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These agri workers from Rajasthan go to Himachal every summer to play instrument & earn money

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New Delhi, Dec 20: Agriculture is no more a rewarding field in India, thanks to government apathy, but these agricultural labourers from Rajasthan have not lost their taste for music and every year, they travel to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh to play 'ravanahatha', a popular folk instrument which is in practice for centuries, and also earn a bit of livelihood.

These agricultural workers from Rajasthan go to Himachal every summer to play instrument & earn money

The ravanahatha, which means ' the hand of Ravana', is a two-stringed instrument with a bowl made of coconut shell at one end. The player of the instrument holds the half-coconut end against his midriff and points the long bamboo stick outward. There is only one metal string along the length and one made of animal hair. The bow is moved across them to make music (resembling the violin).

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"Every year we come here for a month in the summer to earn some money," Shanti, a woman from an agricultural family with her nine-year-old grandson Amarjeet who came to Dharmshala to play the 'ravanahatha', told People's Archive of Rural India (PARI). "Bajao, bajao [play it, play it]," Shanti tells her grandson though the latter does it without much enthusiasm.

"The boy's [Amarjeet's] grandfather is very good at playing the ravanahatha, but he is sick today so could not make it. We have always played this instrument and sung songs too. But my grandson does not like [to play] it. These days, they say children should study. So he goes to the school [in our village]," PARI quoted the woman as saying.

People like Shanti and Amarjeet get some money from tourists who get down from their vehicles while passing by or walking nearby to stop and listen to their music.

The mention of 'ravanahatha' is there in Ramayana. It is said that Ravana made the instrument with one of his 10 heads, arm and some of his own hair. It was Hanuman who then brought it to India from Lanka. The PARI report also mentioned about Sri Lankan composer and violinist Dinesh Subasinghe who is reportedly working on reviving the instrument.

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Rajasthan is home to folk musicians who play the 'ravanahatha' and Shanti's family is one among them. They hail from the state's Nagaur district and they go to Himachal Pradesh every year in April-May when there is not much work at home. They reach Dharamshala via Jodhpur and Bathinda (Punjab) and it costs them Rs 300 one way for this trip. They get a room for a monthly rent of Rs 2,500 in Dharamsala and cook their food. They earn between Rs 400-500 on a given day by playing music. They play Hindi songs and break up in groups to perform at various locations to increase their overall income.

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