Miraj: In the musical city of India

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dated: 2022-11-20 01:17:56 .

Miraj, a small town in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, has been a renowned center for classical music for over 150 years.

Located 400 km (248.5 mi) west of Mumbai, Miraj was part of the former princely state of Patwardhan and is home to several famous classical musicians.

It is also the center of stringed instruments in the country.

Thousands of instruments – especially tanpura, sitar, sarangi and veena – manufactured in Miraj are used in all parts of the country.

Many of India’s finest musicians have their musical instruments specially designed by the legendary masters of this historic city.

The industry is run by more than 300 artisans spread over 50 Shikalgara families who have been in the business for more than seven generations.

Its fascinating history dates back to the 18th century.

Historically, the Shikalgars were a community of metalsmiths who specialized in the manufacture of swords and other military equipment during the rule of the Maratha Empire.

“But in 1818 – after the fall of the Maratha Empire and the introduction of modern weapons by the British – the Shikalgara community began to turn away from its traditional vocation due to declining markets,” says Mansingh Kumthekar, a city-based historian.

The cultural history of the city underwent further change in the coming years.

Shrimant Balasaheb Patwardhan II, King of Miraj, was a great lover of music and invited several musicians from across the subcontinent to perform during his reign.

But there was no one to repair the musical instruments brought by the artists, says Mr. Kumthekar.

So the king approached the Shikalgar community for help.

“He asked the two brothers Faridsaheb and Moeuddin if they could help with the repairs.”

The brothers – who were big music lovers themselves – learned the craft so well that everyone started calling them “the sitar makers”, says Mr Kumthekar.

Other families from the Shikalgar community soon joined the business and started a thriving industry.

But Miraj’s centuries-old musical tradition is now facing an existential crisis.

An industry that once employed thousands now has only a few hundred.

Craftsmen say that the advent of electronic instruments and music apps has made it difficult to maintain their craft and resulted in the loss of their livelihood.

Some have switched to new technologies, others resist the idea and insist on their traditional methods.

They say they are worried about their future.

Photos by Sharad Badha

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