Zil-e-Huma Akram Khosa
Lecturer Fine Arts
Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University Quetta
The present research entitled ‘’ Sitar the Musical instrument of Indo Pak it will shed light on history, tuning the Sitar and its style as well as the making of Sitar. It has always had a considerable mystique among musicians. It also has an undeserved reputation for being difficult to play. Natives traditionally have the deepest respect for the instrument . Sitar is known to be the instrument that is a vehicle for musical ideas and thoughts, it should be perceived with the huge respect and affection. That is why it is ultimately important to take the instrument with humanity and spiritual references in order to cultivate a spiritually full attitude towards the outer world.
Historical Background of Sitar
Sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Hindustani music and music. Its sound evokes thoughts and feelings of the sub-continent. More than three hypotheses are prevalent among the musicologists regarding the origin of the Sitar. Since none of these has been unanimously accepted, there has been a lot of confusion regarding its origin.
The main hypotheses related to the thirteenth century poet, Amir Khusarau, of Allauddin Khilji’s court. Perhaps the legend that the instrument was invented by Hazrat Amir khusarau (1253-1325 AD) the scholar, legendary poet and musicologist .In second volume of his book Ejaz -e-Khusravi he mentioned 26 musical instruments. It is a fact that Amir Khusarau has not mentioned the Sitar as a musical instrument in any of his works. According to the writings of Dr. Muhammad Mirza” unfortunately I was not been able to trace the name sitar, anywhere in Khusraus writing although there are pages full of the description of the various instrument used in his time, nor does any of his contemporary, or even later writers mentioned the, name” (zaman 134) before this statement. Dr. Rageeb Husain also write such deception for the inventor of sitar. Some scholars who do not agree with the Khusarau’s hypothesis they have tried to link it with the tri tantric veena, which was called Jantra by the common people, and was popular among the musicians of fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Dr Suneera Kashiwal proposes Prof.Lal Mani Mishra in her book” when the Central Asians came to India, they saw the tri tantri veena and found it hard to pronounce tri Thus; they gave it a Persian name sehtar which gradually became Sitar”. Another theory has the Sitar growing the veena but it’s different from of sarasvati veena. Sitar is easier to handle and is more portable then veena.
The twentieth century can be called the golden era of the sitar. Hundreds of artists and craftsmen have contributed to the process of the development of the sitar. Starting in India and Pakistan from Ustad Masit Khan, Rahim Sen, Amrit Sen and Dulhe Khan, were the trendsetters. Highly talented sitar players Sahabdad Khan and his descendants Imdad Khan and Inayt Khan, Ghulam Raza Khan, Ali Raza Khan, Pannalal Bajpeyi of Porab gharana, are well known for their immense contribution to the substantial and technical enhancement of sitar. Stalwarts like Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Om Shankar Misra, Abdul Haleem Jaffar Khan, Rais Khan,Ustad Muzaffar Akbar Khan, and many others have carved a special niche for the instrument in the world of music.
Sitar in oxford English dictionary known as ý ýinstrument with three strings”
Sitar also known as Tritan, tri meaning an instrument which has three strings (a variety of veena with three strings.In persion seh means three and tar meaning string
Type of Sitar
There are various types of Sitar:
- Kachhava Sitar
Among the ordinary sitar another type of sitar which was quite in vogue till the 1950s was the Kachhap sitar or Kachva sitar. It was like an ordinary sitar, the only difference being that the resonator was flat instead of round in shape.
- Vilayat Khan Sitar
This name comes after the renowned sitar and musical legend this Sitar typically features just one gourd, while the top one is eliminated. This type of Sitar is producing a fuller and more chordal sound quality
- Ravi Shankar Sitar
This type of sitar had 12 to 14 sympathetic strings and bass melody strings. This type of sitar also boasts a second small pumpkin that is attached near the top of its neck. The Ravi Shankar sitar is constructed with two extra bass strings. As a result, these types of sitars produce a deep, bass-filled sound. Typically, this type of sitar boasts a top dried gourd at the top of its neck, which serves as a second resonating chamber. However, Ravi Shankar sitars feature an additional upper gourd that is attached to the rear of the headstock.
- Bass Sitar or Surbahar
The Surbahar, or bass sitar, is a larger type of sitar that typically employs very thick strings and a much wider neck. The surbahar sports a broader fret-board, as well. This type of sitar offers a deeper tonal quality, as well. Among sitar enthusiasts, this type of sitar is considered much more difficult to play than other types.
- Electric Sitar
Electric Sitar is a kind of electric guitar designed to impersonate the sound of the Sitar, a traditional musical instrument of India. These instruments bear varying degrees of resemblance to the traditional Sitar. Most resemble the electric guitar in the style of the body and headstock.
Tuning the Sitar
There are a number of options in tuning the Sitar. Even the same instrument will be tuned differently from piece to piece, according to the requirements of the rag.
Parts of Sitar
The Sitar consisted of different parts:
The kuntis are the tuning pegs. These are simple friction pegs. The Sitar has two kuntis: large kuntis and smaller Kunti. The large is for the main strings and smaller kuntis which are used for the sympathetic strings. The larger kuntis come in three styles, fluted simple and lotus.
Baj Tar Ki Kunti
One of the most important kunti is the baj tar ki kunti. This is the one used for the main playing string. This one will be used more than any other.
There are a number of strings on the sitar which are strummed but not fretted; these are referred to as drone strings. Two of the kuntis (pegs) control special drone strings, these are referred to as the Chikari. These two strings are raised above the neck on two camel bone pegs, these pegs are known as Moraga. There are other drone strings which continue all the way down the neck. These drone strings are important to the musical performance. During a normal performance, these strings will occasionally be struck to provide a tonic base for the piece. The chikari are especially important in a style of playing known as Jhala.
Many Sitars have a gourd which is attached to the neck. This is known as Tumba. Not all Sitars have a Tumba.
A Tar is a string. There is the number of strings on the Sitar. Numbers may vary, but 18 is a common number. These strings fall into one of three classes; there are the drone strings (previously described), the sympathetic strings, and the playing strings. The playing strings are the strings which are actually fretted to produce melodies. It comes as a surprise to many newcomers to this music that only one to four strings are actually played to produce a melody. In most cases there are really only two playing strings. These are the two strings located furthest from the sympathetic strings.
The absolute furthest string is referred to as the baj tar which literally means “the playing string”. Virtually all of the playing is done on this one string.
The Tarafdar are the sympathetic strings. They are almost never strummed, yet they vibrate whenever the corresponding note is played on the playing string. They are located underneath the frets, so fretting them to produce a melody is impossible.
Dandi is the neck of the sitar.
These are the frets. These are metal rods which are bent and tied to the neck with fishing line. Although they are held firmly in place, they may be adjusted to correct the pitch. There are two parda’s the Re and the Dha, which require constant adjustment as one move from raag to raag.
The Gulu is a wooden cowl that connects the neck to the resonator. Although it does not command much attention for the casual observer, it is actually one of the most important parts of the instrument. It is a common problem on sitars for this part to be weak, especially where it meets the neck. If this is too weak then the whole instrument goes out of pitch anytime one meends (bend the note by pulling the string laterally across the fret). This is very annoying and is definitely a mark of inferior workmanship.
Bada Ghoraj (Main Bridge)
The Bada Ghoraj also known as jawara, or jawari, is similar in construction to the chota Ghoraj. This is used for the playing strings and the drone strings. It is raised to allow the sympathetic strings to pass beneath.
The Chota Ghoraj, also known as the taraf ka Ghoraj or jawari, is a small flat bridge for the sympathetic strings. The highest quality ones are made of antelope horn. However, the high cost of this material makes them very rare. The most common material for fabricating them is camel bone. Camel bone is a very usual material that is used as a common substitute for ivory.
The tab kandi, also known as the tabali is the face plate. It is extremely important in determining the tone of the instrument. If this is too thin, it will produce a loud sound but a very poor sustain. Conversely if it is too thick, it will improve the sustain but at the cost of a weaker sound. It is very important that this would be clear and consistent. Any knot-holes are a definite weakness in the instrument.
There are several tuning beads on the sitar. These allow minor adjustments in pitch to be made without having to go the large tuning pegs (Kunti).
The Kaddu is the resonator. This seems like nothing but a gourd. These are extremely delicate and must be protected against shock at all times.
Sitar is played in a sitting position on the floor. The pumpkin body rests upon the musician’s foot and the instrument is held in a way that the neck is in a slanted position of about 45 degrees in front of the player. The playing strings that run across the large bridge are plucked using a wire finger pick on the right index finger. The resonant strings that run across the small bridge vibrate automatically without being plucked. The left hand fingers the melody on the frets. The strings are not only pressed down on the frets but also pulled to the right. This technique makes the incredible variety of ornamentation and microtones possible that is so essential in Sitar.
Measurements and Making of Sitar
Makers also contributed a great deal to its development sitar-making are a very individualized craft. Every craftsman is going to have his own individual explanation. The sitar can be divided into two parts: the fingerboard and the Resonator. The total length of the sitar is approximately four or four-and-a-quarter feet. The fingerboard is about three feet long, about three-and-a- quarter to three-and-a-half inches wide, and three-and-a- half inch in diameter. The fingerboard, called Dandi, is made preferably of tun wood, and is hollow from inside. However Dand made of teak wood is also common. Pegs are fixed for the main strings on one end of the Dand and the other end is fixed to the Tumba or the resonator by means of a joint called Gulu. The resonator made of gourd is hollow from inside and is covered with a wooden plate called tabli. The gourd, the wooden plank and the joint Gulu are the most important parts of the instrument forming the main resonating chamber. The Tabli acts as the soundboard upon which the two bridges, one for the main playing strings and the other, a smaller one, for sympathetic strings, are fixed. There are seven main playing strings and eleven to thirteen sympathetic strings. These strings are tied with a nail-shaped string holder called langot at the lower end and that pass through the fingerboard. The five main strings go through another bridge called meru or aad at the upper end before being finally tied up to their respective pegs, whereas the sympathetic strings pass through the little holes drilled into the covering of the fingerboard to their respective pegs fixed on the right side of the sitar. The two chikari strings have their pegs fixed on the side portion of the fingerboard below the peg box and just before the sympathetic string pegs; these strings rest on two small pins made of bone or stag horn which act as the bridge for these chikari strings. The main bridge of the sitar called Ghurach is one of its vital parts. It is flat in shape, and its length, width and height are about eight centimeter, three and two centimeters respectively. The bridge used for sympathetic strings is rather small in size and fixed just before the main bridge. Both of these and the upper bridges (meru) are made of stag horn or camel bone. The point where the strings touch the main bridge is actually responsible for the tonal quality of the sitar, and thus, special care is taken to ensure that the surface does not get a mark or a groove because of the continuous pressure of the main playing strings. If this point gets abrased, the surface is filed. This filing is called javari setting, and it is a very skilled and technical task which can be performed only by an experienced person.The sitar has nineteen to twenty frets tied with the silk or nylon thread on the fingerboard. However, the number of frets is not fixed and is variable. Three to four mankas (beads) for fine tuning are put into the strings.
The second resonator is either made of a gourd or of wood, but in any case it is detachable. Till the middle of the twentieth century sitar without tarabs was very popular, but lately this practice has become quite rare.
Hence, the Sitar Mulism invasions in India starting from the early eighth century to fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, from the north- western front, exposed Indians to the music, literature and social customs of Turkish, Persian and central Asian cultures. Around this time the instrument called tambur or tanbur appeared on the Indian music scenario. Ameer Khusarau described the tambur as having four strings, two of silk and two of metal. In Ain-i-Akbari, four tambur players are included among the thirty-six listed musicians of the court of Akbar. A variety of tanbur with three strings instead of four is termed as Seh-tar.
Baj Tar ki kunti The main string tuning peg
Chikaris String tuning pegs.
Dandi The neck of the Sitar
Kadu Ka Tumba The body of the Sitar
Frets Fret is a raised element on the neck of a string instrument
Frection pegs Frection peg is used to hold a string in the peg box
Gullu Gullu is a wooden cowl that connects the neck to the resonator
Ghurach Bridge of Sitar
Jantra Tri Tantric Veena
Jhala Technique of Sitar
Jawari Small flat Bridge for the sympathetic strings.
Kunti Tuning pegs
Kaddu is the resonator
Langot Nail-shaped string holder
Melody Tune of Music
Mogaras Camel bone pegs
Sarasvati Hindu goddess
Sehtar Persian three string instrument
Tarafdar Thin wire string sympathetic string
Tumba optional part of the sitar
Tanbur long neck string instrument
Tri tantric veena Jantra in Medieval times and also known as tri-tantrika
Tonic base Music
Veena Plucked string instrument