Today, the violin has become an integral part of any musical concert of Karnatak and north Indian music where it accompanies the main artist, vocal or instrumental. The violin as we know it today is one of the earliest foreign instruments to be adopted by Indian music.
The introduc¬tion of this instrument to this country dates back to over a century ago. It is said that Varahappaya, a minister to the Maratha rulers of Tanjavoor and an adept in Karnatak music, was first attrac¬ted by the rich tonal quality of the violin which he heard in a European hand of the East India Company. He explored the possibilities of this instrument from the point of view of enriching Indian music. Though the violin is a Western instru¬ment, in southern India it is not tuned in the Western style; nor does the artist play it standing up. He squats on the platform and holds the violin between his right heel and his chest. The left hand can move freely and the fingers of the player have a range of two and a half octaves. The range of the human Voice is almost the same and the tone of the violin blends smoothly with that of the human voice.
The violin is remarkable for its smooth sweeps from one end of the string to the other. The light tone of the steel string and the deep, almost human tone of the fourth string are wonderfully expressive. All these and the facility to play the gamakas and embellishments peculiar to Indian music, especially to Karnatac music, have made the violin Irrevocably Indian.
Some experts in the West are of the opinion that the violin has an Indian ancestry and trace the gradual evolution of the instrument to one of the many varieties of bowed instruments found all over India which are of great antiquity. One such variety is the famous ravanhatha (ravanahsta or ravanastram), a folk instrument of the stringed variety which is still used in some regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. There has been a suecessive line of musicians in the south who have effectively demonstrated the possibilities of the violin as an accompanying and solo instrument.
Two notable names are those of Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer and Tiruchirapalli Govindaswami Pillai, to¬wering personalities within recent memory with distinctive styles and a technique which remains unsurpassed till today. Dwaram Venkata Swami Naidu was another noted exponent of violin music. Northern India has a number of stringed instruments of the bowed ‘variety like the sarangi the dilruba, and the esraj which serve as an intimate accompaniment to vocal music. In recent times, however the violin has begun to receive new respect at the hands of north Indian musicians too.