The gottuvadyam is one of the imporŹtant concert instruments of the stringed variety in the south. It is similar to the southern veena, the main difference being that unlike the veena it has no frets. The pear-shapped bowl of the gottuvaŹdyam is Scooped out of a block of wood. While the northern vichitra veena is built on the same principle as the gottuvadyam, the heavier body of the latter gives a deeper and rounder tone than the vichitra veena. The gottuvadyam consists of six main strings which pass over the bridge placed on the top of the bowl. There are three side strings for the drone and rhythmic effect. The instrument is also provided with a few sympathetic strings which pass over a small bridge beneath the main bridge.
The music is played by moving a cylindrical piece of heavy polished wood or horn over the strings. The gottuvadyam has a range of four to four and a half octaves. Raga alapana, tanam, pallavi and all other musical forms that are possible on the southern Veena can be rendered on this instrument. Most of the gamakas and graces can be brought out beautifully.
The gottuvadyam is primarily an insŹtrument for solo playing. It has been in vogue in southern India for the past 70 or 80 years. It was brought into vogue by the famous musician Sakharam Rao of Tiruvidaimarudur a village on the banks of the river Kaveri. It was further popularised all over India by a palace musician of Mysore, Narayana Iyengar, who used to call the instrument mahaŹnataka veena. Tanjavoor in the south is noted for the manufacture of this instrument which is produced here with elaborate ornaŹmentation and silver mounting.