Sri Venkatamakhi in his Chaturdandi Prakasika (Sanskrit, Sangeeta Sastra Grantha) has written about 10 chapters. The chapters are:
1)Veena Prakarana 2)Sruti 3)Swara 4)Mela 5)Raga 6)Alapa 7)Thaya 8)Geeta 9)Prabandha and 10)Anubandha Prakaranas.
In the anubandha prakaranas also Venkatamakhi (Venkateswara deekshit) has described the 72 Raga lakshanas beginning with Kanakaambari.
The Veena Prakaranam from the Chaturdandi Prakasika of Venkateswara Dikshitulu (Venkatamakhi) gives us a lot of information about Veena. It is the best book that reveals many knowledgeable information and details about veena and many secrets regarding the playing of the veena in 179 slokas.
The information given by Venkatamakhi regarding Veena has to be studied only as per the order shown by him. Scholars say Veenas are of three kinds.
1) Suddha Melakhyam (suddha mela veena)
2) Madhya Mela Veena
3) Raghunadhendra Mela Veena.
These 3 are again classified into 2 types:
1) Eka Raga Mela Veena and 2) Sarva Raga Mela Veena.
If the swaras fixed in between Madhya and Tara swaras belong to one single Raga, then it is Eka Raga Mela veena. If all the swarasthanas are placed between the lower and Tara Sthayi notes then it is Sarva Raga Mela Veena.
Venkatamakhi has mentioned about one more variety i.e. Eka Tantri veena in the following 2 slokas:
1) MADHYA MELAKHYA VEENAYAMTRUTEEEYO BHEDA ISHYATE |POORVA TANTREETRAYAM TYAKTWASHADJA YUKTAAM CHATURTHIKAAM || (11th sloka)
2) TANTREEM TRISTHANA SAREEBHIRYOJAYETSAIKA TANTRIKA|KINCHIT DEERGHA PRAVALAH SYADASYAMTRISTHANA SUDHDHA YE || (12th sloka)
The above two slokas mean that – The Madhya Mela Veena has a 3rd difference. (This difference is not seen in either Suddha Mela Veena or Raghunathendra Mela Veena). There is only one Tantri on this which is tuned to Shadjam. All the Swara Sthanas which are produced on the other three strings are to be produced on the single string only. To facilitate this the length of the Veena should be more than the present day veena. This is what Venkatamakhi says as “KINCHIT DEERGHA PRAVALAH SYATH” If this is explained in detail it will be easier to understand. Nowadays brass strings are used for Anumandaram and Mandaram and steel strings are used as 3rd and 4th. The 3rd string is tuned to Mandra Panchamam and the 4th to the Madhyama Sthayi. The Madhyamasthayi N,P &D are played in the 3rd string i.e., the Panchamam. Similarly, the Mandra Sthayi – M – G – R & S are played on the 2nd brass string. To play the lower octave – Mandra Saptakas 2 strings are being used. If the length of the Veena has increased a little more to the left side the lower middle and the higher octaves (all the 3 octaves) can be played on a single string. This arrangement of playing the 3 octaves on a single string has been mentioned by Venkatamakhi as the 3rd variety of veena. Another name for this veena is ‘Ekatantrika’. The importance of the 3 veenas as classified by Venkatamakhi is given below.
SUDDHA MELA VEENA: This Veena has 4 strings on its dandam. The 1st 2nd are brass strings and the 3rd and 4th are of steel. 3 strings to the side (for talam). According to Venkatamakhi, the 1st brass string is tuned to Mandra shadjam the 2nd string to panchama swaram. The 3rd string he says – we are not following this arrangement in these days. “TRUTEEYAYAM TANTRIKAYAM MADHYA SHADJAM NIVESHAYET” i.e. the 3rd string has to be tuned to Mandra Shadjama sruti as we are tuning the 4th string nowadays. The 4th string has to be tuned to Madhya Sthayi Madhyama. The arrangement will be as below sa-pa-sa-ma. Writing about the side strings, he called the first string teepi, and it is to be tuned to Tara Shadjama sound, the 2nd to the Madhyama Panchama Swara, the 3rd called as Jhallika to be tuned to Madhyama Shadjam.
Venkatamakhi named the frets as ‘Parvamulu.’ The step before Melam as ‘Meruvu.’ 6 parvamulu (frets) are to be placed between the Meruvu and the Patrika. Then the 1st string Mandra shadjama on these frets will produce the following notes: Suddha Rishabha, Antara Gandhara
- Suddha Gandhara Suddha Madhyama
- Sadharana Gandhara Varaali Madhyama
This varaali Madhyama is the present-day’s Prati Madhyamam on the Mandra Panchama that is on 2nd wire (but) on the same frets the following 6 swaras are produced. Suddha Dhaivata Kaishiki Nishada Suddha Nishada Kakali Nishada. The left over notes are Shadjam and Rishabham.
The 3rd string which is tuned to Madhya Shadja the following 6 swaras are produced.
Suddha Rishabha, Antara Gandhara
Suddha Gandhara , Suddha Madhyama
Sadharana Gandhara, Varaali Madhyama,
Lastly on the 4th string following 6 swaras are produced.
Varaali Madhyama Suddha Nishaada
Poorva Panchamam Kaisiki Nishaada
Suddha Dhaivatam Kaakali Nishaada.
All these details can be shown clearly as below: On Mandra Shadjam On Panchamam SUDDHA R1,Sud Ga,Sadharana Ga,Antara Ga,Sud Ma,Varali Ma,Sud Da,Sud Kai Ni,Kakali Ni,Sa Sud Ri,
Madhya Shadjam- On Madhya Madhyamam SudRi, Sud Ga, Sud Ga, Ant Ga, Sud Ma, Varaali Ma, Varaali Ma, Pa, Sud Da, Sud Ni, Kai Ni, Kak Ni, When all the strings are plucked without pressing on the frets the 1st string produces Mandra Shadjam, 2nd one produces Panchamam, the 3rd Madhya Shadjam and the 4th string produces Madhya Madhyamam swaras. These don’t require frets.
The Suddha rishabha produced on the 1st one or parva of the 3rd string can be heard on the 6th parva or fret of the second string. Similarly the Varaali Madhyamam produced on the 6th parva of the Madhya Shadja Tantri can be heard on the first parva of the Madhya Madhyamam. The sruti pattern of the present days famous Saraswati Veena is very different. The first string is tuned to Anumandra Panchamam. The second string to the Mandra Shadjam. The third to the Panchamam and the 4th to the Madhya Shadjam. Due to this sruti arrangement we are able to produce 3 ½ sthayis (octaves). To play a Kriti like in violin the Madhya Shadjama and Madhya Madhyama strings should be frequently used. It is very uncomfortable to do this on a long instrument like Veena. The Sruti or the tuning system practiced in Madhya Mela Veena helps to play on 3 sthayis only. Today by tuning the 4th string of the Saraswati veena to Madhya shadjama it has become possible to perform ½ octave more and the usage of the 4th string has also increased. The above given mela system shows only 6 frets. Venkatamakhi has given details about other frets and their srutis also.