|Saraswati vina (Saraswathi veena) is the instrument associated
with Saraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. This
instrument is common in south India and is an important instrument
in carnatic sangeet. It is variously called simply vina, or veena,
the "Saraswati" part being implied.
The saraswati vina has an interesting construction. It has a body made of wood, generally, this is jackwood. The highest quality vinas have the entire body carved from a single block of wood, while the ordinary vinas have a body which is carved in three sections (resonator, neck and head). There are 24 frets made of brass bars set into wax. (see "Fretting and Fingering the Vina") There is another resonator at the top of the neck. This is no longer a functioning resonator, but is mainly used as a stand to facilitate the positioning of the instrument when it is played. Because it is no longer functioning it is not unusual to find that this upper resonator may be made of acoustically neutral materials such as paper mache, cane or other similar materials. Unlike north Indian instruments like the sitar, the saraswati vina has no sympathetic strings. It has only four playing strings and three drone strings (thalam). (see also "Tuning the Vina") The main bridge is a flat bar made of brass. This bar has a very slight curve. It is this light curve which gives the vina its characteristic sound. A major centre for the manufacture of the saraswati vini is in Tanjore.
The playing position is shown below. We see that the performer sits cross-legged on the floor, the small vestigial gourd rests against the left thigh while the main resonator rests on the floor. The right hand plucks the strings while the left hand frets the instrument.