Veena is a plucked stringed ('Tat') instrument used mostly in Carnatic music and by Dagar musicians (dhrupad). It is one of the three principal musical instruments mentioned in the vedic literature, the other two being the venu (flute) and Mrindanga. Veena player is referred to as a 'Vainika'. The veena is a complete instrument and provides the basic components: sruti, laya. Its peculiarity is the mellow tonal quality which is capable of evoking a meditative atmosphere.

History: Veena has a recorded history that dates back to the Vedic period. In Bharata's Natyashastra, there is a mention of many types of Veenas like Ektari, Kinnari, Audumbari etc.. The current form of veena can be attributed to Raghunath Nayak (circa 17th century ) of Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu.

Structure: The veena is 1.5m long and is made from jackwood. It has a large, round body with a thick, wide neck, the end of which is carved into the head of a dragon. A small resonator is attached to the underside of the neck. The veena has 24 metal frets embedded in hardened bees-wax, mixed with charcoal powder. Melody is produced on four metal strings that run above the frets. These are stretched over a wide bridge that sits on the body of the veena. Three other strings run alongside the neck of the instrument. These are used for maintaining time and for playing the drone. The performer, who sits cross-legged on the stage, rests the small resonator on the left lap. The fingers of the left hand are used to press, pull and glide on the frets, while the fingers of the right hand are used to pluck and twang the strings.

Veena variants

Tanjavur (Saraswati) Veena, Rudra veena, Vichitra veena, and Gottuvadhyam veena or Chitra veena.

Renowned Vainikas

Muthuswami Dikshitar, Veena Dhanammal, Rugmini Gopalakrishnan, Doraiswamy Iyengar, Bahauddin Dagar