There is no need to explain the convenience we get by the placement of 12(+12) Swarasthanas by, fixing the frets on the dandam.

-Is vocal Music and instrumental Music separate?
-Should instrumental Music sound like vocals?
-Separating itself from vocal, is instrumental music going to be evolved?
-Are any modifications required in the manufacturing of veena to bring it close to vocal music (Gatra Dharma )

These points necessitated the construction of Melam.

Life in Vocal music (Gatra) is the Gamaka aspect which is very important in Carnatic music. Mere music on reeds will not sustain long. Harmonium is an example, where everything can be played but the lack of Gamaka is always there. The intricacies are missing. Hence it is not close to vocal music.

If strings are tied separately for each swarasthana and tuned it will be just like harmonium without any gamaka. No song or no melody is heard from such instruments. This situation led to the understanding that it was only through veena that gamakas can be played on the frets and Swarasthanas and come close to the vocal sound. It is a fact that frets are not a limit to the string. Invisible notes can be played on the veena i.e., notes that lie between 2 swaras (ADRUSYA SWARAS). These are called Antara Srutis. Seven frets are placed for sapta swaras. No fret is required for Shadja. The shadja and panchama are Prakriti Swaras and the remaining are Vikriti Swaras. Ri, Ga, Ma, Da, and Ni have 2 varieties like Suddha Rishabam and Chatusruti Rishabam, Saadhaarana Gaandhaaram, Antara Gaandhaaram, etc. So with these differences, the total swarasthanas are 12 and hence 12 frets are to be used. Lower and higher notes put together come to a total number of 24 frets. This is melam.

All swarasthanaas are not used in every raga. For example, in Mohana, only 5 swarasthanaas are used. So there is no need to fix all the frets but 5 are enough. (This type of arrangement is called Eka raga mela). But if 12 frets are fixed then it will be Sarva raga mela.

The great poet BHASA in his play Vaasavadatta says that the king VATSA attracted elephants by playing GHOSHAVATI. This poet BHASA belongs to the era before Christ even earlier than BHARATA MUNI. A tata instrument by the name SATA TANTRI has also been mentioned in the poems of that period. All these instruments do not come under today’s veena category.

In the KALA POORNODAYA Prabandam (PINGALI SOORANNA 1532-1583)  which came after the Manu Charitra, the great Vainika Narada Mahamuni praised Manikandhara’s greatness who is also a great vainika as given below, after examining the veena of Tumburu. “PUCHCHUKONI PALIKINCHI, YAPOORVAMAINA PAADAMSRUTULA PEMPU NIRDOSHATA NATULAMAGUCHU PAADAM GADUVERAGONARPA” (91 Poem – Dwiteeyaswasam). The point here is that the Veena of Tumburu has no comparison as all the srutis are correct. Sruthis in plural mean not just the adhara sruti, but the Melam as a whole. Sruti baddham means not just 3 or 4 strings in proper sruti. The veena as a whole should be fit to be played. Then only it can be Sruti baddham. Hence the veena must have had some type of melam. This has been indicated by the Veena of Tumburu. SOORANNA belonged to the period after Sarngadeva. Even though the time gap between SOORANNA and PEDDANNA was very less it is clear through the above poem that the development in Veena was quite good and fast. Now the 12 frets are clearly understood. If frets are fixed for a particular raga then it is EKARAGA SWARA MELA. From here the development of Sarvaraga Mela with 4 strings, 3 1/2 sthayees evolved for which 24 frets were used. 12 frets are sufficient for one sthayi or octave. In between each fret, invisible sruthis are there for which frets cannot be fixed.

Srutis are 22 in number (DWAAWIMSATI SRUTULU) Bharata Muni was the first person to mention these dwawimsati srutis. He has named all these sruthis which are given later on. In Shadjagrama Shadjam has 4 srutis. The Rishabam has 3 srutis, Panchamam has 4 srutis, Dhaivatam has 3 srutis, and Nishadam has 2 srutis. In Madhyama grama, the madhyama has 4 srutis, Panchamam has 3 srutis, Dhaivata has 4 srutis, Nishada has 2 srutis, Shadjam has 4 srutis, Rishabham has 3 srutis and the Gaandharam has 2 srutis. The meaning of Shadja in Shadjagramam has 4 srutis is 4 srutis from Mandra Nishadam to Shadjam. The 4th sruti will be Shadjam. The remaining 3 are to be produced in Nishada only. Every sruti has been given a name.
Sruti’s Number and the names of the srutis Swarasthanas

  1. Teevra
  2. Kumudvati
  3. Manda
  4. Chandovati Shadjam
  5. Dayaawati
  6. Ranjani
  7. Ratika Rishabham
  8. Raudri
  9. Krodha Gaandharam
  10. Vajrika
  11. Prasaarini
  12. Preeti
  13. Maarjani
  14. Kshiti
  15. Rakta
  16. Sandeepani
  17. Aalaapini Panchamam
  18. Madanti
  19. Rohini
  20. Ramya Dhaivatam
  21. Ugra
  22. Kshobhini Nishaadam

Out of these 22 srutis only 7 are swaras. Then what is the difference between sruti and swara. The srutis which can be sung as swaras are called “NIYATA SRUTI”. (Matanga has said this in BRIHADDESI). Srutis situated in between two Niyata srutis are called as ‘AANTARA SRUTIS’. They can be sung. These AANTARA SRUTIS are called as KANISHTAANTARA. They are too minute.

Two kinds of Veenas are made for experimental purpose. One is CHALA (CHARA?) Veena and the other DHRUVA VEENA. Many experiments are conducted with these two varieties of Veenas and this resulted in the settlement of the 22 srutis. In DHRUVA VEENA the srutis of the strings are kept stable without any change. In CHALA VEENA the strings are tuned one sruthi less of each sruti set on Dhruva Veena strings.

The Chala and Dhruva Veena experiment was first done by BHARATA MUNI. He kept the Dhruva Veena stable and did experiments with the Chala veena. There are 3 Eka Srutyantara. 1) POORNA SRUTI 2) NYUNA SRUTI 3) PRAMAANA SRUTI

If Ekasruti (single sruti) difference is there between any two swaras, then that will be one among the above 3 srutis. Sometimes it can be Poorna sruti or Nyuna sruti and Pramaana sruti at some other time. It can be further explained:

PRAMAANA SRUTI: Means minimum sruthi, where you cannot go to a lesser frequency.
POORNA SRUTI: The maximum sruthi is known as poorna sruti.
NYUNA SRUTI: Less than poorna sruti and more than pramana sruti is called as Nyuna sruti.

Sarngadeva tied 22 strings and tuned them to the AANTARA srutis (that are in between the swaras). It means the present days 12 swarasthanas (including prakriti and vikriti swaras) are tuned along with the Aantara Srutis. All this information is very important for Veena players.

It is said “SWARASYA KAMPO GAMAKAH‘. To show Suddha Gandhara in Suddha Rishabha the knowledge of 22 Srutis is necessary. The 7th sruti to Rishabam is named as Rishabham only. But Bharata has named it as RATIKA. To get Suddha Gaandhara on Ratika the string is to be pulled to last. Similarly the Poorvaanga swaras of Bhairavi, Keeravani, Kharaharapriya raagaas are all same The Sadharana Gandhara of Bhairavi, Keeravani and Khanahavapriya should be differentiated in their poorvaangas only through the sruthi differences. The Rishabam cannot be played on the 1st fret of sarani string in Saveri raga. It can be played on Shadja Sthana of the Mandra Panchama string, by just pulling the string to one single sruti bheda on the Shadja fret. For such artistic improvisations, the knowledge of 22 srutis is required. Except for the NIYATA srutis (i.e. SWARAS) all others have to be played by means of gamaka or kampana only. Hence these 22 srutis will give the knowledge of how much kampana (vibrating the wire) is required.