RAVANASTRON, an Indian stringed instrument played with a bow, used by wandering pilgrims. A Hindu tradition affirms that the musical bow was invented before 3000 B.C. by Ravanon, king of Ceylon, and that the instrument for which he invented it was named after him Ravanastron. Judging from precedent, it is probable that the ravanastron of the present day has changed little, if at all, for many centuries. It consists of half a round gourd, over which is fixed a sound-board of skin or parchment; to this primitive body without incurvation is attached a neck about twice the length of the body. The strings are either one or four in number, the pegs being set in the sides of the neck. The bridge is primitive and either straight or slightly arched, so that in bowing more than one string sounds at once.
The ravanastron is regarded by some writers as the first ancestor of the violin, on account of the alleged invention of the bow for use with it. This theory can only be accepted by those who consider the bow, which after all was common to such inferior instruments as the rebec, as of paramount importance, and the structural features of the instrument itself, the box sound-chest with ribs, which have always belonged to the most artistic types of instruments, such as the cithara and the guitar-fiddle, as of secondary importance. (K. S.)
- An illustration appears in Sonnerat's Voyages aux Indes orientales (Paris, 1806), vol. i. p. 182.