The vichitra veena, an exquisite instrument and a contemporary rendition of the ancient ektantri veena, graces the realm of North Indian classical music with its ethereal melodies produced through the art of plucking its strings. Often regarded as the epitome of beauty and musicality, the term “Vichitra” signifies its distinctiveness and peculiarity. With an illustrious lineage dating back to the Vedic Period, the Vichitra-Veena has undergone numerous transformations in its construction and playing techniques, evolving from its predecessors, such as the “Ghoshwati,” “Ghoshika,” or “Brahma-Veena.”
During the early 20th century, the Vichitra-Veena was known as the “Batta-been,” referring to the Veena played using a round, smooth mass of stone called “Batta.” However, due to the instrument’s challenging playing technique, descendants of Tansen, the renowned musician, favored the “Rudra-Veena” and the “Rabab,” causing the Vichitra-Veena to fade into obscurity within the classical music scene of India. Despite its rarity today, there is a resurgent interest in this captivating instrument among avid music lovers, partly thanks to Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan’s efforts in popularizing it.
Traditionally, the Vichitra veena measures approximately five feet in length and weighs around 5 to 7 kilograms. However, the ancient style of this instrument’s construction rendered it bulky and less appealing to aspiring musicians, resulting in its dwindling popularity. Recognizing this challenge, Dr. Radhika Veenasadhika took it upon herself to innovate and create the smallest version of the Vichitra Veena—a marvel that not only retains its enchanting sound but is also incredibly portable.
Dr. Radhika’s groundbreaking innovation has sparked a renewed enthusiasm for the Vichitra Veena, attracting numerous students eager to explore its melodic possibilities under her tutelage. As reported by The Times of India, her unwavering commitment to making the Vichitra Veena more accessible to younger musicians has led to the introduction of an improvised and lighter version of the instrument. DNA India highlights Dr. Radhika’s musical sensibilities, which seamlessly blend the archaic nature of her instrument with a modern flair. Through meticulous craftsmanship and personalized modifications, she has unlocked the potential for faster taans, a feat previously regarded as challenging to achieve on the vichitra veena.