Chitra Veena

Name: Chitra Veena.
Type: Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: India.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The Chitra veena [also known as hanumad veena or mahanataka veena] is a 20 or 21-string fretless lute in Carnatic music. Around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it started to be known by another name, Gotuvadyam [often mis-spelt as gottuvadyam, gottuvadhyam, kottuvadyam etc]. This instrument was popularized by Sakha Rama Rao who introduced it to the concert scene. In recent times this instrument became quite popular as a solo instrument, for use in juglebandi’s (collaborations) and in world music.

Origins: Today it is played mainly in South India, though its origins can be traced back to Bharata’s Natya Shastra [200 BCE-200 CE], where it is mentioned as a seven string fretless instrument. Sarangadeva [1210–47] also made a similar reference to the chitravina in his work, Sangita Ratnakara.

Playing technique: The first two fingers on the right hand are usually used with plectra to pluck the metal melody strings while a cylindrical block made out of hardwood (often ebony), buffalo horn, glass, steel, or teflon held by the left hand is used to slide along the strings to vary the pitch.

Construction: The Chitra veena has six main playing strings that used for melody. They pass over the top of the instrument. The drone strings and 11 or 12 sympathetic strings running parallel to and below the strings. The chitravina is generally tuned to G sharp (5 and 1 / 2). The approach to tuning is similar to the sitar in the context of the 11-12 sympathetic resonance strings (from the low Pa to high Sa), similar to the Saraswati veena in the context of the three drone (tala) strings (Sa-Pa-Sa), but is unique in terms of the top-layer main playing six strings, which are configured as 3 tonic strings (sa), 2 fifth strings (pa) and 1 base tonic string (sa). The 3 and 2 include an octave string which gives the instrument a unique tone.

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