Alpini vina and eka-tantri vina

  (Redirected from Ālāpiṇī vīṇā)

The ālāpiṇī vīṇā and the eka-tantrī vīṇā were medieval stick-zither and tube-zither veenas in India, with single strings and gourd resonators. The instruments became prominent in Indian music after 500 C.E. as instruments of court music. They replaced the harp-style veenas and lute-style veenas. The instruments were used in Southeast Asia, both mainland and island nations, and were recorded in sculpture and relief sculpture.

India, Ellora Caves, cave 21, 7th-8th century C.E. Shiva with an ālāpiṇī vīṇā.

Although the tube zithers and stick zithers are very similar, it is possible that they have different origins. Early paintings of stick zithers in India date back at least to the 5th century C.E. The earliest currently known stick zither is in the Caves of Ajanta at the end of the 5th century.[1] After a period of assuming that tube zithers spread from India to Southeast Asia, modern scholars have been trying to decide if the tube zithers might have originated in Southeast Asia and spread to India. Whatever the origins, Indian influence on musical culture in Southeast Asia is recorded in the archaeological remains of past civilizations.[2][3][4]

Identifying ālāpiṇī vīṇās and eka-tantrī vīṇāsEdit

Bangladesh, Pala period 10th-12th century C.E. Saraswati with a tube zither, an ālāpiṇī vīṇā.[3]
Sarasvati with fretted eka-tantri vina or possibly kinnari vina. The top has an apparent makara or yali.
Madras, 1876. Kinnari vina labeled "tingadee." The spike is a bridge, directing string energy to resonator.
The ālāpiṇī vīṇā, eka-tantri vina and kinnari vina were all mentioned in the 12th-13th century book Sangita Ratnakara by Śārṅgadeva.[2] Different symbolism appears on the instruments over time. Some kinnari's in museums seem to have bird-related carvings and feathers on the ends. Some alapini vinas and eka-tantri vinas have very styled ends that resemble the heads of monsters, similar to Makaras or Yalis.

Instruments in paintings and sculpture are not generally labeled, and researchers have had to apply the names ālāpiṇī vīṇā and eka-tantrī vīṇā to different instruments. Based on definitions from Indian literature, the unifying criteria is that both have a single string and a gourd resonator. The literature includes the Nāṭyaśāstra (written sometime between 2nd century B.C.E. - 3rd century C.E.) by Bharata Muni and the Sangita Ratnakara (written 1210 - 1247 AD) by Śārṅgadeva.[3] For the alapini vina Śārṅgadeva described an instrument 36 inches long, the rod 2 inches in circumference. The cup (tumba) was made from coconut, and its string was reportedly made of silk, producing a delicate sound.[5]

Researchers Piyal Bhattacharya and Shreetama Chowdhury described the eka-tantrī vīṇā as being a larger instrument, with a bigger "tube" (appears from examples to mean longer) and bigger gourd, compared to the ālāpiṇī vīṇā, which they described as a stick zither. The researchers looked at where the instrument's gourd was placed while playing; they indicated instruments with the gourd over the shoulder were eka-tantrī vīṇās and those pressed against the chest were ālāpiṇī vīṇās.[3]

Ethnomusicologist Patrick Kersale applied the label ekatantri to a 10th century tube zither from the Pala Empire, a long instrument with a squared base and raised bridge-like piece (that lengthened the time the string would sound). Like on the modern pinaka vina a stick was slid on the string to determine the notes.[6] The purpose of the bridge may also have been to create a "buzzing" quality to the note (known in Indian classical music as jivari.[2]

The writers for the vīnā entry in the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments called the ālāpiṇī vīṇā a stick zither, in which the stick might be a bamboo or wooden tube. They focused on how the vinas were played. The gourd on the ālāpiṇī vīṇā was cut to form a cup or bowl, the opening of which could be placed against the musician's body while playing, creating a "closed resonance chamber". On the eka-tantrī vīṇā and later Kinarri vina the gourd (bottom intact) used for the resonance chamber rested over the musician's shoulder. These latter two might have a second or third gourd added further down, creating the modern kinarri vina and rudra veena[2]


When playing the musician could press the cut off side of the gourd into their chest; in modern versions such as the Cambodian Kse Diev, the musician tightens and loosens the gourd to their chest to change tone. The player holds the instrument with their left hand; this limits his ability to move the hand to one stop on the string. While plucking with the right hand, the player uses their forefinger to lightly touch the string for more notes.[2]

Stick zithersEdit

The instruments were recorded in sculpture and relief sculpture in Sambor Prei Kuk in the 7th century C.E., Borobudur in the 9th century C.E., the Pala Empire in the 10th—12th centuries C.E., Bayon in the 13th century, and Angkor Wat in the 16th century.

Instruments using the ālāpiṇī vīṇā's style of pressing to the players chest can be seen in to Southeast Asia. Examples can be seen in ruins from Malayan culture at Borobudur and Cambodian culture at Angkor Wat. Modern instruments related to it or using a similar half-gourd resonance system include the Cambodian kse diev, Thai phin namtao and Indian tuila (among tribes in Jharkhand and Odisha).[2][3] These instruments have different features; some like the kse muoy have an extra gourd or the phin namtoa multiple strings. This may be seen as "evidence" that the ālāpiṇī vīṇā developed into other instruments.[3]

At least one example of the chest-pressed Southeast Asian zithers has been found in artwork with a second gourd, in Bayon. The instruments were played in the same style as the zithers with a single gourd.[7] These instruments are thus linked to the ālāpiṇī vīṇā for the method of playing them, and to the eka-tantrī vīṇā for the addional gourd, a path that led to the rudra vina in India.

Tube zithersEdit


  1. ^ "The History".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Alastair Dick; Gordon Geekie; Richard Widdess (1984). "Vina, section 4 Medieval stick zithers". In Sadie, Stanley (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. pp. 729–730. Volume 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Piyal Bhattacharya; Shreetama Chowdhury (January–March 2021). "How the Ancient Indian Vīṇā Travelled to Other Asian Countries: A Reconstruction through Scriptures, Sculptures, Paintings and Living Traditions" (PDF). National Security. Vivekananda International Foundation. 4 (1): 50–53.
  4. ^ Louise Wrazen (Autumn–Winter 1986). "The Early History of the Vīṇā and Bīn in South and Southeast Asia". Asian Music. University of Texas Press. 18 (1): 37–42.
  5. ^ "Varieties of Veena". SARASWATHI VEENA(SARASWATI VEENA). [translation placed online of parts of the Sangeeta Ratnakara of Sarngadeva]
  6. ^ "Fretted zither". Sounds of Angkor.
  7. ^ Patrick Kersale. "Double-resonator zither".
  8. ^ Kersalé, Patrick. "Monochord zither". Retrieved 13 July 2019. Angkor Wat, north gallery. 16th century

External linksEdit