Veena is considered to be the Queen of all the Musical Instruments’ in India. Although Veena was used from early times, it was only in the 17th century that it got its present form during the reign of King Raghunatha.
Among the stringed instruments, Veena belongs to the category of plucked instruments. In this instrument, we can play up to 3 octaves. 4 strings are used for regular playing, while 3 are used only for Sruthi and talam. There are 2 bridges strings one for the 4 strings first mentioned and the other for the other 3 strings.
The index finger and the middle finger of the right hand are used for playing the strings. While the index finger and the middle finger of the left hand are used for playing. The tala strings are plucked by the little finger of the right hand. Sometimes, some use a clip like material over their fingers to pluck the strings, this is called Neli’ or ‘Meeti’.
There is a long stem called Dandi. On one side of the Dandi we have a Kudam (as in the case of Tambura) on the other side there is a portion called Yazhimukham’. The Dandi is slightly broader on the side of the Kudam, it is somewhat narrower on the side of the Yazhimukham. Over the Dandi we have a wooden frame on which is found a waxy ledge; over this are placed 24 frets covering 2 sthavis. The frets are made of bronze or steel. We have a secondary resonator called Surakkai’ close to Yazhimukham. The 4 regular strings and the 3 Sruthi talam strings are attached 7 small rings which are part of 7 thick strings are known as Langars which are connected to a portion called Nagapasam at the top end of the Kudam. Langars are known as the soul of veena. The 7 strings starting from the 7 small rings go over the bridge. (One for 4 strings and one for 3 strings) and the frets and then are connected to the pegs. Over the Langars we find the small movable circular pieces of metal which are very helpful for adjusting the sruthi. If you push the pieces towards Nagapasam, the Sruthi will increase; if you push them on the opposite direction, the Sruthi will decrease.
The names of the 4 regular strings are 1) Sarani 2) Panchamukam (P) 3) Mandram (S) 4) Anumandram (P) The other 3 strings are: 1) Pakka Sarani 2) Pakka Panchamam 3) Hechu Sarani (S). On the Outer part of the Kudam, we find generally more than 20 curved lines. On the top part of the kudam we find small holes in a circular manner; They are known as ‘Nadarandirams’.
A typical Tanjore Veena made of Jackwood with a joint between the Kudam and the Dandi (stem). The top side of the kudam is typically adorned with two circular designs called the ‘Kan’. In some Veena, depending on the requirement, the top of the kudam can also have designs of a ‘Mayil’ (peacock).
Ekanda Veena is made of a single piece of Jackwood, and is often adorned with light or deep carvings. However, Ekanda Veenas can also be made with circular designs (Kan), or with the peacock designs (Mayil Ekandam).