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The history
of the rudra-vina, one of the oldest
Indian string instruments, is fascinating in many respects.
From its first appearance up until today, this stick zither continued its development
untouched by influences from Persia and Central Asia - which had a great impact
on Indian arts and indeed went on to catalyse a hybrid musical culture unique to North India,
popularly known as Hindustani music.
From its appearance towards the end of the Buddhist Gupta dynasty,
the rudra-vina soon became an influential and respected symbol of instrumental music,
and it became entrenched in the strong religious and secular traditions of the entire subcontinent.
However, with the collapse of the Mughal empire in the second half of the 18th century
and the ensuing period of social and political turmoil, it gradually lost its primacy of place to new
arrivals such as the sitar and was distanced from the musical centre-stage in an irrevocable process.
Although it was considered for centuries to be the instrument embodying the concept
and practice, and indeed the aesthetics, of the raga (particularly the alap),
and while it still bears a nimbus of distinction, the tradition
is now maintained by a mere handful of musicians.