The yazh (Tamil: யாழ், also transliterated yāḻ) (pronounced yarl where the l sound here is unique to Tamil language) is a harp used in ancient Tamil music which was the ancestor of modern-day veena. A closely related word yali (யாழி முகம்) refers to any structure, particularly front, that resembles the way the tip of stem of this instrument was carved into. The yazh was an open-stringed polyphonous instrument, with gut strings (narambu) with a wooden boat-shaped skin-covered resonator and an ebony stem.
The Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar mentions yazh in his work Thirukkural. Many major Tamil classical literary masterpieces written during Sangam period have mentioned the yazh. Silappatikaram, written by a Tamil Chera prince Ilango Adigal, mentions four kinds of yazhs:
- Periyazh – 21 strings
- Makarayazh – 19 strings
- Cakotayazh – 14 strings
- Cenkottiyazh – 7 strings
- (Tamil: ,
மதிமலி புரிசை மாடக் கூடற் பதிமிசை நிலவு பால்நிற வரிச்சிற கன்னம் பயில்பொழில் ஆல வாயில் மன்னிய சிவன்யான் மொழிதரு மாற்றம்
பருவக் கொண்மூப் படியெனப் பாவலர்க் குரிமையின் உரிமையின் உதவி ஒளிதிகழ் குருமா மதிபுரை குலவிய குடைக்கீழ்ச் செருமா உகைக்குஞ் சேரலன் காண்க பண்பா லியாழ்பயில் பாண பத்திரன்
தன்போல் என்பால் அன்பன் தன்பால் காண்பது கருதிப் போந்தனன் மாண்பொருள் கொடுத்து வரவிடுப் பதுவே
Other types of yazh are:
The Tamil book Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai says the strings of a yazh should not have any twists in them, and the Silappatikaram lists four types of defects in yazh.
Other Tamil literature which have mentions on yazh are Seevaga Sindhamani and Periya Puranam. Yazh are seen in sculptures in the Darasuram and Thirumayam temples in Tamil Nadu and also in Amaravathi village, Guntur district. Swami Vipulananda has written a book of scientific research in Tamil called the Yazh Nool.
The city of Jaffna is known in Tamil as Yazhpanam. A Sri Lankan Tamil legend recounts that a blind man Panan played on the Yazh so beautiful that he was given a land from a king, which he called after himself, literally meaning "town of harper".
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