Rudra veena (also spelled rudra vina, Hindi: रुद्रवीणा, Bengali: রুদ্রবীণা),and also called bīn (Hindi: बीन in North India, is a large plucked string instrument used in Hindustani classical music, one of the major types of veena played in Indian classical music.

It has a long tubular body made of wood or bamboo with a length between 54 and 62 inches. Two large, round resonators, made of dried and hollowed gourds, are attached under the tube. Twenty-four brass-fitted raised wooden frets are fixed on the tube with the help of wax. There are 4 main strings and 3 chikari strings.

As Rudra is a name for the Hindu god Shiva, rudra vina literally means "the veena dear to Shiva".

In the hierarchy of divinities, the veena enjoys a special place. It is the instrument which symbolises the Indian ethos throughout the country. The instrument has sociological and cultural connotations and dimensions. Saraswati, the goddess of learning is visualised as holding a veena in her hands and is always called Veenapani or Veenapustaka Dharini.

In ancient India the term veena was used in a generic sense, intended to refer to any stringed instrument - monochord, polychord, bowed, plucked, fretted, non-fretted, zither, lute or lyre. Scholars are of the opinion that the word veena might have been derived from its forerunner vana, a string instrument mentioned in the Rig Veda, and later in the Atharva Veda, Katyayana used the word vana with hundred strings. Vana means to sound. The term vana has been derived from the root van which means sound (shabda) or speed (gati). The root van conveys the idea of both sound (shabda) and tone (swara), and so does the term veena. From the references it can be concluded that vana was the most ancient type of stringed instrument and that different kinds of stringed instruments were designed after it.

Scholars are unanimous that till the sixth century the string instruments that we get were not fretted.
Rudra Vina catalogue
Rudra Vina catalogue
The veena is played with two plectrums worn in the index and middle fingers of the right hand, while the side drone strings are flicked with the help of the small finger's nail. However, some artists wear plectrum in the small finger as well. The drone string of left side is flicked with the left hand little finger's nail. The traditional sitting posture of veena playing, called vajrasan or darbari baithak, is quite difficult. Zia Mohiuddin Dagar used to sit in sukhasan instead. He also kept his veena half diagonally like the Southern veena whereas traditionally the rudra veena is placed diagonally and the upper gourd rests upon the left shoulder while the lower gourd rests upon the right thigh of the player. The fingerboard is held close to the chest.

The veena consists of a fingerboard, the length of which is about three-and-a-half feet, and two broad gourds of about fourteen inches in diameter fixed in the stem. Previously the stem or the fingerboard was made of bamboo. This bamboo had a very short span of life and every alternate year it had to be changed. Lately, bamboo has been replaced by teak wood, which gives a longer life and better tone to the veena.

Twenty-two wooden frets are fixed on the fingerboard and are made immovable with the help of a specially prepared wax- like liquid. Thin sharp-edged plates of brass are fixed on top of these frets called sara. However, the number of frets are not fixed and tend to vary according to the artist's preference. The veena has seven strings in all — four main playing strings and three drone strings, two on the right side and one on the left. All of these strings are tied with three nails called kakubha on one corner of the dand. Four of the main playing strings pass through the main bridge and before being finally tied up into the respective pegs, they pass through an upper bridge called meru. The three drone strings,-two on the right and one on the left, are mounted upon two side bridges, one at either side, and meet their respective pegs.

Veena is a rare instrument almost on the verge of extinction. It is not easy to get a new veena made, because there are also very few craftsmen left who are working on this rare instrument.


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