Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Tuning: G D C G C e c c
Region: South Asia.
Description: The sursingar [IAST: sursiṅgār] sursringar or surshringar [Sringara: Pleasure in Sanskrit]. It is a musical instrument from whose origins precede the sarod. It is the direct descendant of the the Dhrupad. It is larger than the sarod and produces a deeper sound.
Etymology: The Hindi and Urdu name sursingar is composed of sur [from Sanskrit swara , “note”] and sringara [“ornament”, “romance”]. The Hindi / Urdu pronunciation sursingar first appears around 1860, including in the work Madan al-Musiqi by Karam Imam. Later, the Bengali musicologist Sourindra Mohun Tagore [1840-1914] a relative of Rabindranath Tagore used the Sanskritized word “sura” sringara. Hazrat Inayat Khan, son of the sursingar player Rahmat Khan, Minqar musiqar  the instrument sursanghar.
The name surasanga is probably derived from Tagore for a slender long-necked lute with an elegantly curved bird’s neck on the pegbox and a calabash body. A copy constructed in the 1880s belongs to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This further descendant of Rabab the musicians were not playing the strict Dhrupad, but the lighter classical styles Khyal and Thumri. Parallel to the gradual withdrawal of the Senia-Gharana from the late 19th century. The, sarode and sitar are currently the leading instruments played in Hindustani classical music.
Origin: The sursingar was probably invented in the early 19th century by Jaffar Khan [1775-1825] by changing the dhrupad rebāb. Jaffar Khan was a rabab and rudra vina player who belonged to the Seniya Gharana. The members of the Seniya-Gharana, primarily the “male” musical lineage derived from Tansen, were known as rabābiyā [rebāb players] in contrast to the “female” lineage of bīnkār [Rudra vina player, English transliteration bekar].
According to a legend associated with the invention at the court of Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh in Varanasi held a music competition in which Jaffar Khan was supposed to compete on the dhrupad rebāb against the famous Rudra vina player [bīnkār] Nirmal Shah.
Varieties: In his treatise on Indian musical instruments of 1891, the British infantryman Charles Russel Day [1860-1900] depicts a different-looking sur-s’ringara. Whose hollow neck widens in the middle and bulges out to the rear. The pegbox of the 120 cm long instrument is bent backwards in a semicircle. There are a total of six playing strings and two chikari [plucked drone] strings.
Playing Techniques: The instrument is supported by the left shoulder, as the veena and is played with a plectrum mezrab] or tab and sometimes with a bow. It is used to play music in the Hindustani style Dhrupad. Today there is a tendency for musicians to play it like a sarod where the instrument is held almost parallel to the ground or like a sitar where the instrument is held at an angle to the ground.
Construction: The main body of the sursingar is made from a cut gourd and wood. The gourd is attached to a hollow wooden handle. The handle is sometimes covered with a metal plate to facilitate the glissando [meend]. The sursingar has four main strings and four rhythmic drones [chikari]. These modifications resulted in the increase of resonance in the instrument. Some Sursingar do have sympathetic strings as in the Sarod to further enhance the resonance.
Citations: Bibliography: S. M. Tagore: Yantrakoś – on a sitar [Calcutta, 1875 in Bengali] ; C. R. Day: The Music and Musical Instruments of Southern India and the Deccan, Delhi, 1891, R1977 ; Suneera Kasliwal, Classical Musical Instruments, Delhi 2001 ; Websites: India-instruments.com [surbahar article] ;