The veena, an instrument of Indian origin, is a member of the lute family. Several variations of the instrument exist, largely according to the maker or region of manufacture. The Saraswati veena, formerly known as the Tanjauri veena, is the most common version. According to the India Instruments website, the veena underwent modifications beginning in the 14th century, which led up to the contemporary incarnation.
The unique hollow, scalloped fret board is known as the dandi and contains 24 frets, or mettu, often made from gunmetal, stainless steel or bronze. The seven strings are of steel manufacture. The three tala pakarekku or talam are the rhythm and drone strings which are fashioned as subsidiary strings tuned to the tonic, upper tonic and fifth. These are attached to three pegs on the side of the neck that reside on a separate, curving bridge placed aside the main bridge, and are closest to the player's body when held. The other four (main) strings, the sarani, are tuned to the fifth and tonic in two octaves.
Meru and Peg Box
The four main strings ascend into and are attached to the four pegs, the birdai, in the peg box. The meru is the upper bridge which begins where the fingerboard ends, on which the peg box resides before its neck curves back toward the player to end in a carved dragon's head---the yali.
The main resonator, or kudam, is at the end of the fingerboard. It is made of hollowed-out jackwood or fiberglass. The strings descend over the resonator in the lower portion, passing over two sound holes, or nada randhra, carved into the kudam. The kudirai is the bridge over which the strings are positioned before they end in the fine-tuning langar adjustment. The langar are tied at the bottom to the naga pasha at the end of the kudam. The extra resonator, the surakkai or sarrokai, is made from tin or a gourd and hangs below the meru.
The ekanda veena is an instrument carved from a single piece of wood. Alternatively, the parts are often made separately and joined together. The appearance of the veena has changed over time as alterations have been made to its body shape or parts manufactured from different materials, such as wood, gourd and metal pieces.
While the veena has traditionally been made from jackwood, contemporary versions are often made from fiberglass. A fiberglass body has the advantage of being more impact-resistant than wood and of producing a more consistent sound quality from instrument to instrument. Additionally, a fiberglass veena is lighter than one made of wood.
- Veena player top - Kelvin Kay - fair use; Veena kudam close up - Sathyadeep - public domain; Veena fret board close up - Ingsoc - fair use