Veena Tradition in Indian Music

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Item Code: NAL168
Author: L. Annapoorna
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788173911408
Pages: 108
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch x 6.5 inc
Weight 320 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This volume is the culmination of a detailed and analytical study based on the individual and stylistic musical depth of several Vainikas of international repute. Who have established an identical scholastic thought and bani of their own. A seprate Schools of Vainikas is clearly seen as an off shoot of this study. The researcher completed this study during her Master’s programme having met and studied in person the innnate and singular music of the living masters and through collecting authentic source materials of other earlier sadhakas. These include Vainikas of the famous schools of Tanjore, Mysore, Karaikkudi, Travancore, Andhra, Dhanam and other lesser known Schools. The individual styles of Veena Virtuso S. Balachander and his disciples, Veena Maestro Chitti Babu, Emani Sankara Sastri, Mysore Doreswami lyengar etc.

There are eight but important chapters devoted to the early, medieval and modern concert tradition on Veena, Techniques of different Vainikas including their playing methodology, Tradition and styles of individualistic matrix, notes on lesser known luminaries and well known Vainikas of the four southern States of India and a detailed study on the major four schools of thought. An individualistic study has also been taken up with the help of Audio visual and concert styles of living and earlier contemporaries of Vainikas.

This will be the first study in the form of a monograph specifically designed to the study of Veena and its tradition vis-a-vis styles of Vainikas.

About the Author

Dr. L. Annapoorna took to interest in Classical Music at an young age. She hails from a family of personalities of literary eminence. Her father late S. Lakhminarasimhan popularl known as SL was the Head of department of English at Madura College at Maduri.

Ms. Annapoorna completed her Master’s degree in Performing Arts from the Madurai University (1979) and earned another Master’s degree in Education from Annamalai University. She was awarded the Ph. D. degree in Music by the Kerala University for her Doctoral thesis on “Temple Compositions in South Indian Music” in 1995. During her Master’s degree programme she also prepared a Dissertation on the “Tradition and styles of Vainikas “of south India which included a detailed and analytical study on the music of early. Medieval and contemporary Vainikas.

She has to her credit several Research Papers and Publications which include : Swati Tirunal Kritigal—Text (in Tamil), Music and Temples; New Horizons in Indian Music (Collected works of Sri T.S. Parthasarathy); Veena through the ages; Gleanings on Indian Music Research; Bibliography of Indian Music Literature etc.

Currently she is the Secretary for the SRISHTI: Indian Music Research Foundation based at Madurai nurturing advanced Research and Methodology in Music in an International perspective. She is now engaged in the research study on Temple Music of Nepal a project funded by the Royal Nepal Government.


Having undergone training for a few of five years I was abie to conceive upon the idea of identifying the fact that, in the realm of Veena different styles and techniques did exist. Several natural constraints and limitation did not give me an opportunity to know the various styles that was in vogue. The main reason for his lack of understanding was also because of the fact that my circumstances of learning within the academic curriculum was exposed to different and varied styles of teaching. This lacuna of my understanding the techniques and style—a basic essential knowledge required for a post-graduate student—was realised only when I happened to listen to a series of live concerts in Veena.

At this juncture my quest for knowing more about the various styles started sprouting up and the urge to fulfil the idea somehow or other took shape. Fortunately the compulsory completion of the Dissertation paper, became more useful and handy to serve this purpose.

When I commenced forming ideas to the ways and means of collecting data on ‘ Studying the various styles of Vainikas’ I was forced to confront with the truth that the existing styles had its basic roots in the styles of old masters. And unfortunately I had no means to listen to these old masters. Again my ambition to take up this topic became still more difficult.

As luck would have it in one of my preliminary discussions with a leading Vainika I was made to understand that a tradition has nothing to do with styles or technique and each Vainika only transferred his or her knowledge to their next generation of progenies or disciples. It was the individual technique and style that is prominently displayed in one’s rendering. In other words the much commonly used term ‘bani’ is often wrongly understood to denote a particular style or technique instead of the age-old tradition.

Still my doubts on the original identity of the ‘bani’ of old masters was an unfulfilled affair. Therefore, My confusion on linking the basic source tradition of the contemporary Vainikas vis-a-vis old masters always remained unaccountable and puzzled one. In other words, to speak of a tradition of Karaikudi or Veena Dhanammal or Thanjavur School being continued or transferred to their progenies of disciples was respectively an exaggerated affair far from truth.

In order to get a first hand information I initially adopted the idea of distinguishing if at all any particular style or technique within the precincts of my college teaching existed. But I failed to identify any. On the other hand when I tried to analyse the fingering or plucking techniques or for that matter the reckoning of the taala strings. I succeeded in distinguishing identical phenomena in each individual.

These two factors had its effect both on the positive and negative aspects. Positive in the sense that my ambition to study and analyse the various styles started taking fruition. The negative sense was that it made me aberrant in the learning process. In other words, different teachers concurrently infusing their different styles to me at the same time was like drifting on a boat without a place to anchor in on land. My hidden ambition to specialise on this beautiful instrument to a greater extent became difficult due to the constraints.

Coming to the subject matter of the study, as I said earlier my confusion within myself became persistent because of my over enthusiasm to identify the much-talked-about different styles. At the same time the knowledge gained within the short period of my course curriculum also made me think twice before embarking upon this sensitive, tricky, controversial and different areas of study.

I would also like to point out that while Dr. T. Visvanathan (Wesleyan University in U.S.) concluded a study on different vocal styles and Dr. L. Sankar at the same University made an indepth study of different violin styles—both of them without specifying on any particular school, Dr. K.S. Subramaniam (University of Madras) also at the same University recently concluded a research study on the ‘South Indian Veena Tradition and Individual Style (Musicians’ family, history, voice and instrument, analysis, inventive notation)’. These and other such studies also helped me to proceed further on this subject on a positive note in my mind.

Before I started collecting data, I did glance through some of the reference sources—both books and journals—which discussed in detail on the fretting system of the Veena. For instance the literature on Raghunatha Nayak’s system of fretting and Sarngadeva’s Sangitaratnakara in fingering and plucking methods were highly useful. This I did with the main intention to find out (as mentionaed earlier) if at all any different pattens of styles could be identified because of the varying systems of fretting and plucking. I also made up my mind to attend to some Live and Radio concerts of some of the Vidwans on whose styles I decided to study later on. The foremost problem of successfully completing the study in a systematic way was also ever lingering and bothering me.

The concerts that I attended included Ms. Chittibabu, Gayatri, Doreswami lyenger, Sivanandham, Balachander, Pichumani, Seshagopalan. Kalpakam Swaminathan, etc. But mu lack of direct or indirect knowledge on the Veena- Styles of the Karaikudi Brothers, Veena Dhanammal and Devakottai Narayana lyenger was always nagging me.

With this mind-set and short musical background I decided upon to take up the present study on ‘Vainikas: Their Tradition and Styles’.

At the same time, as I said earlier in my inner mind I had already visualised the arduous task that lay ahead of me on the immensity of the subject that I was going to deal with.

As second phase of my data collection I had the fortunate opportunity of personally meeting several top Vainikas of the decade and with the help of taped interviews with them I was able to collect authentic and first hand information on their assiduous application of own styles and techniques.

Another fortunate and pleasant thing is that most of the Vainikas whom I met and interviewed expressed their utmost interest and support in the subject of study and in fact this further strengthened latently hidden enthusiasm.

Before I could conclude my several notes of experience and inner most expression I must thank my revered teachers (in the Veena Department of College) for initiating me into the ocean of music through my favourite medium of expression—The Veena. Their inspiration was also of the cause that led me to realise the importance and voluminous depth of the present subject.

Due to my lack of full and through exposure to the subject, there are every chance that one might find fault with the handing of the whole subject. To offset this remark I have decided to analyse and make it more evident with the help of recorded cassettes.

In the significant chapter on ‘Analysis of the Styles of Contemporary Vainikas’ I have rightly pointed out at least three identifiable individual techniques of each Vainika. For an easy following of the verbal analysis illustrated in the cassette by me I have also provided a script (vide the script for audiography) in the Dissertation. But still whatever is said will always be incomplete in the absence of a practical demonstration. To suffice this idea I have myself given in the cassette a small illustration of the techniques that I have understood. The main objective of my illustration is to prove that the Analysis forms completely my own interpretation on which others may or may not agree.


In the history of Indian Music, the word ‘Veena’ seems to have been used as a general term to denote any stringed instruments. Literary materials undoubtedly help us to gather lot of information but, it still seems inadequate to enable one to arrive at a precise conclusion on the evolution of this instrument. In fact, the description of Sarngadeva in his Sangita Ratnakara only gets us closer to the present day structure of the Veena. Nevertheless, the innumerable reference in sculpture, painting etc. Are not suggested to be ignored. Even the popular experiment of Bharata, on the Dhruva and Chala Veenas do not throw any idea on the structure and shape of the instrument as such.

When the concert pattern set in, the importance of Veena at first gained currency over vocal music. The reason for this was the existence of orchestral music (Vadyabrinda). This established that a person has to be a master of the instrument that he/she handled to give solo performances so as to gain universal recognition.

Several music treatises also speak of the various aspects of Veena on the construction, number of strings, tuning methods, materials to be used and so on, but unfortunately the practical application along with the adaptation of the technique, have not been made easily understandable. In this respect, Govinda Dikshitar, Ramamatya and Venkatamakhi have made sincere attempts to fill up the above lacuna.

The tradition set by Govinda Dikshitar was put to practice by the illustrious Muthuswamy Dikshitar—a divine Veena player—who imbibed the Veena, or in other words, instrumental technique into vocal music. His brother Baluswamy Dikshitar, himself a Veena player, Tyagaraja’s two foremost disciple—Veena Kuppiar and Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagavatar were known to have gained complete mastery over this instrument.

Other vainidas who followed them establishing a style of their own included :

1. Veena Kalahastiayya

2. Sonti Venkataramanaiah

3. Pachimiriyam Adippaiah

4. Veena Subbiah

5. Veena Subbukuttayya

6. Ramaswamyayya

7. Pallavi Gopalayya

8. Chikka Othappayya

9. Varahappiar

10. Veena Appiah

11. Veena Sambiah

12. Veena Seshanna

13. Veena Subbanna

14. Venkataramanadas

15. Sangameswara Sastri

16. Veena Venkatagiriappa

17. Veena Karigirirao

18. Karaikudi Subbarama Iyer

19. Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer

20. Veena Dhanammal

21. Devakkottai Narayana Iyenger

22. Emani Sankara Sastri

The contemporary Vainikas with their new innovative ideas and inspirations derived from the earlier stalwarts infused new techniques and ideas, thereby, establishing a new style and technique of their own. Some of them are :

1. Padma Bhushan late Sri S. Balachandar 2. Padma Sri Chitti Babu

3. Sangita Kalanidhi Padma Bhushan Dr. V. Doreswamy Iyenger

4. Kalaimammani Srimati E. Gayatri

5. Kalaimamani Srimati Kalpakam Swaminathan

6. Sangita Kalanidhi Padma Bhushan Sri K.S. Narayanaswamy

7. Kalaimamani Sri R. Pichumani

8. Kalaimamani Rajeswari Padmanabhan

9. Kalaimamani Ranganayaki Rajagopalan

10. Kalaimamani Srimati Sarada

11. Sangita Kalanidhi Sri K.P. Sivanandham

12. Kalaimamani Sri T.N. Seshigopalan

13. Nadajothi Sri R.K. Suryanarayana and so on.

There is no denying the fact that several other Vainikas not mentioned here did not contribute in establishing an identity of their own in the field of Veena-teachnique.


2Concert Tradition17
3Vicissitude in Veena Technique29
4Tradition and Styles of Veena Playing43
5Luminaries of Different Styles49
6Four Schools of Tradition and Styles59
7Exponents of Contemporary Tradition and Styles69
8Analysis of the Styles of Contemporary Vainikas95

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