To think of the Carnatic scene without the violin is almost impossible today. Introduced by Baluswami Dikshitar in early 19th century, it has caught the imagination of the connoisseurs and the lay, with its volume, continuity, capacity to produce the finer nuances of Carnatic music, not to mention, its compactness. Except in very few cases, it is now regarded as the main melodic accompaniment both in vocal and instrumental concerts (except in Nagaswaram concerts). It occupies an exalted position as a solo instrument too. The violin used in Carnatic music is almost identical to the Western violin but differs with respect to tuning and playing posture. 


Construction: The science of violin-making has been mastered by the Westerners to a high level of perfection. Its body is made of pine or maple wood. The front of the violin is slightly elevated at the centre while the back is straight. The f - holes on the face of the violin help in spreading the air enclosed in the body of the violin in a uniform manner. The other important part is the sound post fixed at the right foot of the bridge, kept in a tight position, between the front and back of the violin. The finger-board, the tail piece and the button are made of ebony. The button is at the centre of the rib on top of the violin to which the tail piece is attached or hooked by guts or wire. There are four tuning pegs, which are placed on either side of the neck. The strings are made of gut and steel, the former for lower octaves and the latter for higher. The bow, again, is made in a very scientific a manner. Made of Brazilian wood, it has a slight bent or curve in the centre. About 175 to 260 white horse-hairs are laid evenly side by side and are kept in correct tension by manipulating the screw at the end of the bow. 

Tuning: The tuning is adapted to suit the needs of Carnatic music. From first to last, the strings are tuned to Mandra Sthayi Sa, Mandra Sthayi Pa, Madhya Sthayi Sa and Madhya Sthayi Pa. The usual pitch for solo concerts is between 2 1/2 and 3 kattai (D# and E), but varies during accompaniment, according to the pitch of the main artiste.

Posture: It is traditionally played, sitting cross-legged, with the scroll placed on the artiste's right ankle. The back of the violin rests on the left shoulder (collar bone or chest), thus giving the performer the necessary grip to play the various ornamentations in Carnatic music.


Musical Expressions