Dotara

Name: Dotara.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Rubab.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.221.6
Area: Assam, West Bengal and Bihar.
Country: India & Bangladesh.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The dotara or dotar [in Bengali: দোতারা, Assamese: দোতাৰা, literally, ‘Of or having two wires’] is a two, four, or sometimes five-stringed musical instrument, originating from eastern South Asia. The dotara played in an open note combination, often played alongside drums and percussion instruments such as Dhol, Khol or Mandira.

It is commonly used in Bangladesh and the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. Madhava Kandali, 14th century Assamese poet and writer of Saptakanda Ramayana, lists several instruments in his version of “Ramayana”. Such as Dotara, mardala, tabal, jhajhar etc. Later, it was adopted by the ascetic cults of Bauls and Fakirs.

Etymology: The name dotara has its roots in the two words [do = two ; târ = wires], with the additional suffix -a “having, -ed”. The instrument is known as dotara or dütara [in Bengali: দোতারা, Assamese: দোতাৰা dütüra]. Technically it is called Dotara because the middle two of its strings are tuned in same note.

Tuning: The dotara is tuned as follows from top to bottom Sol Do Do Fa or G3 C3 C3 F4. In sangam notation the notes would be read as: Pa – Sa – Sa – Ma with Do / Sa being the tonic / root note of the song.

Varieties: The ottar is one of the most important instrument used in various genres of folk music in Bengal and Assam. It has two main forms, the Bangla and the bhawaiya [in Bangla: ভাওয়াইয়া Bhā’ōẏā’iẏā [Assamese form]. The Bangla form originated in the Rahr Bangla region, where it is still predominantly played. It has metal strings, which give it a brighter tone than other instruments played in the area. Although a dotara can have 4-5 strings, most playing is done primarily on two strings, hence the name.

Construction: The dotara is made out of neem or other hardwood, with an elongated, roundish belly for a soundbox, which tapers to a narrow neck culminating in a peg box which is often elaborately carved in the shape of a peacock-head, swan-head or other animal motifs. The fingerboard is fretless and made of brass or steel, as in a sarod. The soundbox of the instrument is covered with a tightly stretched kidskin or lizard-skin, as in a rabab a sarod.

Citations: Bibliography: Suresh Kant Sharma; Usha Sharma [2015]. Discovery of North-East India. Mittal Publications. p. 288. ISBN 978-81-8324-039-0 ; Ahmed, Wakil [2012]. “Dotara”. In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. [eds.]. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh [Second ed.]. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh ; Websites:

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