Chitra Veena

Name: Chitra Veena.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Veenas.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
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.].

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.

History: The chitra veena was popularized in South India by the musician Sakha Rama Rao before his disciple Gotuvadyam Narayana Iyengar [1903 – 1959] who was a palace musician of the erstwhile states of Travancore & Mysore took it to great heights. Iyengar’s son, Chitra Veena Narasimhan [b. 1941]  was instrumental in spreading his father’s stringing and tuning methods as well as playing style.

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 string arrangement of the chikari strings [plucked sympathetic strings] run parallel to the neck similar to the sitar. Generally the Chitra Veena is generally tuned to G# [Pa#] 5 and 1 / 2. 

The drone [tala] strings are tuned in the order of a tonic / fifth / tonic the Sa / Pa / Sa is unique in terms of the top layer, main playing strings. The 3 and 2 include an octave string which gives the instrument a unique tone.


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