Yazh : Introduction

The yazh (Tamil: யாழ், also transliterated yaaḻ) is an harp used in ancient Tamil music which was the ancestor of modern day veena. It was named so, because the tip of stem of this instrument was carved into the head of the mythological animal Yali. It was an open-stringed polyphonous instrument, with gut strings (narambu) with a wooden boat-shaped skin-covered resonator and an ebony stem.

How to play Yazh?


Historical descriptions

Thiruvalluvar, the 200 BC Tamil poet, mentions yazh in his work Thirukkural. Many major Tamil classical literary masterpieces written during Sangam period dating back 200 BC have mentioned the yazh. Silappatikaram, written by a Tamil king Ilango Adigal, mentions four kinds of yazhs:

1. Periyazh, 21 strings
2. Makarayazh, 19 strings
3. Cakotayazh, 14 strings
4. Cenkottiyazh, 7 strings

Other types of yazh are:

1. Mayil Yazh – resembling a peacock
2. Vil Yazh – resembling a bow

The Tamil literature Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai says the strings of a this instrument  should not have any twists in them. Silappatikaram mentions four types of defects in this instrument. Other Tamil literature which have mentions on this instrument are Seevaga Sindhamani and Periya Puranam. this instrument are seen in sculptures in the Darasuram and Thirumayam temples in Tamil Nadu and also in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh. Swami Vipulananda has written a book of scientific research in Tamil called the Yal Nool