Are violins endowed with religious significance?

David R. Israel davidi at
Sun Mar 30 16:06:21 UTC 1997

Backtracking to Adheesh Sathaye's post {Fri, 28 Mar 1997 03:50:51 
GMT} --

> Our basic observation was that with regards to traditionally
> 'Indian' instruments, such as the vI.nA, or the sitAr, in common
> practice there seems to be an explicit prohibition of contact with
> the foot. Resting the vI.nA on the thigh or calf would be
> acceptable, but it should not be allowed to touch one's foot. . . 
> However, when playing the violin, there is necessarily contact with 
> the foot. 

What you say may be true of vina, but surely is not true of sitar.  
In Ravi Shankar's autobiography (for instance), I recall photos & 
instructions explicitly directing that the instrument *should* be 
placed to rest on the sole (or sort of ankle?) of the upturned right 
foot (or that's how I recall it).  Of course, when speaking of 
Hindustani music traditions, this might naturally differ from So. 
Indian custom anyway.  One could go even more minutely into this:  
Shankar's sitar study was at the feet of the legendary Ustad 
Allauddin Khan.  I have an odd idea that in the rival sitar school of 
Ustad Vilayat Khan, they *don't* rest sitar on the foot.  (Vilayat 
tends to hold the sitar more in the rudra vina manner.)  Maybe I'm 
imagining things; this needs a proper Hindustani Rasika to clear it 
up.  But my point remains: what applies to vina clearly doesn't to a
sitar, foot-wise (at least in the Pt. Ravi Shankar tradition).

regards, d.i.

p.s.:  L. Shankar & L. Subramaniam both play violin resting on the 
shoulder (Western-style).  And to my taste, both play wonderfully -- 
though I realize there are other (poss. more traditional) styles that 
are also exceeding fine.  Both often do (esp. when playing proper 
Karnatic music) rest the scroll on the foot.  Other Karnatic 
violinists rest the body of the instrument at the chest-level, rather 
than on shoulder.  Trying to recall (comparatively) the practice of 
Hindustani violinists like V.G.Jog -- I believe Jog does favor the 
shoulder (but I'm not sure abt. the foot issue in the North; I think 
-- paradoxically here -- Jog doesn't use the foot (but not sure).  As 
for So.Indian-born, No.Indian-music-playing N. Rajam, that's another 
permutation.  (Regrettably, I've never seen her in concert.)
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