The Gottuvadhyam is a musical instrument that is used in Carnatic music and is seen generally in southern India. This distinctive instrument is usually singularly used in Carnatic music and thus is not seen in any other form of music. Gottuvadhyam, also known as Chitra Veena, Chitravina, Chitra Vina, Or Mahanataka Vina, bears a close resemblance with the Veena, held by goddess Saraswati. Unlike the Veena, the Gottuvadhyam is said to be a very complex musical device and not very easy to play. With a total of twenty-one strings and no frets, it takes several years to master this piece of instrument. Although it is very rare to see a live performance of the Gottuvadhyam there are a few concerts that showcase a live musical concert of this instrument that can be seen mainly in the southern parts of the country.
History of Instrument
The history of Gottuvadhyam still remains ambiguous as there is not much information on how and who created this instrument. It is said to be an exceptional instrument that has been in existence for more than hundred years. Though nothing is know of its exact beginning, it is argued that it was Sakharam Rao who actually re-introduced this instrument making minor changes to it and named it Gottuvadhyam. Being an ardent music lover he excelled in classical music and was fascinated by this instrument and was seen learning to play and make several changes to this instrument. In the following years he mastered the instrument and was soon giving many solo performances. In the years to come Sakharam Rao became an inspiration to many upcoming artisans who also played a small but significant role in their contributions towards the popularization of this music.
The Gottuvadhyam is said to be very similar to the Veena and sitar for two main reasons. The tuning of the instrument is said to be identical to the sitar, while its appearance very much resembles the Veena. The navachitravina that was created by Vidwan N. Ravikiran is also said to be a variation of the original Gottuvadhyam. Although it bears resemblance to the Veena, the Gottuvadhyam is very different with regard to the sound, compositions and the position in which it is held.
The Gottuvadhyam is not as famous as other traditional instruments such as sitar, flute, violin, tabla, etc. There not many people who actually play the Gottuvadhyam even in the south so it's quite obvious that there are not many festivals that are solely dedicated to this instrument. But since the Gottuvadhyam is considered to be an off-shoot of veena, there are chances that you can catch up on a music recital by Gottuvadhyam in some the veena festivals. Take a look at the national Veena festival and the Thyagaraja Utsavam if you are lucky they might showcase a live performance of this unique musical instrument. Otherwise watch the movie "The Music of the Gods", a short film on the different kinds of Veena. It includes the music of the Gottuvadhyam as well.
Famous Instrument Players
The Gottuvadhyam has very few players who have not only created an inimitable piece of music that distinguished them from the other Carnatic musicians but are also pioneers of this instrument. Sakharam Rao, K S Narayana Iyengar, T. Brinda and Gayathri Kassebaum are some of the well known and famous Gottuvadhyam players.