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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

GI tag for Thanjavur Veena...

Music is soothening and calms down the mind, especially the Carnatic music lures some so much.  Somewhere read that ‘one who is well versed in Veena,  one who has the knowledge of srutis and one who is adept in tala – all of them attain moksham or salvation without effort.  It is considered sacred and respected musical instrument – it is the ‘Veena’ – there are many variants of which ‘Saraswati Veena’ named after Goddess Saraswathi is one widely used in South India.  It is depicted as being played by Goddess Saraswathi Herself.  One who plays the veena is referred to as a vainika.  There are other types like - chitra veena, vichitra veena and rudra veena.

Melody and great music flows out of this stringed instrument made of jackwood which has 4 metal strings running over the frets.  The performer sits cross-legged on the stage, uses their fingers of left hand to press, pull and glide, while those of the right are used to pluck and twang the strings. 

GI Tag is the oft repeated word now…. It is a ‘Geographical Indication’ ~  GIs have been defined under Article 22(1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights(TRIPS) Agreement as: “Indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.” The GI tag ensures that none other than those registered as authorised users (or at least those residing inside the geographic territory) are allowed to use the popular product name.  The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.  Goods having specific geographical origin and possessing “distinct qualities, reputation or characteristics essentially attributable to that place of origin” are usually given the GI tag.

Internationally, there are many products which over a period of time have over taken the importance of the place from where they originated. Gruyère cheese (from Switzerland) and Tequila are some examples.  Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, in Mexico.  Governments have been protecting trade names and trademarks used in relation to food products identified with a particular region since at least the end of the nineteenth century, using laws against false trade descriptions.  In many countries the protection afforded to geographical indications by law is similar to the protection afforded to trademarks, and in particular, certification marks. Although a GI is not strictly a type of trademark as it does not serve to exclusively identify a specific commercial enterprise, there are usually prohibitions against registration of a trademark which constitutes a geographical indication.

Now there is news that ‘Thanjavur Veena’ is to become the  first Indian instrument to get the GI Tag of  ‘made in Thanjavur’.   First Post reports that for long, musicians playing the Thanjavur veena made news. Now the veena and the artisans of Tamil Nadu have a chance.

The body of the Thanjavur Veena is painted and engraved with delicate wood work, which usually consists of picture of god and goddess, motifs of flowers or birds. Such a recognition would prevent the misuse of its name/reputation. According to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) attorney P Sanjay Gandhi, who has obtained GI tags for a record 10 products unique to the state, the GI protection for Thanjavur Veena is to be given in favour of the Thanjavur Musical Instruments Workers Cooperative Cottage Industrial Society Limited, reported Times of India.

The veena’s history records back to the Vedic times. Identified with goddess Saraswati, the veena also finds mention in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.  But the current form of the Saraswathi Veena with 24 fixed frets evolved in Thanjavur during the reign of Raghunath Nayak.   Thanjavur supported many great players of Veena but with  disintegration of feudalism and lack of patronage forced musicians to migrate to cities in search of career avenues.  Today, there are few musicians in the district, and only festivals and concerts serve as reminders of the days when music flourished in every village. The only link between music and Thanjavur was carried forward by the makers of the musical instruments. The craftsmanship in making the instrument was handed over from one generation to the other of Viswakarmas. But gradually, the younger generation stopped coming forward ~ and  today, even less than 100 artisans in Thanjavur are involved in the profession.

If granted, Thanjavur Veena would become the 19th product to obtain GI recognition from Tamil Nadu. And maybe, this would encourage many many craftsmen across the country.  In India, it is the Indian Patent Office  which grants GI tag, besides taking care of Patents; Designs, Trade marks, and Patent information.  

Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India, in 2004-05, since then by September 2010, 132 had been added to the list, of which Salem Fabric, Kancheepuram Silk Sarees, Madurai Sungudi Sarees, Bhavani Jamukkalam, Coimbatore wet grinders
are from Tamil Nadu.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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