Yazh



Keywords: yazh
Description: The subject for the conference relates to Carnatic music. Nevertheless, in tracing the history of stringed instruments, we have to go back many thousands of years when there was no division like

The subject for the conference relates to Carnatic music. Nevertheless, in tracing the history of stringed instruments, we have to go back many thousands of years when there was no division like Carnatic and Hindustani music in our country.

From the Sastras, Puranas and temple sculptures, we have considerable information on stringed instruments. The Sastras state that the Saptaswaras were born from the five faces of Lord Siva. Nada is Siva's body and Lord Vishnu is the breath in the body. The Puranas state that Goddess Saraswati plays the Vina, Goddess Mahalakshmi plays Khanjira, Mahavishnu, the Mridangam, Lord Krishna, the Flute, Nandi, the Maddalam, Sage Narada, the (Mahati) Vina and Sage Tumburu, the Yazh.

Further, it is said that Hanuman and Ravana were exponents of the Vina. All this information is available through sculptures in temples all over India.
  • STRINGED INSTRUMENTS

Research indicates that the sound that came from the tightly strung bow gave rise to the birth of stinged instrument. We can give the instance of an event described in an ancient Tamil text by Kannanar which states that a hunter, using the hollow branch of a tree as the bent rib with strong vegetable fibres (like hempen cord) as strings, fashioned a bow to strum notes to support joyous vocal music.

That the primitive man, who had hunted with the bow and arrow to kill birds and animals, later came round to utilize the same bow to play music, is a matter of pride for humanity. But combined with this pride is an uneasy doubt that violence and music were in a way linked!

By nature, human beings look for companions. One needs the support of the other. This supportive feature is reflected in our music also. The "Adhara sruti " (fundamental note) is a basic concept and necessity in Indian music. This gave rise to the stringed instrument called Tuntina as a support to the singer. Variations of Tuntina are instruments like Ektar and Eka Nadam. Religious devotees, wanderers and gypsies use these even now. Saints like Surdas and Meerabai also used one such variation to support their singing. These instruments later developed into Tamboori and Tanpura (or Tambura). Thus, as Adhara sruti is to music, so is the Tanpura to the singer.

As human intelligence, art and culture developed, the need for an instrument to support the human voice was percieved as a necessity. It was in response to this need that the Tuntina and Ektaar were fashioned out of the Yazh. In Sanskrit, the string of a bow is calle ‘Jya ’. Accordingly, it is held that bow-yazh was the first type of yazh (as stated by some research scholars). I disagree with the view that ‘jya ’ is the same as yazh. It is noted that the yazh did not develop under the circumstances in which Ektaar developed to support Sruti.

The Vina denotes stinged instruments in general in Sanskrit and the Yazh is the Tamil term for stringed instruments. Many of us will have noticed the figure of the pre-historic "Yali" in temple sculptures. It was this practice, which brought in the face of the animal in stinged instuments also. Some scholars even hold that yali and yazh are related and that the yali precedes the yazh.

The Makara Vina, Narada Vina and Maha Vina as mentioned in Sanskrit texts, correspond to ‘Maha yazh’, ‘Narada yazh’ and ‘Adi Kalattu Periyazh’ respectively in Tamil. The many names given to Vina and Yazh in the various Sanskrit works on stringed insruments are given below:

Types of Yazh:
  1. Adi yazh: A 1000-stringed yazh used for chasing away animals and rakshasa-s in forests.
  2. Narada periyazh: A 1000-stringed yazh, in the shape of a triangle. This instument had Mandara, Madhya and Tara sthayi (3-octave range) strings.
  3. Adi kala periyazh: A 100-stringed instrument.
  4. Periyazh: A 21-stringed instrument.
  5. Seeriyazh: A stringed instrument with 7 or 9 strings. It is stated that the instrumentalist playing Periyazh was known as "Banan" and that his wife (known as "Padini") played the Seeriyazh.
  6. Makara Yazh: A 17-stringed instrument.
  7. Sakoda yazh: A 16-stringed instrument.
  8. Sengotti yazh: A 7-stringed instrument. As in the present-day Vina, it had 4 main strings and 3 strings for tala.
  9. Tumuru yazh: A 9-stringed intrument.
  10. Kichaka yazh: A 100-stringed yazh.
  11. Maruttuva yazh: This was a single stringed insrument capable of presenting 62 types of notes and known as Deva yazh.
  12. Kurinji yazh, Palai yazh, Maruda yazh and Mullai yazh: Corresponding to the 4 regions of ancient Tamil landscape.
  13. Vallaki yazh : It is said that Brihaspati used to play on this type of yazh.
  14. Killai yazh: This instument had a face like that of a parrot.
Types of Vina:
  1. Audumbari Vina and Pichola Vina: It is learnt that while the rishi articulates the relevant mantras during a Yaga (sacrifice), his wife played the mantras on these Vinas.
  2. Maha Vina: A 100-stringed instrument. This used strings made of darba (called Munja ). During the course of a Yaga. the devotees and the Rig Veda / Sama Veda guru-s played the Veda mantra -s on this Vina.
  3. Katyayana Vina: A 100-stringed Vina.

Ganga Pillai of Tirunelveli, who has authored the compilation "Natanadi Vadya Ranjanam" has compiled the list of instruments associated with different Hindu Gods. Produced below is the list.






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