Name: Saraswati Veena.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Veenas.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch.

Description: The Saraswati veeṇa also spelled Saraswati vina [in Sanskrit: सरस्वती वीणा it is pronounced as “vīṇā” ; in Kannada: ವೀಣೆ ; in Tamil: சரஸ்வதி வீணை ; in Malayalam: വീണ ; in Telugu: సరస్వతి వీణ, in Bengali: সরস্বতী বীণা].

It is a plucked lute that is found primarily in the Carnatic [South Indian] classical music. It is named after the Hindu goddess Saraswati, who is usually depicted holding or playing the instrument. Also known as raghunatha veena. One who plays the veena is referred to as a vainika.

The saraswati veena is one of the major types of veena that is popular today. Other veena’s include the Vichitra and Rudra Veena. The Rudra Veena [a stick zither] is not related to this instrument and has a separate lineage in its development. Both traditional and contemporary compositions inside and out of Carnatic classical music are performed on this this instrument.

Origins: The current form of the Saraswati veena with 24 fixed frets evolved in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. During the reign of Raghunatha Nayak and it is for this reason sometimes called the Tanjore vina or the Raghunatha veena. Prior to his time, the number of frets on the veena were less and also movable. – Padmabhooshan Prof. P. Sambamurthy, musicologist.

Tuning: Four main playing strings E / B / E / B or in sargam notation Ga / Ni / Ga / Ni tuned to the tonic and the fifth in two octaves, Three additional drone strings running parallel on either side are tuned to the tonic, fifth, and upper tonic.

Construction: Consisting of a large resonator [kudam] carved and hollowed out of a log, usually of jackfruit wood. A tapering hollow neck [dandi] topped with 24 brass or bell-metal frets set in scalloped black wax on wooden tracks, and a tuning box culminating in a downward curve and an ornamental dragon’s head [yali].

If the veena is built from a single piece of wood it is called [Ekantha] veena. A small table-like wooden bridge [kudurai] about is topped by a convex brass plate glued in place with resin. Two rosettes, formerly of ivory, now of plastic or horn, are on the top board [palakai] of the resonator.


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