The Vichitra Veena, as the name suggests , is a rare instrument , and there are not many artists who play this instrument. It is a plucked string instrument . It has no frets and is played with a slide. The narrow ends of the instrument are fashioned like the national bird of Bharat i.e. Peacock. It has a five – octave range. Coconut oil is put on the strings to minimise the friction of the sliding hand holding the Batta. The Vichitra Veena was rescued from the oblivion in 60s and the 70s by Prof. Lalmani Misra of Benaras Hindu University (BHU) who developed a new technique of playing it and created unique Misrabani compositions.
The Vichitra Veena is similar to the Carnatic Gottuvadhyam or Chitra Veena and can be called a descendent of the Ektantri Veena or the Ghoshvati Veena as it was known prior to the 6th century. Vichitra Veena’s present shape and its modern style of playing are attributed to Abdul Aziz Khan , a former Sarangi player of Patiala.
In general appearance and structure, the Rudra Veena and Vichitra Veena look similar. But the Rudra Veena has frets whereas the Vichitra Veena is a fretless zither. Their production of sound is the main difference. Playing a fretless instrument , especially with a slide , has to have precision by micrometers in order to get the right notes. Even a minute deviation from the exact place will render it out of tune.This is the reason that makes playing the fast passages in the Vichitra Veena a rather difficult task. But the musical pieces played in it at a poised and slow pace , are very rich and full of tonal beauty.
Manufacturing the Vichitra Veena is a very laborious work and it is also very expensive. Not many instrument makers can be found today who can take up this tedious job.
Nirmal Joshi ( Courtesy: Wah Bharat )