RampurOn the busy national highway 87 lies a hamlet, Nankar, in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh. It is famous for two things — the grave of sufi saint Aijaz Miyan, and its ‘guitar wali factory’. Ask anyone about the ‘guitar wali factory’ and they will direct you to a secluded workplace behind the grave. The smell that greets you is of resin and sawdust. This is Mohammed Zameeruddin’s violin manufacturing unit. Inside, around 42 labourers are busy handling heavy wood planks. Some are sawing them into different shapes and sizes. And everything is being done under the watchful eyes of Zameeruddin.“One small mistake can spoil the violin and cost a lot of money. These planks are made of Brazilian maple wood -- very delicate and very costly. We also use spruce and heavy ebony wood -- also very expensive. So, I make sure that all work is carried out under my supervision,” he said. “It’s purely a mathematical game --- violin-making. Every single part is measured and designed to give the ear a soothing sound. May be that’s why there aren’t too many places manufacturing violins. In India, violins are only made in Rampur, where they are manufactured in bulk, and Kolkata.”Family tradeIt was during the British era that Zameeruddin’s father began manufacturing violins. “We are the oldest violin manufacturers of India. It’s a rare trade here. My father Mohammed Haseenuddin started it. And he accidentally got into this business!” recalled Zameeruddin. “My father was a carpenter. His younger brother had bought a violin from Bombay (now Mumbai). He played it for hours. But after a few years, my father accidentally dropped the violin, breaking it. This caused my uncle to fall into depression.”A concerned older brother, Haseenuddin decided to make a violin on his own. “He examined the broken violin, and made a new one, much to the delight of my uncle. Since then, our family has been making violins,” said Zameeruddin. “A violin is made with fine maple wood from Brazil. Spruce wood of Himachal Pradesh (HP) is used on the top area of the instrument, and ebony wood is used in other parts,” he explained. Initially, the family catered to the local market, but later, on finding few takers in UP, expanded business to other states and countries. “We started exporting to Goa, Kerala, Karnataka and other states, and then to Dubai and European nations.” HT PhotoInitially, the family catered to the local market, but later, on finding few takers in UP, expanded business to other states and countries.Chinese Competition indigenously manufactured violins are facing tough competition from Chinese ones. But, it’s the quality of the Indian violins that keeps them a step ahead of their Chinese counterparts. “Indian violins are handmade, highly durable, with good finish and quality.Chinese violins are machine-made. Although good in finish, they lack durability,” said Zameeruddin. “Also, violins are very delicate instruments. Even little moisture can spoil them. This is where Rampur scores. The cost of our violins starts from Rs 3,000 and goes up to more than Rs 15,000.”Indian origin Classical Indian violinist Johar Ali Khan, who is also a member of the International Violin Association and hails from the 700-year-old Patiala Gharana of Rampur, claims that the violin has its origin in India. “The concept of stringed and bow instruments was prevalent in India and nowhere else. Such instruments find mention in mythology too, and were classified under the category of ‘Veena’. An instrument somewhat similar to the present-day violin was called ‘Pinachi Veena’,” he said. “In Bengali, it is called ‘Bela’ and ‘Gaj Vadya’. A similar instrument, ‘Ravanhatta’, is still played in Rajasthan,” said Khan,adding, “The British and the French were inspired by these instruments and modified them to create the violin.” When Zameeruddin’s violin was played at Rashtrapati Bhawan It was a proud moment for Zameeruddin and his family when Johar Ali Khan played a violin made at his factory at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, during late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s tenure as the president. “We had made a special violin for the purpose, and the performance left everyone spellbound,” said Zameeruddin. Khan had also gifted a violin to Dr Kalam. “Not only Johar Ali Khan, but his father Ustad Gohar Ali Khan -- a maestro -- also played my violins. He found them the finest of all,” said Zameeruddin with pride.