The Esraj is an Indian string instrument found in two forms throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is a relatively young instrument, being only about 300 years old. It is found in North India, primarily Punjab, where it is used in Sikh music and Hindustani classical compositions and in West Bengal. The Esraj is a modern variant of the Dilruba, differing slightly in structure.
|Classification||Bowed string instrument|
The Dilruba and its variant, the Esraj, had been declining in popularity for many decades. By the 1980s, the instrument was nearly extinct. However with the rising influence of the "Gurmat Sangeet" movement, the instrument has been once again attracting considerable attention.
The Dilruba was created some 300 years ago by the 10th Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, who based it on the much older Taus, which was the work of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind. The Dilruba was then produced to replace the previously heavy instrument, the Taus. This attempt was intended to scale down the Taus into what is now known to be the Dilruba, making it more convenient for the Khalsa, the Sikh army to carry the instrument on horseback.
The Dilruba and its variant, the Esraj, have a similar yet distinct construction style, with each having a medium sized sitar-like neck with 20 heavy metal frets. This neck holds on a long wooden rack of 12–15 sympathetic strings. While the Dilruba has more sympathetic strings and a differently shaped body than the Esraj, they both have four main strings which are bowed. All strings are metal. The soundboard is a stretched piece of goatskin similar to what is found on a sarangi. Sometimes the instrument has a gourd affixed to the top for balance or for tone enhancement.
The instrument can be rested between the knees while the player kneels, or more commonly rested on the knee of the player while sitting, or also on the floor just in front of the player, with the neck leaning on the left shoulder. It is played with a bow (known as a "gaz"), with the other hand moving along the strings above the frets. The player may slide the note up or down to achieve the portamento, or meend, characteristic of Indian music.
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- Dutta, Madhumita (2008). Let's Know Music and Musical Instruments of India. Star Publications. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-1-9058-6329-7.
- Dharam Singh (2001). Perspectives on Sikhism. Publication Bureau, Punjabi University. p. 158. ISBN 978-8-1738-0736-7.