The Saraswati Veena is a traditional Indian musical instrument that is four feet in length and consists of several parts, including a large resonator (Tumba), a wooden bridge (Mettu), a tapering hollow neck (Dandi), a smaller non-functional resonator, and seven strings. Skilled and expert artisans work together to make the Veena in a multi-stage process that takes at least three to four days to complete. The process starts by carving a single log of jackfruit wood into the Veena’s base, as this wood is known for its ability to be easily carved when moist. The wood is first seasoned and matured before being carved.
The entire instrument is carved out of one single piece of wood. If the wood breaks during carving due to its hardness, parts of the Veena are carved separately and joined together after carving. The artisan first carves the basic shape of the Veena out of a single wood log. After acquiring the basic shape, the exact shape of the Veena is marked on the wood using a stencil and measurements. The wood is then carved in the circular part, and then wood is scooped out from the large base part in order to create hollowness, which is known as the resonator (Tumba). The resonator is covered with a wooden sheet or plate.
To create the intricate designs on the surface of the Veena, rough designs are first traced onto the wooden sheet and marked for carving. Designs are then carved into the wood using chisels. After obtaining the shape, the surface is scraped and smoothened using sandpaper. To fill the cracks, a mixture of jack wood husk, pop powder, yellow color powder, and adhesive is mixed and applied to the fissures on the surface of the Veena. When the mixture is dried, the surface is smoothened using sandpaper, and a thin coat of solution made of pop powder, adhesive, and yellow color powder is painted on the Veena to hide the crack patches.
The body of the wood is then decorated with beautiful designs of goddesses, flowers, and bird motifs. Traditional art includes a unique style of design, and carving is also done on the surface of the Veena to enhance its look. In the past, ivory carvings and inlay works were made on the Veena, and deer horns were fixed on the instrument. Nowadays, acrylic sheets inlaid with lac colors are used for a more ethnic style.
Pegs and knobs for the strings are made in rosewood and fitted into the instrument with the help of beeswax. A decorative carved Yalli is fixed to the other end of the Veena. The process of making the Saraswati Veena is very precise and requires a lot of skill and attention to detail from the artisans involved.