Type: Chordophones > Waisted > Fretted.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Region: South Asia.
Description: Esraj [in Punjabi: ਇਸਰਾਜ Esraj] it is a relatively recent musical 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.
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 attention. The scientist Satyendra Nath Bose often played the esraj in a corner of his house in Kolkata.
History: The dilruba was created some 300 years ago by the 10th Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh [1666-1708], who based it on the much older taus, which was the work of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind. The dilruba was invented to replace its heavier predecessor, the taus.
This made it more convenient for the Khalsa, the Sikh army, to carry the instrument on horseback. The esraj is a more modern variant of the dilruba that was made and promoted by the Namdharis. It has been recently adopted into Rabindra Sangeet by musicians from Bengal.
Construction: Built in a similar manner to its closest relative the dilruba. The main difference is the shape of the actual body. The placement of the chikari and sympathetic strings are travelling from the bottom end of the instrument to the jawara [buzzing bridge] and underneath the frets. The frets are tied on like the dilruba as this concept is borrowed from the sitar. The pegbox and tuning gears are machine gear [guitar tuners].