Jump to content

Musical Instruments


Recommended Posts

It is believed that the Sikh Gurus created new musical instruments - Guru Arjan Dev Ji is said to have created the Sarinda - which is similar to the Sarangi - to accompany Shabad Gurbani. ( The Sarangi having negative associations with 'Mujaras')

Guru Gobind Singh is said to have created the Taus - a type of dilruba shaped like a peacock - 'taus' is the persian for peacock.

Bhai Mardana is renowed for his Rabab - the Rabab is said to have been created by 'Sikander Zulqarnein' - Alexander the Great - the Rabab is mentioned many times in Guru Granth Sahib.

I have a question was the rabab played by Bhai Mardana plucked or played with a bow ? In the pictures you can see the different types of Rabab - the one with a hourglass 'Waist' would probably be made that way to be played with a bow rather than plucked .

I would be grateful if anyone could answer - Many Thanks !

Here is a collection of pictures of Musicians and musical instruments -- Please feel free to add your thoughts.

Rare Musical instruments of Punjab


A Musical Sabha at Bhaini Sahib


A Pakhawaaj player at Bhaini Sahib


Bhai Pal Singh ( Bhai Amrik Singh Zakhmi Jatha ) playing the Dilruba


The Dilruba


An Afghan Rabab


A North African Rabab


The Sarinda


A Sarinda


Lucknow Sarangi


Sharief Idu - Sufi Dhadi - with Sarangi


The Santoor


The Esraj


Hindustani Rabab


Kashmiri Rabab


The Taus


The Pakhawaaj


*Ref - Folk Music & Musical Instruments of Punjab - Alka Pande - Mapin - 1999

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Rabab ( and barud dan - gunpowder flask) of Guru Hargobind Sahib


* from Sikh Heritage - Dr Daljeet - 2004

The Rabab of Guru Gobind Singh - Given by Guru Sahib along with a rifle to Maharaja Sidh Sen (1684-1727) of Suket Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. It is now kept in the Mandi Gurdwara .

Chris Mooney Singh - an Australian Sikh - is shown holding the Very Large carved Rabab - He is spearheading a 'Rabab and Tanti Saaj' Revival.


These Two rababs are said to be the only surviving rababs - used by the Guru Sahiban.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very good post freed. Spot on with all instruments.

With regards to ur q about rabab. There are sm references to rabab being bowed but most are dominated by the notion of it being a plucked lute. Examining the pics of 6th/10th guru linked rabab it indicates plucked or strummed. in fact most old dhrupad instruments were plucked but according to Sikh Musical traditions, vocal styles and variety of music trends used in Guru Granth Sahib it would have been hard to render some style of Dakhni or folk or Dhrupad on plucked rabab due its goonj not being as long as for instance a plucked been would do. This is because of it being gut stringed. Secondly it is the only instrument in Sikh history to be plucked. Nevertheless, history indicates otherwise and until further research is conducted (which is underway) we are yet to know.

p.s. hourglass shaped saaz is infact sarangi descendant as a pose to rababi.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear samprada Ji

Thank you for your reply and insight - it is much appreciated .

I have found this picture - I believe it is unique in showing Bhai Mardana playing an instrument with a bow - it looks like a Sarinda - though it could be a depiction of a Afghani Rabab.

It is painted in Mughal Style


Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana - Mughal Style portrait

* From 'Guru Nanak 5th Centenary Diary 1970'

Here is another Mughal style portrait - this one shows a younger Bhai Mardana playing the more usual 'Indian' Rabab


* From The Sikh Heritage - Dr Daljeet - 2004

This last photograph is a favourite of mine - A Buddha Dal Raagi


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some more Pictures !

The Beatles - 5 July 1966 New Delhi - George Harrison receiving some Sitar tuition from a Sikh.


Namdharis keeping the traditions alive


A Namdhari Classical Dancer


Surjit Singh playing the Sarangi and the Taus



* pictures from Chris Mooney Singh's website

Link to comment
Share on other sites

this is an image of my ustaad ranbir singh ji playing the taus, which is the persian name for peacock, this instrument was created and played by shri guru gobind singh ji, this is a beautiful looking instrument and better yet, the sound is very powerful and more resonating than a dilruba. teh dilruba is beleived to be a descendant of the taus, because of the reasons that the sikh warrioirs upon travelling place to place could not carry teh taus and fight batlles, so they asked guru ji to small it down abit thus the dilruba was created. guru ji cleverly combined the sitar an rabab an sarangi together to make this intrument.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Firstly let me say that this 'raising of awareness' is great, and much over due.

Thanks to the hard work of the naamdhari Sikhs we have been kick started into a revival of Gurmat Sangeet and Raag sangeet.

However we are only taking a small glimpse at Gurmat Sangeet. There are still major issues to consider in todays revival efforts.

As we are coming from a background of zero knowledge of Raag, then we must understand that as an audience we are very much rock bottom, therefore as a consequence we haven't the ability to really look closely at the revival attempt.

For instance, can any revival attempt (Naamdhari, Surinder Singh, etc...) be sure that what they are doing is reviving? Yes they are using Raag to sing shabads, however where have they learnt that knowledge from? Is it a genuine source of Gurbani Kirtan?

With regards to the instruments, are these rived instruments a good approximation of the original? A good example is Surinder Singhs attempt to revive the Sarindha, it can be easily seen that he has modified the original.

In short what i'm saying is, well done and best of luck with those who have started the revival, however as we progress theres some very serious issues that will need to be addressed. We are thankfully coming out and finally saying that the performance of Shabad kirtan outside raag is unacceptable, however we have just started something that is a long long line.

AT least now we can see it, tho it may be just on the horizon as yet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not an expert on Namdhari affairs - and do not wish to get into any 'controversies' - I'm just impressed by their dedication to Classical Indian Music, dance and culture.

The 'dancer' is NOT dancing to Gurbani - Namdharis are encouraged to participate in all Indian Classical forms of Dance and Music.

Namdharis have been taught by some of the best Ustads - such as Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shanta Prasad, Pandit Krishan Maharaj, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hari Prasad Churasia.- and there are many world renowed Namdhari artists - such as Kiranpal Singh the santoor player.

The Namdhari school of music at Bhaini Sahib (Ludhiana) was opened in 1928 - look how much has been achieved in less than 80 years - There is still hope for us !!!

We just need to make a concerted effort.

Anyone interested in Gurmatt Sangeet - check out this site


There is a music camp during the last weekend of July - there is also online tuition .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Considering the rababi tradition, I'd imagine Bhai Mardana would have played a kabuli style rabaab. The only problem with that hypothesis is that it is really hard to play good raag on something that is so noisy. You can see why the sarod was evolved as the kabuli rabaab, traditionally string with gut strings, is difficult to make meends with. There is obviously the larger rabaab, more suited to this, but quite cumbersome and I'd imagine to move around with! An interesting topic. Perhaps someone who knows more could answer this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the revival of sikh music!! there are so many people in trying to revive sikh music and gurmat sangeet but i agree that how do we know that the raags were original, we have people like bhai avtaar singh ji to thank because of the rich gurmat sangeet lineage and bhai baldeep singh who has done an immense amount of research and also professor surinder singh has also tried hard, there are alot of people working very hard, and alot of the raags are maintained to its true form, it maybe that some of the raags have been modified in a game of chinese whispers from passing down from the gurus raags but what is raag? just a mood, you think tht people who dont play classical instruments dont play raag!! you have to explore raag yourself and youll feel it! P.S raag is not a bunch of notes you really have to find it within.

if i have offended anyone please forgive this moorakh!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thus far, seven different forms of the rabab are present.

2 are played with a bow

5- a plectrum (jeel) made of coconut shell is used to pluck the gut strings.

Bowed Versions:

Kamaicha- only middle and higher octaves are played. 2 octave ranged instrument. That is becuase the chakki (sound box) is totally round withought a waist and doesn not allow an individual tangent with the bow on the strings except on the main string (baaj di taar) teh ghori (bridge) of teh kamaicha is flat at the top similar to teh dhrupadi rabab.

Saranda- has a beutiful waist and a curved top ghori alloing all the main strings (three in the smaller saranda and 4 in the bigger designed by guru amar das) to be played individually

Plucked Versions:

Dhrupadi rabab has two varients. first version is baout 3.5 length

second is 4.2 feet in in length.

Guru Gobins singhs rabab on display at gurudwara Mandi Himachel Pradesh India is the largest dhrupadi rabab having 15 sympathetic strings.

rabbana - played by the kinnar community in himachal pradesh

Folk rabab-used in afghanistan kashmir and other tribal areas.

Dotara- 2 adn 4 stringed versions found in india

Rabab also called dhrupadi rabab adn many times the rudra biin.

Dhrupadi raba was used from punjab to bengal for different styles of kirtan in diff. languages and religous traditions. jori and pakhawak assisted the rabab for dhrupad in the courts, gurbani for the sikhs and vaishnava for the temples.

18th century- the advent of khayal singing which required bowed instruments like the sarangi to keep pace with the rapid tana-work of khayal , the raba and biin became solo instruments.

a large deal of innovations were then made to make them diverse and versatile resulting in the inventons of new instruments such as the sarod, sitar, surbahar, sursingaar and others.

rabab has gut of silk strinks.


look up somjit dasgupta or mohan shyam sharma.

rababi and pakhawaji

oh and pandit shiv kumar sharma plays the santoor. he doesnt teach dilruba...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

baldeep singh has dedicated his life to gurmat sangeet and its preservation.

You are stealing from him if you put his albums on the internet.

Famous Rap artists are already rich, Baldeep Singh Jee can not continue to teach and preserve and spread gian if he is not earnign at profit.

Rast Bast and Chara are to be taken care of as they are in an akhaara for their gurdev.

The rabab cd has 2 cds and an extensive booklet

jori cd has one cd and a booklet

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
  • 9 years later...

Just to add to this discussion. My teacher has told me that the Bhai Mardana Rabab was at Patna in Bihar. Unfortunately the instrument was burnt with other relics in 1984. However he describes the instrument as being very small/folk type of Rabab. Like Tsingh stated, there seems to have been an evolution in the type of Rabab being played from the 1st to the 5/6 guru. Maharaj kirpa an attempt will be made to make a copy of the instrument. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...