brief history of the Veena
veena is considered the queen of Indian musical ninstruments. Its
history can be traced to the time of the ‘Vedas’, which describe
it as ‘the embodiment of beauty and prosperity’. Occupying the premier
position among the celebrated ‘Vadyatrayam’ – the Veena, Venu and
Mridangam – the instrument is also mentioned in the ‘sutras’ and
‘arayankas’, the sacred books of the Vedic period. The present form
of the veena is a polyphonous instrument designed and developed
by Govinda Dikshitar during the reign of Raghunath Naik of Tanjore.
It is often called the Tanjore veena or the Saraswati Veena.
ancient times, the term ‘veena’ was used for all stringed instruments.
All stringed instruments are believed to have originated from the
hunter’s bow, having since passed through several stages of evolution.
After its transformation from the primitive bow, the veena spawned
numerous string instruments throughout the country ranging from
the single-stringed ‘brahma veena’ to the multi stringed ‘Shatatantri
Veena’ more commonly called the ‘santoor’.
music of the veena is infused with qualities of divinity, gentleness,
peace and sensuality.
or the Tanjore Veena
veena has a fretted finger-board with four strings for playing the
notes and three drone-cum-‘tala’ strings. ‘Nada’, the melody of
the veena, is infused into the instrument from its inception, but
the ‘dhvani’ or the sound produced, depends on the playing technique.
versatile instrument, the veena can be played in various styles
such as classical, light music, bhajans or even western music with
equal ease. Its seven strings affect the ‘saptaswaras’ or the seven
primary notes of Indian music. The veena’s four main strings run
over the metallic frets and are attached to pegs on the neck of
the instrument. The three side strings lie flat over the top of
the body and are secured to the main bridge. The instrument is held
on the ground, longitudinally, in front of the player, and partially
supported by the left thigh.
playing requires an elaborate finger technique. It is considered
the perfect instrument for effectively employing the technique of
playing on two ‘sthayis’ or octaves simultaneously. Composers, who
were vaineekas, have composed special types of compositions like
the ‘tayas’ and ‘chitta tanas’, to help veena players develop finger
techniques of the left hand and plucking techniques of the right.
Indeed, the distinctive style of presenting Carnatic music has grown
largely around the veena, and its many noted musicians, musicologists
and composers have been veena players.
the Divine musical instrument revered through the ages, is the source
and vehicle of Nada and of serene and sublime spiritual feelings
in ethereal language. It is sonorous in its articulations of a deep
origin can be traced to the Vedic period. The yajnas, rituals and
chanting were accompanied by playing of different kinds of veenas
and its prescribed tunes. The two most popular epics of India, the
Ramayana and Mahabharata contain episodes in which veena figures
and so do we learn from different Buddhist text the importance of
the veena. The Khantivadi Jataka tells us that Veena formed an important
part of an orchestral band (vinadini tuyani). Similarly, the ‘Sakka
Panha Sutta’ mention playing of veena along with singing by Gandhaarva
Panchasikha before Devendra (Lord of angels) addresses Lord Buddha.
Natyasastra of Bharata the most important work on the performing
arts of India mentions the origin of Gandharva or the music which
pleases the Gandharvas is the song, a veena and a flute. Again in
Brahdasi, the 7th Century AD treatie on song and music,
Matanga Muni says that 5033 tanas could be produced only either
in Satatantri Veena or a veena with 36 strings. Matanga known as
‘Chaitrika’ was himself a player of Chitra veena. Other musc treaties
like the 2nd century AD Tamil Silappadikaram and the
encyclopaedic work Abhilasitartha Chintamani of Chalukya king Someshwara
of 12th Century deals with music and dance and stresses
the importance of the instrument.
Veena, central to our heritage of music, represents the confluence
of the science of musical sounds and the Indic philosophy of harmony
and tranquility. It is the quintessential symbol of the musical
and spiritual traditions of India – an acoustic vehicle for spiritual