With old age leaving its imprint on his health, legendary musician Pandit Ravi Shankar's sitar was growing smaller in size and lighter in weight.
"With growing health concerns in old age, he was having difficulty in handling the sitar. So over the years we have been reducing the size and weight gradually, as per his requirement," instrument maker Sanjay Sharma, who has been designing all his sitars, told PTI.
It all began in the mid-eighties when he first contacted Sharma's family, which runs a shop by the name of 'Rikhi Ram' in New Delhi, to redesign his sitar for a concert with Zubin Mehta.
"Since then, the sitar has always been customised by us according to his needs. After he had a heart attack in 2005, he, his wife and daughter told me to further reduce the size
and weight so that he could handle it easily," Sharma said.
Sharma even made a small sitar with a stand so that the maestro could play comfortably while sitting on a sofa. "He was conscious of his age, but never allowed that to affect his performance. He kept on renovating his instrument and also music," the famed luthier said.
Sitar, the stringed instrument is made from half a seasoned hollowed gourd and a long hollow neck of seasoned tun wood or teak wood. It has 20 movable frets with 6 or 7 metal playing strings on main bridge (jawari) and usually 12 or 13 sympathetic resounding strings on a small bridge below.
"His one was special with a double gourd and gave a big resounding concert-like sound," said Sharma. He recalls that 'Guruji' used to tell him that before performing at concerts he always wanted to offer something new to his audiences.
"And so he kept on experimenting with different sitars," he said, adding that whenever the musician faced any problem he used to call him.
"It was very difficult to understand his needs without having a deep understanding of his music. His sounds were very special and so he wanted the instrument also to be equally special," he said.
Picture: Ravi Shankar performs in Kolkata. Picture taken on February 7, 2009.