(Last Updated on : 15/07/2011)
Veena is a classical Hindu Lute belonging to the family of string musical instruments. It is an ancient musical instrument which is said to have been invented by Narada
, one of the seven great rishis, who was also a Veena maestro. The Veena is a plucked string instrument, four feet long, carved and with a hollowed structure made of wood, generally, jackwood. Good quality Veenas are carved from a single block of wood, whereas, the ordinary Veenas are divided into three sections, resonator, neck and head. Its tapering hollow neck contains metal frets set into wax on wooden tracks. One more resonator is present on the top of the long neck of the Veena. This is used as a stand to in the positioning of the instrument. Usually it has seven strings, made up of steel along with a long finger board containing 19 to 21 frets or supports. According to the number of strings there are several variations of the Veena. The performer has to place one gourd on the shoulder and the other one on the hip.
Veena in North Indian Classical Music
There are several variations of the Veena and its designs have been evolved over the years. In the field of North Indian Classical Music
, the bin, is most commonly used. It consists of a stem about three feet long that supports a bamboo fret board approximately twenty-two inches long and two and a half inches wide. It has twenty-four metal frets, which are set to the half-steps in two octaves. The frets are stationary, fixed in a resinous substance. The two resonating gourds are large, about fourteen inches in diameter. It has four main playing strings, which are tuned to Ma, Sa, Pa, and Re. This gives the instrument a total range of over three octaves. Most of the melody, however, is produced on the first string, which is closest to the player`s body. Three additional strings, which are suspended on the sides and not over the frets, are tuned to Sa, Sa, and Sa. These are drone and rhythm strings. The index and middle fingers of the right hand are used for plucking the melody strings; the little finger plays the drone. The index and middle fingers and occasionally the ring finger of the left hand reach around from under the stem to stop the strings. The plectrum used for the bin is like that of the sitar, but is worn sideways on the finger. Some binkars use their fingernail rather than a plectrum for plucking. The performer sits cross-legged and holds the instrument at a slant to the left shoulder, the upper gourd resting on the shoulder and the lower gourd on the right knee.
Veena in North Carnatic Music
The modern Veena used in Carnatic music
is quite different in construction from the northern Veena. The most noticeable difference in Sarasvati Veena
is that, this type of Veena is the repositioning of one of its gourds so that the stem runs into it and is thus part of the body of the instrument. This Veena is therefore a lute-type instrument rather than a zither, since its stem becomes a neck. Its `gourd` is not actually a gourd any longer; it is a hollowed-out chunk of wood, usually jackfruit that is closed in by a flat piece of wood. At the opposite end of the stem is attached a scroll, which is usually carved into the head of a dragon. The Sarasvati Veena is said to be the abode of divinity as the Veena Danda represents Lord Shiva
, the strings Parvati, the dragon head Lord Vishnu, the bridge Goddess Lakshmi
, the balancing gourd Lord Brahma
and the connecting metal cone Sarasvati.
Other Kinds of Veenas Used in Indian Music
: This is a plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music and it is a comparatively recent addition to the Veena family. It is similar to the Gottuvadhyam Veena, since it has no frets and is played with a slide. The Vichitra Veena is made of a broad, fretless, horizontal arm or crossbar (dand) around three feet long and six inches wide, with two large resonating gourds (tumba), which are inlaid with ivory and attached underneath at either end. The narrow ends of the instrument are fashioned into peacock heads. This Veena has a five-octave range. There are four main playing strings and five secondary strings (chikaris), which are played openly with the little finger for a drone effect. Underneath them are 13 sympathetic strings tuned to the notes of the appropriate raag.
: This musical instrument is also known as the Gottuvadyam, Chitra Veena or Mahanataka Veena and it is a Carnatic music string instrument. It is played mainly in South India and it is usually also used as a solo instrument in Carnatic music. This instrument resembles the Sarasvati Veena in its general form, but in many ways it is unique. The name Gottuvadhyam literally means `block instrument`. It is a complicated ancient instrument with twenty-one strings, out of which there are six main strings used for melody that pass over the top of the instrument, three drone strings and about twelve sympathetic strings that run parallel and below the main strings.
: This is a stringed musical instrument used in Indian classical music and this was invented and popularized by Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Though it comes in the category of classical instruments, it is not an ancient one, since it is actually a modified slide guitar
with 20 strings: three melody strings, five drone strings strung to the peg head, and twelve sympathetic strings strung to the tuners mounted on the side of the neck. A tumba or gourd is screwed into the backside of the neck for improved sound quality and vibration. It is played by placing it in one`s lap.
Veena used to be considered an aristocrat among instruments. It was, and still is, used to accompany singing, and also functions as a solo instrument.