Saraswati is the Goddess of leaming, knowledge, and wisdom. The Sanskrit word sara means "essence" and swa means "self." Thus Saraswati means "the essence of the self." Saraswati is represented in Hindu mythology as the divine consort of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the universe. Since knowledge is necessary for creation, Saraswati symbolizes the creative power of Brahma. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped by all persons interested in knowledge, especially students, teachers, scholars, and scientists.
In Her popular images and pictures, Goddess Saraswati is generally depicted with four arms (some pictures may show only two arms), wearing a white sari and seated on a white lotus. She holds a book and a rosary in Her rear two hands, while the front two hands are engaged in the playing of a veena. Her right leg is shown slightly pushing against Her left leg. She uses a swan as Her vehicle. There is a peacock by Her side gazing at Her.
The musical instrument in her hands, the veena denotes mind and intellect. This symbol conveys that the seeker must tune his mind and intellect in order to live in perfect harmony with the world. Such harmonious living enables the individual to utilize acquired knowledge for the welfare of all mankind.
The Saraswati veena (also spelled Saraswati vina) is an Indian plucked string instrument. It is named after the Hindu goddess Saraswati, who is usually depicted holding or playing the instrument. s used mostly in Carnatic Indian classical music. There are several variations of the veena, which in its South Indian form is a member of the lute family. One who plays the veena is referred to as a vainika.
The veena is an ancient instrument dating back to Vedic times (1500BCE). The veena instruments developed much like a tree, branching out into instruments as diverse as the exotic harp-like Akasa (a veena that was tied up in the tops of trees for the strings to vibrate from the currents of wind) and the Audumbari veena (played as an accompaniment by the wives of Vedic priests as they chanted during ceremonial Yajnas). Veenas ranged from one string to one hundred, and were composed of many different materials like eagle bone, bamboo, wood and coconut shells.
The current form of the Saraswati veena with 24 fixed frets evolved in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, during the reign of Raghunath Nayak and it is for this reason sometimes called the Tanjore veena, or the Raghunatha veena. Prior to his time, the number of frets on the veena were less and also movable.
The veena is played by sitting cross-legged with the instrument held tilted slightly away from the player. The small gourd on the left rests on the player's left thigh, the left arm passing beneath the neck with the hand curving up and around so that the fingers rest upon the frets. The palm of the right hand rests on the edge of the top plank so that the fingers (usually index and middle) can pluck the strings. The drone strings are played with the little finger. The veena's large resonator is placed on the floor, beyond the right thigh. (Wikipedia)
Like the sitar, the left hand technique involves playing on the frets, controlled pushing on the strings to achieve higher tones and glissandi through increased tension, and finger flicks, all reflecting the characteristics of various ragas and their ornamentation (gamaka). Modern innovations include one or two circular sound holes (like that of the lute), substitution of machine heads for wooden pegs for easier tuning, and the widespread use of transducers for amplification in performance.
Chitti Babu (1936-1996) was one of the most famous Veena artistes of India, who had carved his place amongst the all-time greats who played that instrument. A man who became a Legend in his own Lifetime, his name was synonymous with the instrument "Veena", and he was and is still known in the Carnatic music world, quite simply as “Veena” Chitti Babu. While continuing with the principles of his Guru’s pioneering school - the Emani “Bani” (tradition/style), Chitti Babu, created and evolved a distinctive style and identity, entirely his own. The exquisite tonal quality and versatility that have been his magical hallmarks of his style of playing the Veena, saw him produce sounds as varied as the majestic Vedic Hymns or as delicate as the Cuckoo’s voice or even play many western-music based compositions of his own. He was known to reproduce the songs and compositions in an almost vocal like tonal quality on his Veena, and was also known to evoke deeply emotional and appreciative responses from his audiences. (http://www.veenachittibabu.org/id1.html)
More scintillating music from India.
01 Chalamela, Sudhamayi, Ksheera Sagara Sayana
02 Ragam Thanam Pallavi, Apadooruku, Nallani Vada, Mangalam (A Hymn from Vedas)