of Narasimha with a tamburi in hand.
Many centuries later, the tamburi is mentioned for the first time ever in a composition by Sripadaraja, the seer of Sripadaraja  Matha of Mulabagal. The tamburi suited Sripadaraja as he sang in Adhara Sadja and the drone instrument that the tamburi was, was perfect for Haridasa bhajan.         
The Tamburi then is used with great dexterity by Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539) who passes on its skill to Purandara Dasa (1484-1564).
It is Purandara Dasa who popularises the tamburi throughout South India. He goes around, propagating Dwaitha siddantha, with bells tied to his feet and with his famous tamburi in hand.
There are several instances when Purandara goes around the city of Vijayanagar or Hampi singing the glory of Hari with Tamburi in hand. The tamburi remains Purandara Dasa’s constant companion.
After Purandara Dasa, this instrument was used by Kanaka Dasa, Belur Vaikunta Dasa and Vijaya Dasa.
Vijaya Dasa revives the Haridasa tradition and he went around India singing the glories of Hari with tamburi and gejje and collected alms. Vijaya Dasaru’s wife would cook all the collected food items and the couple would have food after Vijay Dasa did   naivedya.
Vijaya dasa and his wife never stored any food articles as they cooked all of it the Dasa had collected.
Vijaya Dasa had a close affinity with tamburi as he had been given the instrument in a dream by Purandara Das who also gave him his ankita nama.  
The word tamburi comes from Tan and pura. If it is tanpura in north India, the same instrument is called Tamburi in the south.  Like the tamburi, the Tanpura too is a drone instrument. 
Tamburi closely resembles a sitar except that it has no frets (fret is a raised element on the neck of a stringed instrument). Generally, the tamburi has four strings tuned to the tonic.
The tanpura and of course the tamburi is known for its very rich sound. There are three main styles; the Miraj style of Maharashtra, the Tanjore style of Tamil Nadu and the small instrumental version sometimes called tamburi.
The Miraj style is the typical north Indian tanpura and this is mainly used by Hindustani musicians. The Tanjore style is south Indian and it is extensively used by Carnatic musicians.
The Hari dasas used tamburi to set the sruti and also conjure up the imagined notes of the Raga to be sung. These dasas considered tamburi to be sacred as it represents the Sruti or the pitch and Tala or the time measure.
Purandara Dasa felt that Sruti and Tala are the two fundamental aspects of music and they are often referred to as the Mother and Father of music respectively. He, therefore, preferred the tamburi to all other instruments.
Subsequently, all Haridasas, without exception have used the tamburi. Today, we can se the tamburi of  Jagannatha Dasa in his house in Manvi in Raichur district. (Manvi is on way to Raichur from Bangalore). The tamburi of Vijaya Dasa also can be seen.  
One of the best compositions on this instrument is by Purandara Dasa.It is called “Tamburi Meetidava”.  
This is a beautiful Ugabhoga and the Enlgish translation goes as follows:

“Tamburi meeTidava
bhavAbdi dATidava
tAlava taTTidava
surarolu sEridava
gejjeya kaTTidava
kalaredeya meTTidava
gAyana pADidava
harimurthi nODidava
puraMdara viTTalana nODidava
vaikuMTakke ODidava”

Here, he describes that a Haridasa can reach Hari only by holding the tamburi and surrendering himself completely to the supreme being.
Prasanna Venkata Dasa (1680-1752) gets a tamburi from Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala. He is sent to Tirumala by none other than Raghavendra Swamy himself.
When Hari himself gives the tamburi to a Dasa and asks him to spread his message, tha tamburi attains a divine status. With Purandara Dasa, an amsha of Narada and Vijaya Dasa an amsha of  Brigu Muni and Sripadaraja, an amsha of Dhruva and Vyasa Raja an avatar of Prahalada, all using the tamburi, the instrument gains wide acceptance and popularity.     

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