Shruti Veena: the Sound Link

By Ragini Trivedi



As we grew up, the mention of Shruti Veena began to puzzle us. My brother and I had seen our father with several instruments right from our childhood. It was only when I visited the instrument repository of music faculty at BHU that I consciously noticed this instrument. It took many more years to understand to learn the story of its creation and and many more to begin to understand its value. My father, Dr. Lalmani Misra had created this instrument to explain the Bharat's theory of music and the procedure of Chatuh Sarana (चतु: सारणा) or as it is generally pronounced Chatus-Sarana. His aim was to produce all twenty two Shruti-s simultaneously on a single instrument.

Shruti Veena. Collection, Music Faculty, B.H.U. Varanasi

He first followed the exact procedure that Bharat had described using a pair of Sitar-s. After achieving Bharat's scale on sitar Dr. Misra modified traditional Rudra Veena. In order to turn it in to Shruti Veena following changes were made --

1. Instead of bamboo (Vansh), wood was used for the finger - board or stem without changing Veena's basic structure.

2. Tar Gahan and Bridge were made in such a way so that they can bear five strings over frets with equal distance.

3. Tar Gahan and Bridge were made of same height, with flat top and with no curve.

4. Straight frets were fixed in such a way that minimum pressure should be used while pressing the wire.

5. Two steel strips were placed both sides of the stem. Same arrangement was made on frets so that they can be hooked through these strips and can also be re adjusted if need be.

6. Discarding Chikari wires five strings from same coil were used. With above changes Rudra Veena is transformed into Shruti Veena.

After Shruti Veena's physical change next step is to tune Shruti Veena in to Shadaj Gram. For this the first step will be to tune all the five strings of Shruti Veena in accordance with the already tuned sitar's free strings. Second step will be to adjust all the frets of Shruti Veena according to the pre- tuned Sitar's Frets. In this manner whole Shadaj Gram is transferred to Shruti Veena.

By pressing all five strings simultaneously on each note of Shadaj Gram we can check the accuracy of the Shadaj Gram on Veena. If there is any difference of sound we must tune it perfectly.

Method of Chatus-Sarana on Shruti Veena

1. Presume first wire from left as 'Achal Veena' and press 'Rishabh' on the same string. Again press and strike 'Pancham on second wire. It can be observed that these two notes do not correspond with each other. Second wire should be loosened so that 'Pancham of second wire is lowered until it is in consonance with Rishabh of first wire. When these two notes are in complete harmony with each other consider that first Sarana is complete and first Shruti has been achieved. One can check that in second wire all the notes are one Shruti lower in compare to first wire which is the original Shadaj Gram.

2. For second Sarana again press Rishabh note on first wire and Gandhar note on third wire. Now, lower the third wire as much so that the sound of Rishabh on first wire can be brought on the place of Gandhar on third wire. When the sound of Rishabh on first wire and sound of Gandhar on third wire unites consider second Sarana is complete. Now, third wire is two Shruti-s lower than first wire. With the same process the sound of Nishad of the third wire will merge into the sound of Dhaivat on first wire. In this Sarana all the remaining notes will be lowered by two Shruti-s.This was Bharat's second Sarana.

3. In third Sarana again free wire is played to produce the sound of Shadaj on first wire and Rishabh fret is played on fourth wire as well. With lowering the fourth string up till the sound of Rishabh on fourth wire merges into the Shadaj of the first wire third Sarana is complete. With the same procedure Dhaivat of fourth wire will also merge into the Pancham of first wire.

4. In fourth Sarana, Madhyam on first wire is played and Pancham on fifth wire is played. Now, lower the fifth wire until Pancham of fifth wire merges into the sound of Madhyam on first string. With this process Madhyam and Shadaj of fifth wire will also merge in to Gandhar and Nishad of the first wire.

After achieving all the 22 Shruti-s with all the five free strings we can see the difference of four Shruti-s. Difference between first and second wire is the smallest difference which is of 5 savart. Interval of second and third wire is largest with 23 savart. Difference between third and fourth wire is again of 18 savart. Again, between fourth and fifth wire there is a difference of 5 savart.

In understanding the above process, animation on Swar Gram and Chatus Sarana might help. Shruti Veena is the only instrument on which all twenty two shruti-s may be heard simultaneously. It establishes the mathematical basis of Indian Classical Music.

The original instrument is still in collection of music department at BHU. I have learnt that despite ravages of time it is still intact. Repeated pleas to instrument makers for replicating it have been in vain as yet. I am sure that in future some enthusiastic craftsman would help me build another Shruti Veena. To date, this is the only means available to understand both Bharat's Chatuh Sarana process as well as hear the Shruti-s.

References :

Shruti Veena: Manifestation of Bharat’s Gram and ChatuhSarana

Bhāratīya Shāstrīya Sangīt: Shāstra, Shikshan Va Prayōg. Collection of Essays in Indian music.


Omeand Symposium 2007

Omenad Conference 2009

Dr. Lalmani Misra on Wikipedia

Excerpts from Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya - Other Veena-s

Excerpts from Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya - Sitar

Excerpts from Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya - Swar-Mandal

Articles on modern trends in Indian Classical Music in Bharatiya Shastriya Sangeet: Shikshan, Shastra Va Prayog.


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