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The Ravanahatha (variant names: ravanhatta, rawanhattha, ravanastron, ravana hasta veena) is an ancient bowed violin, once popular in Western India and Sri Lanka.


The ravanahatha is believed by the indigenous Sinhalese ethnic majority to have originated among the Hela civilization of Sri Lanka in the time of King Ravana. The bowl is made of a cut coconut shell that is covered with goat hide. A Dandi, made of bamboo, is attached to this shell. The two principle strings are made of steel and horsehair, respectively. The long bow has jingle bells. In India, the origin of Violin is traced into the Ravanastrom. This instrument is said to have belonged to a sovereign of India 5000 BC. Again, it also replicates the ancient instrument called Ravan Hatta which is found even today in Rajasthan. Mythology credits this creation to the Rakshasa king Ravana from Ramayana. The Ravan Hatta was played on one string which was 22 inches long encompassing the 3 Octaves. Whereas the Violin encompasses the 3 octaves on 4 strings with a finger board which is 5 1/4th inches long. This 5 1/4th when multiplied by 4 is 22 inches which was the size of the Ravan Hatta. Both are played with a bow.[1] Throughout the medieval history of India, the kings were patrons of music; this helped in increased popularity of ravanhatta among royal families. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, it was the first musical instrument to be learned by princes. The Sangit tradition of Rajasthan further helped in popularizing ravanhatta among ladies as well.[2]

Dinesh Subasinghe showing his new version of the ravanahatha to Mahinda Rajapaksa

According to legend, Ravana was an ardent devotee of the Hindu god Shiva, and served him using the ravanahatha.[3] In the Hindu Ramayana epic, after the war between Rama and Ravana, Hanuman picked up a ravanahatha and returned to North India. In India, the ravanahatha is still played in Rajasthan. From India, the ravanahatha traveled westwards to the Middle East and Europe, where in the 9th century, it came to be called the Ravan strong.Some use to say that the Ravanahatha brought from Sri Lanka to India by Lord Hanuman.[4]

Modern use[edit]

In modern times, the instrument has been revived by Sri Lankan composer and violinist Dinesh Subasinghe and used in several of his compositions, including Rawan Nada and the Buddhist oratorio Karuna Nadee.[5][6]


External links[edit]