The veena (or Vina) was originally a type of stick zither with the fingerboard stretched between two gourds. Veenas underwent structural changes in the 16th century. Modern veenas are essentially a long necked lute with a large resonating bowl called the Kudam, held across the lap by the player, and a smaller gourd called the Kudukkai, which hangs from the neck and serves as a rest. The narrow end of the veena is shaped like the head of a dragon. It has a softer, sweeter tone than the sitar and is the principal instrument of classical southern Indian music.
Veenas are associated with Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning in Hindu mythology. Veena is also known as the Queen of Musical Instruments. They have twenty four frets made of bell metal or steel, with a total of seven strings - four passing over the frets are the playing strings, and three that are drone strings which run through a special side bridge. The instrument itself is usually made of jackwood. Two of the playing strings and the drone strings are made of steel - the remaining two are made of brass. To enhance the resonating quality, a hole is made on the Kudam, the size of which controls the tonal quality.
Only the pointing finger and the middle finger are used to play the instrument. The little finger is used to keep time on the Tala strings. The small gourd is placed on the left thigh and the main bowl is placed on the ground, partly supported by the right thigh.
There are two types of veenas. The Ottu Veena has a neck and bowl made of separate pieces of wood. On the Eganda Veena the neck and bowl are made of a single piece of wood. Of the two, the Egantha Veena produces better tonal quality.
SPECIAL NOTE - No Warranty on Strings: Whether you purchase an instrument on-line or in a neighborhood store, manufacturers recommend that you change the strings on your instrument as soon as you receive it. Your instrument has completed a long journey to your home. During this time the strings WILL oxidize and this may shorten their life expectancy and may reduce their sound quality. On occasion instruments may arrive with a broken string, therefore, it is recommended that you purchase a replacement set of strings and consider changing your strings as soon as it arrives. Learning to change strings should be the first lesson learned when embarking on the journey of playing a new instrument.