Seni rebab

The Seni rebab (Punjabi: ਸੇਨੀ ਰੱਬਾਬ) is a plucked string instrument said to have been developed by, and to have taken its name from, the notable musician Tansen in the time of the emperor Akbar the Great. Today it is most associated with Sikh music.[1]

Mughal painting from 1630 by Govardhan with a musician playing a seni rebab.

Three types of Sikh musician - rababis, ragis and dhadhis - flourished during the period of the Sikh gurus.


As the Dekhani rabāb, the instrument was listed as a native instrument of Central India by Mughal chronicler Abu'l Fazl. It was played by different castes, from the high Brahmins leading religious songs to "low-caste entertainers."[2]

The instrument was associated with the Seniya family, of whom Tansen was one.[2] Tansen has been credited with "popularizing" the rabāb. The name seni rabāb may be an Indian adaptation from a Persian designation of the instrument; "Sen-e-rabab" is supposed to mean rebab of [Tan] Sen.[3]


Guru Nanak started the rababi tradition by engaging Bhai Mardana as his accompanist. The Muslim singers formerly called mirasis, Nanak called "rababis", because they played on the rabab or rebec. Some notable rababis after Mardana were his son Shahjada, Balwand and Satta, Babak, son of Satta, Chatra, son of Babak, and Saddu and Baddu. Rababis used to perform kirtan regularly at Amritsar before the partition in 1947, after which the rababis migrated to Pakistan.

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.


  1. ^ Nair, Jyoti (2020-02-27). "Gurbani: Flavour of Sikh devotion". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2020-03-01. Rabab is associated with the Sikh sacred music and can be traced to Guru Nanak Devji’s bhajans, almost 500 years ago
  2. ^ a b Sadie, Stanley, ed. (1984). "Rabab, #4". The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. p. 181-182. Volume 3.
  3. ^ David Courtney. "Seni Rabāb".