Name: Saraswati Veena.
Type: Plucked Lute > Chordophone.
Region: South Eastern India > South Asia.
Dimensions: Scale Length cm.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#:
Acquisition Date:
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine Reusch @

Description: The sarasvati veena or raghunatha veena is an a plucked lute and member of the chordophone family of musical instruments. This musical instrument is one of the main traditional stringed instruments present in Carnatic (South Indian) classical music. As its name sake this instrument is directly associated with Sarasvati the goddess of music, knowledge and learning. While this particular instrument is fretted and played with a plectrum (mizrab). The fretless brother of this instrument being the “Ghoduvadtyam” is played with a slide.

Origins: Several ancient texts the first being the Ramayana, Bhagavata, Mahabharata and Puranas all contain references to various types of veena. In the Ramayana one will find the mentioning a musical instrument called the “Vipanchi veena” who originally had 9 strings. In the Ramayana particular veena is also referred to as the “vipanchi veena”. Through out the epic the veena is also referred to as the Laya or Tantri. The current form of sarasvati veena evolved in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu during the reign of Raghunatha Nayak (1600 to 1634). Prior to his time the number of frets were more or less moveable frets according to the musicologist Padmabushan Prof. Sambamurthy. Both traditional and contemporary repertoires are played on this instrument. One who performs the veena is referred to as a vainika.

Tuning: Sarasvati Veena's are usually tuned to a Sa Pa Sa scheme that incorporates an octave and a fifth. For example B E B e or Bb Eb Bb eb (e flat) or they maybe tuned according to the ragam performed.

Sarasvati Veena Tunings


B B E b e

Eb Bb Eb bb eb

Chitti Babu Swara Raga Sudha C C F c f

Chitti Babu Komalo Koila F F Bb f bb

Construction: The main portions being the body (kudam) and neck (dandi) are carved from jackwood (Cryptocarya glaucescens). A total of 24 brass or bell metal frets are added in two parallel rails of black wax. The frets are affixed in position while the wax settles near the end of the manufacturing process. Four main playing strings are added and three sympathetic strings, both the playing and sympathetic strings run across the same wooden bridge (kudarai). The wooden bridge which has a plate of brass affixed to the top and a separate piece of brass for the sympathetic strings. A total of seven tuning pegs (kunti) are inserted into the musical instrument. Two rosettes formerly of ivory now usually plastic are inlaid into the sound board (palakai) affixed to the resonator.