Vichitra veena

Vichitra veena

The Vichitra Veena is a plucked string instrument used in Hindustani music. It is similar to the Carnatic gottuvadhyam (chitra vina). It has no frets and is played with a slide.

The Structure

The Vichitra Veena is the modern form of ancient Ektantri Veena It is made of a broad, fretless, horizontal arm or crossbar (dand) around three feet long and six inches wide, with two large resonating gourds (tumba), which are inlaid with ivory and attached underneath at either end. The narrow ends of the instrument are fashioned into peacock heads, the national bird of India.

The Strings

There are four main playing strings and five secondary strings (chikaris), which are played openly with the little finger for a drone effect. Underneath them are 13 sympathetic strings tuned to the notes of the appropriate raag. The veena has a five-octave range. Two plectrums (mizrab) identical to those used for sitar are worn on the middle and index fingers of the right hand to pluck the strings, and a glass ball (batta) is moved with the left across the main strings to create melody (there can be a distance of up to two inches between notes). Olive oil or butter is put on the strings to ease the playing action.

The veena was often used to accompany the Dhrupad style of singing and this did not allow for much intricacy or embellishment around the notes. It was rescued from oblivion by Dr. Lalmani Misra who developed technique of playing and created Misrabani compositions; his son Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra made the repertoire universal.

Other Types

It is one of the three other major types of veena popular today. The others include Saraswati veena and rudra veena. Out of these the rudra and vichitra Veena are used in northern Indian classical music, while Saraswati veena is used in Carnatic music, the classical music of South India. Dr. Lalmani Misra in his Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya mentions that there are forty nine types of Veena-s mentioned in ancient literature about which little besides the name is known.

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