The venu ( in Sanskrit), often called flute in English is a bamboo transverse flute used in the Carnatic music of South India.Venu is the instrument's ancient Sanskrit name. It is also called by various other names in the languages of South India, including pullankuzhal (புல்லாங்குழல்) in Tamil, ಕೊಳಲು (koLalu) in Kannada.
One of the oldest musical instruments of India, the instrument is a keyless transverse flute made of bamboo. The fingers of both hands are used to close and open the holes. It has a blowing hole near one end, and eight closely placed finger holes. The instrument comes in various sizes. The shorter the length, sharper the tones and vice versa.
The venu is capable of producing two and half octaves with the help of overblowing and cross fingering. Sliding the fingers on and off the holes combined with co -ordinated breathing allows for a great degree of ornamentation, important to the Carnatic music system.
The flute (Venu) finds great mention in Indian mythology and folklore having been listed as amongst the 3 original instruments meant for music along with the Saraswati veena and mridangam (veena-venu-mridanga trinity). The venu is associated with the Hindu god Krishna, who is often depicted playing it. This kind of flute is mainly used in South India.
Until the late 19th century, the Carnatic flute, a 8-hole bamboo flute, the South Indian equivalent of the North Indian 6-hole bansuri flute, had never been used in Carnatic concerts. Sarabha Sastri has been characterized by his followers as a musical genius after experimenting and creating the Carnatic flute. He is also known for bringing the Carnatic flute to the fore of Carnatic music concerts as an influential instrument.