Varieties of Veena
Sangeeta Ratnakara of Sarngadeva gives many details about Veena(Tata Vadya) Mridangam- (Anavaddha) Flute (Sushira) Drums(Ghana). Few details about Veena are given below.
Sarngadeva mentioned about Ekatanatri, Nakulee, Tritantri,Chitra, Vipanchi, Mattakokila, Aalaapini, Kinnari, Pinaaki and Nissanka veenas. Many more varieties have been mentioned by him.Palakurki Somanatha has mentioned many more varieties of Veenas in his Telugu Poem PANDITARADHYA CHARITRAMU. They are :
1. VEENOTTAMAMU 2. BRAHMA VEENA 3. KAILASA VEENA 4. SARANGA VEENA
5. KOORMA VEENA 6. AAKASHA VEENA 7. PINAAKA VEENA 8. RAAVANA VEENA
9. GAURI VEENA 10. GANDHARVA VEENA 11. BANA VEENA 12. KASYAPA VEENA
13. SWAYAMBHOO VEENA 14. BHUJANGA VEENA 15. BHOJA VEENA
16. KINNARA VEENA 17. TRINARI VEENA 18. SARASWATI VEENA 19. MOLLI VEENA
20. MANORADHA VEENA 21. GANANADHA VEENA 22. KAUMARA VEENA 23. ANIVANI
24. RAVANA HASTAM 25. TIPIRI 26. SAKANEY 27. VALI 28. VICHITRAKA 29. NATA
30. SAGARIKA 31. KUMBHAKA 32. VIPANCHIKA 33. SARA VEENA 34. PARIVAADI
35. MALLARI 36. KOLAASHTI 37. SWARAMANDALAM 38. GHOSHAVATI
39. AUDUMBARAM 40. TANTRI SAAGARAM 41. AMBUJA VEENA.
Very few details are available in the Sangeeta Ratnakara on some of these Veenas (Somanatha and Sarangadeva belonged to the same age).
The dandam of this Veena is made out of KHADIRA tree. The wood should be fully ripe without any thorns and circles. The circumference of the wood should be of a strehed palm. The length of the Veena is less than 1 yard. The present days yali was known as Dorika and this was made out of any wood available. The width of the dandam 1½ inches less at the yali compared to the width near the kukubham(pot). On the lid of the Kukubham a hole is made in front of the bridge. The top of the kukubham has a slight curve and is not flat.In the place of gourd, thumba made of wood is used. Naagapaasam is fixed to the kakubham to tie the strings. Patrika (in the present days called as Bridge) used to be placed on the kakubham. The strings were tied from the Naagapaasam crossing the patrika to the Dorika and tied to the biradaalu. Sarngadeva has described the Ekatantri Veena in 81 slokas.(On Veena playing techniques, there is a separate chapter in this book)
The length of the Veena is 36 inches. The dandam is made out of red sandal wood or khadira wood (red sandal). The circumference is 2 inches. That means the dandam is very thin. Clean wood without thorns is used. Coconut tile is used as TUMBA.At this juncture the writer has prescribed singing also while playing Veena. Because of the tenderness in the sound of this type of Veena a talented musician, Sarngadeva says, should fisrt expand the raga (Ragalapana) and only then play the fixed text on Veena. (GAYED GEETHAM NIBADHDHAM CHA PRAVEENO VEENAYO ANAYAA).The speciality of this Veena is that the strings used are not metal. They take the silk threads, make them hard and tie them to the instrument as strings.“ATRA MESHANTRA TANTREE SYAAT SAMADRUDHA”.
The length of this Veena is 3 1/2 stretched palms (Vithasthi). Its KAKUBHAM is made out of shaka wood. The height of the DANDAM is 2 ½ “ and width 5“. Copper or iron small plate is placed on the PATRIKA (bridge).(madhye koormonnata tahi Patrika Kakubha sthita)(258 sloka)14 brass frets are used for this Veena ie, 14 swarasthanas. (Chaturadasa Swara Sthaney Dandey Prushtey Niveshayet – 260) Sarngadeva mentioned that these frets were fixed in black colored honey wax. (Slishta vastramashi mishramadanena chaturdasha 260) According to Sarngadeva these 14 swarasthaanaas are 2 saptakas. The strings are tied to the other strings present on the other side of the PATRIKA (bridge). He called them as GAJAKESOPAMAM. (It means the strings are as strong as the elephants hair). These strong strings are again tied to the Naagapaasam which is at the back of the Kakubham.The strings on the Kakubham are plucked and played with the 3 fingers of the right hand.(saree katubhayor madhyay tarjanyadyanguli trayaat-272) The left hand fingers are used to play on the frets.Vamasya Tisrubhistabhi rangulee bhistu Tantrikaam(273)tattat saree pradeshastham swara Vyaktyai Nipeedayet (294)Added to this, Sarngadeva has mentioned 3 differences in the Kinnari Veena.1) Bruhati kinnara2) Madhyama kinnara 3) Laghvee KinnaraThese are formed due to the variations in the measurements.The length of the Bruhati Kinnari Veena’s dandam is 50″ – breadth 6 ½” Madhyama kinnara veena’s dandam is 43″ long and the breadth is in proportion. The Laghvi kinnari is 35″ in length and 5″ in breadth.As melody decreases no Veena should be less than 35″ length.Aadatavyam Kinnareenam rakti Madhurya VarjanaathE Tayo rantaraaletu yatheshtam maanakalpana – (324)From the above description of the kinnari veena by Sarngadeva we can see at least some origins and many similarities in todays Saraswati Veena.- It is not a Sruti veena.- Plucking of the strings, plucking place, the place where the strings are tied are all the same for these two types of Veenas.- Usage of honey wax is similar.- Kinnari veena had only 2 saptakas ie, 14 frets,today it is 24 frets.- The measurement of the dandam in both the Veenas is the same to a certain extent. The manufacturing process, Kakubha, Naagapaasa dandam, frets are all similar. The only difference is, today’s Veena is made out of Jack fruit wood where as the kinnari veena was made out of shaka daru.
This Veena is unique in its Geometry. The dandam is shaped like a dhanush(bow like). It is 41“ long with the central portion being 2.5″ wide and the rest being 1.75“ wide. The Pinakee Veena is not a pluck type instrument. It is bowed using a fiddle that is 21″ long, using streched clusters of fine hair. Gum available from the tree sap was applied on the clusters of hair of some animal. So as to improve the density. The fiddle (Kamaan) was used with the right hand to play the instrument. Just like other Veenaas, Pinaakini Veena was also held vertically. According to Dr. Manchala Jaggannadha Rao (in his book “Andhrula Sangeeta Kala”) the Pinakini Veena could have been the predecessor of the present day Dilruba.
The name itself suggests that this Veena might have been created by Sarnga deva. The distance between the Meruvu and Patrika ie the bridge is 4 karamulu (i.e., VITASTHEES). The strings are tied to 2 wooden pieces fixed on both the ends of the Veena. It is played with a fiddle (Kamaan) which is tied with nerves. It is from Sarngadevas Ratnakara we could get atleast this much of information about Veenaas. Sri Manchala Jagannadha Rao has written about many varieties of veenaas in “ANDHRULA SANGEETA KALA “ with very brief descriptions. Still the actual shape and forms of those Veenas are not clear.All these varieties are not seen today. But by studying the details of some veena varieties it can be understood that the Dilruba, Sarod, today’s Sarangi, Violin, the Saraswati veena have evolved from them.
According to Manchala, the present day Sitar resembles the “Eka Raga Mela” veena of Ramamatya. The present day Sitar has the facility to move or change the frets according to raga. Haripala deva has said that the Kinnera veena resembles the Sitar where 14,16 and 18 frets are fixed and used according to their requirement.The present day veena is perfectly constructed to meet the purpose with perfect scales i.e., each part resembles a particular variety of veena. Hence it is required to analyse and learn about the earlier days Veena which are not existing in these days.The study will reveal how cultural development process has helped in the changes. As all the stringed instruments are called as Tata Vadyas, the present days veena’s real shape, image has to be reviewed in a composite universal perception. Is there any resemblance between the Swara mandali and today’s Saraswati veena? Both are stringed instruments only. That’s all.But one has to accept that the development and changes derived from that only.Knowledge of historical background is very important to know about the present days Veena.Points to know are given below:
- Usage of only a few strings.
- Construct a dandam, fix a few frets on it, tie only one string and produce 12 swarasthanaas.
- To double the 12 swarasthanas, increase it three times, and produce swaraas on one string in 3 places.
- To tie 3 strings, and produce the required Sthaayis on the dandam, (short in size) just with intelligence and common sense.
- To tie 4 strings and produce 3 ½ sthayis. If we go through the past history we can get the required, constructive, information about Veena, parts like meruvu, frets, pecks, kakubham, Naagapaasam, the top, bridge, jeevalam etc and evolution of this instrument.