Rababi (Gurmukhi: ਰਬਾਬੀ) is a term used to refer to a player of the rabab instrument.

Guru Nanak (right) and Bhai Mardana (left) with rabab, c.1740 painting

In the Sikh liturgical tradition, there are three types of musicians—rababis, ragis, and dhadhis, all of which flourished during the period of the gurus. The descendants remained rababis to all the 10 gurus, keeping alive rabab music.


Indian temple art of the first century A.D. depicted the Gandharan lute, though the ancestor of the rabab in India is likely the Persian instrument of the same name.[1] The rabab, in its various forms, proliferated throughout West, Central, South and Southeast Asia.[1] Those rababs used in Hindustani classical music of northern India are plucked.[1]

Guru Nanak started the Sikh rababi tradition by engaging Bhai Mardana as his accompanist.[2] The Muslim singers formerly called mirasi, were rechristened rababi by Nanak, because they played on the rabab.[3] The last of the line of rababis was Bhai Chand. During the 20th century CE the instrument's use in Sikh kirtan was eclipsed by the harmonium but it has been revived.[4] Sikh rababis used to perform kirtan regularly at Amritsar before the partition of India in 1947, after which many of the rababis migrated to what became Pakistan.[5] The Sikh rabab was traditionally a local Punjabi variant known as the 'Firandia' rabab (Punjabi: ਫਿਰੰਦੀਆ ਰਬਾਬ Phiradī'ā rabāba),[6][7][8][9] however Baldeep Singh, an expert in the Sikh musical tradition, challenges this narrative.[10][11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Miner, Allyn (2004). Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. p. 61. ISBN 9788120814936.
  2. ^ "Interview: The daughter's case". The Sunday Tribune. 17 May 2009. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020.
  3. ^ Kapoor, Jaskiran (10 February 2012). "Strings of Change". Indian Express. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  4. ^ "SGPC to revive 'gurbani kirtan' with string instruments in Golden Temple". ThePrint. 2022-05-25. Retrieved 2022-08-29.
  5. ^ Khalid, Haroon (20 April 2018). "Lost in Partition, the Sikh-Muslim connection comes alive in the tale of Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana". Dawn. Archived from the original on 21 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Rabab". Sikh Musical Heritage - The Untold Story. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  7. ^ "Raj Academy | Rabab". Raj Academy. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  8. ^ "Rabab". SIKH SAAJ. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  9. ^ "Sikh Instruments-The Rabab". Oxford Sikhs. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  10. ^ Khanna, Bharat (November 1, 2019). "Punjabi varsity's Firandia rabab helps revival of string instrument | Ludhiana News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2022-08-18.
  11. ^ Singh, Baldeep (2012-06-27). "Rabab goes shopping…". The Anād Foundation. Retrieved 2022-08-18.