Sangeeta Ratnakara of Sarngadeva gives many details about Veena (Tata Vadya) Mridangam- (Anavaddha) Flute (Sushira) Drums (Ghana). A few details about Veena are given below.
Sarngadeva mentioned about Ekatanatri, Nakulee, Tritantri, Chitra, Vipanchi, Mattakokila, Aalaapini, Kinnari, Pinaaki and Nissanka veenas. Many more varieties have been mentioned by him. Palakurki Somanatha has mentioned many more varieties of Veenas in his Telugu Poem PANDITARADHYA CHARITRAMU. They are:
1.VEENOTTAMAMU 2. BRAHMA VEENA 3. KAILASA VEENA 4. SARANGA VEENA 5.KOORMA VEENA 6. AAKASHA VEENA
7. PINAAKA VEENA 8. RAAVANA VEENA 9.GAURI VEENA 10. GANDHARVA VEENA 11. BANA VEENA 12. KASYAPA VEENA
13.SWAYAMBHOO VEENA 14. BHUJANGA VEENA 15. BHOJA VEENA 16.KINNARA VEENA 17. TRINARI VEENA 18. SARASWATI VEENA
19. MOLLI VEENA 20.MANORADHA VEENA 21. GANANADHA VEENA 22. KAUMARA VEENA 23. ANIVANI 24.RAVANA HASTAM
25. TIPIRI 26. SAKANEY 27. VALI 28. VICHITRAKA 29. NATA 30.SAGARIKA 31. KUMBHAKA 32. VIPANCHIKA 33. SARA VEENA
34. PARIVAADI 35.MALLARI 36. KOLAASHTI 37. SWARAMANDALAM 38. GHOSHAVATI 39.AUDUMBARAM 40. TANTRI SAAGARAM
41. AMBUJA VEENA.
Very few details are available in the Sangeeta Ratnakara on some of these Veenas (Somanatha and Sarangadeva belonged to the same age).
Description of some of the above Veena
The dandam of this Veena is made out of the KHADIRA tree. The wood should be ripe without thorns and circles. The circumference of the wood should be of a stretched palm. The length of the Veena is less than 1 yard. The Yali of the current day veena was known as Dorika and this was made out of any wood that was available. The width of the dandam was 1½ inches less at the yali compared to the width near the kukubham (pot). On the lid of the Kukubham, a hole is made in front of the bridge. The top of the kukubham has a slight curve and is not flat. In the place of gourd, thumba made of wood is used. Naagapaasam is fixed to the kakubham to tie the strings. Patrika (in the present days called Bridge) used to be placed on the kakubham. The strings were tied from the Naagapaasam crossing the Patrika to the Dorika and tied to the biradaalu. Sarngadeva has described the Ekatantri Veena in 81 slokas. There is an entire chapter dedicated to Veena playing techniques chapter in his book)
The length of the Veena is 36 inches. The dandam is made out of red sandalwood or khadira wood (red sandal). The circumference is 2 inches. That means the dandam is very thin. Clean wood without thorns is used. Coconut tile is used as TUMBA.
Sarngadeva says because of the tenderness in the sound of this type of Veena a talented musician should first expand the raga (Ragalapana) and only then play the fixed text on Veena. (GAYED GEETHAM NIBADHDHAM CHA PRAVEENO VEENAYO ANAYAA). The specialty of this Veena is that the strings used are not metal. They take the silk threads, make them hard and tie them to the instrument as strings. “ATRA MESHANTRA TANTREE SYAAT SAMADRUDHA”.
The length of this Veena is 3 1/2 stretched palms (Vithasthi). Its KAKUBHAM is made out of shaka wood.
The height of the DANDAM is 2 ½
and the width 5. The copper or iron small plate is placed on the PATRIKA (bridge) (madhye koormonnata tahi Patrika Kakubha sthita)(258 sloka)14 brass frets are used for this Veena ie, 14 swarasthanas. (Chaturadasa Swara Sthaney Dandey Prushtey Niveshayet – 260). Sarngadeva mentioned that these frets were fixed in black-colored honey wax. (Slishta vastramashi mishramadanena chaturdasha 260). According to Sarngadeva these 14 swarasthaanaas are 2 saptakas.
The strings are tied to the other strings present on the other side of the PATRIKA (bridge). He called them GAJAKESOPAMAM. (It means the strings are as strong as the elephant hair). These strong strings are again tied to the Naagapaasam which is at the back of the Kakubham. The strings on the Kakubham are plucked and played with the 3 fingers of the right hand. (saree katubhayor madhyay tarjanyadyanguli trayaat- 272) The left-hand fingers are used to play on the frets. Vamasya Tisrubhistabhi rangulee bhistu Tantrikaam – 273) tattat saree pradeshastham Swara Vyaktyai Nipeedayet – 294). Added to this, Sarngadeva has mentioned 3 differences in the Kinnari Veena. The Bruhati kinnara, Madhyama kinnara and Laghvee Kinnara. These are formed due to the variations in the measurements. The length of the Bruhati Kinnari Veena’s dandam is 50″ – breadth 6 ½” Madhyama kinnara veena’s dandam is 43″ long and the breadth is in proportion. The Laghvi kinnari is 35″ in length and 5″ in breadth. As melody decreases no Veena should be less than 35″ length. Aadatavyam Kinnareenam rakti Madhurya Varjanaathe Tayo Rantaraaletu Yatheshtam Maanakalpana – (324). From the above description of the kinnari veena by Sarngadeva we can see at least some origins and many similarities in today’s Saraswati Veena. It is not a Sruti veena. Plucking of the strings, plucking place, the place where the strings are tied is all the same for these two types of Veenas. Usage of honey wax is similar. Kinnari veena had only 2 saptakas i.e. 14 frets, today it is 24 frets.- The measurement of the dandam in both the Veenas is the same to a certain extent. The manufacturing process Kakubha, Naagapaasa dandam, frets are all similar. The only difference is, that today’s Veena is made out of Jack fruit wood whereas the kinnari veena was made out of shaka daru.
This Veena is unique in its Geometry. The dandam is shaped like a Dhanush (bow like). It is 41”
long with the central portion being 2.5" wide and the rest being 1.75 wide. The Pinakee Veena is not a pluck-type instrument. It is bowed using a fiddle that is 21″ long, using stretched clusters of fine hair. Gum available from the tree sap was applied to the clusters of hair of some animals to improve the density. The fiddle (Kamaan) was used with the right hand to play the instrument. Just like other Veenaas, Pinaakini Veena was also held vertically. According to Dr. Manchala Jaggannadha Rao (in his book “Andhrula Sangeeta Kala”) the Pinakini Veena could have been the predecessor of the present-day Dilruba.
The name itself suggests that this Veena might have been created by Sarangadeva. The distance between the Meruvu and Patrika i.e. the bridge is 4 karamulu (i.e., VITASTHEES). The strings are tied to 2 wooden pieces fixed on both the ends of the Veena. It is played with a fiddle (Kamaan) which is tied with nerves. It is from Sarangadeva’s Ratnakara that we could get at least this much information about Veenaas. Sri Manchala Jagannadha Rao has written about many varieties of veenaas in “ANDHRULA SANGEETA KALA with very brief descriptions. Still, the actual shape and forms of those Veenas are not clear. All these varieties are not seen today. But by studying the details of some veena varieties it can be understood that the Dilruba, Sarod, today’s Sarangi, Violin, and the Saraswati veena have evolved from them.
According to Manchala, the present day Sitar resembles the “Eka Raga Mela” veena of Ramamatya. The present day Sitar has the facility to move or change the frets according to raga. Haripala deva has said that the Kinnera veena resembles the Sitar where 14, 16 and 18 frets are fixed and used according to their requirement. The present-day veena is perfectly constructed to meet the purpose with perfect scales i.e., each part resembles a particular variety of veena. Hence it is required to analyze and learn about the earlier days of Veena which do not exist these days. The study will reveal how cultural development process has helped in the changes. As all the stringed instruments are called Tata Vadyas, the present-day veena’s real shape image has to be reviewed in a composite universal perception. Is there any resemblance between the Swara mandali and today’s Saraswati veena? Both are stringed instruments only. But one has to accept that the development and changes derived from that only. Knowledge of historical background is very important to know about the present day’s Veena. Points to know are given below:
• Usage of only a few strings.
• Construct a dandam, fix a few frets on it, tie only one string and produce 12 swarasthanaas.
• To double the 12 swarasthanas, increase it three times, and produce swaraas on one string in 3 places.
• To tie 3 strings, and produce the required Sthaayis on the dandam (short in size) just with intelligence and common sense.
• To tie 4 strings and produce 3 ½ sthayis. If we go through the past history we can get the required, constructive, information about Veena, parts like meruvu, frets, pecks, kakubham, Naagapaasam, the top, bridge, jeevalam etc and evolution of this instrument.