SursingarSursringar (sursingar) is an old instrument which today is very rare. It may be visualised as be­ing a cross bet­ween a sarod and a sitar. Sursringar is played in the dhrupad styles. Its voice is deep and somber and evokes an ethos of a bygone era.

The origin of the instrument is obscure, but E.S. Perera in his “Origin and Development of Dhrupad and its Bearing on Instrumental Music” relates an inter­est­ing legend. Ac­cor­ding to the story, it was in the early to mid 19th cen­tury in the court of Raja Udit Narayan Singh of Benares, that there hap­pened to be a music com­pe­ti­tion. The two major contestants were the great Nirmal Shah on the rudra vina and Zaffar Khan on the Seni rabab. The king or­dered the two contestants to play Mian-ki-Malhar. Jaffar Khan was con­cerned, be­cause it was the mid­dle of the monsoon time and the inclemate con­di­tions had rendered his rabab unplayable. Jaffar requested and was granted one months leave. But rather than take a chance on the wether im­pro­ving, Zaffar Khan addressed all of the elements of the rebab that were sensitive to moisture. He replaced the wooden finger board with metal. The skin was replaced with a wooden face, and the gut strings were replaced with metal. In this man­ner he in­ven­ted the sursringar which ef­fec­tively was a seni rabab that was impervious to humidity. He returned to the com­pe­ti­tion with the new instrument, played it, and was declared to be the winner.

There are two ways to play the sursringar. In the old days it was held al­most vertically with the neck over the left shoulder (Do not be confused by the photo at the top of the page. This photo is of the late Allauddin Khan who was well known for his left handed sarod technique.)