Of all the modern stringed instruments in vogue in India, the vichitra veena seems to be one of comparatively recent origin. It is used mostly in the north and is a rare instrument. In general appearance and structure, the vichitra veena is very similar to the northern bin or veena. For an instrument so young, it is fairly widespread. The main difference between the northern veena and the vichitra veena is that the former is a fretted instrument with a bamboo stem while the vichitra veena has a much broader and stronger wooden stem without frets which can accommo¬date the large number of main and sympathetic strings.
This hollow stem, about three feet long and about six inches wide, with a flattop and a rounded bottom, is placed on two large gourds about a foot and a half in diameter. An ivory bridge covering the entire width of the stem is placed at one end. Six main strings made of brass and steel run the whole length of the stem and are fastened to wooden pegs fixed to the other end. The vichitra veena has about twelve sympathetic strings of varying lengths which run parallel to and under the main strings. They are usually tuned to reproduce the scale of the raga which is being played. The vichitra veena is played by means of wire plectums (mizrabs) worn on the fingers of the right hand which pluck the strings near the bridge.
The notes are stopped with a piece of rounded glass, rather like a paper weight. The musician slides the glass piece from one note to another over the strings by holding it in his left hand. It is rather difficult to play fast passages on the vichitra veena but slow passages emerge on this instru¬ment with a beauty and richness of tone which few other instruments possess. The obvious disadvantage of this instrument is that a paper weight can never do what human fingers can.
And so, some of the delicate graces and embellishments in very fast passages have to be sacrificed. The vichitra veena has these advantages in common with the gottuvadyam of the south. It is said that the Vichitra veena was introduced by the late Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan who was a court musician at Indore. In fashioning the instrument, Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan, during his musical contacts with the south, pro¬bably took his ideas from the southern gottuvadyam which was already popular.