Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Country: India, Pakistan, Nepal & Bangladesh etc.
Region: South Asia.
Description: The sitar [in Hindi: सितार ; in Punjabi: ਸਿਤਾਰ, sitar, pronounced in IPA: [sɪˈtaːr]. The sitar is a long-necked lute, that is played in many countries in South Asia. They include India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and extending further into Afghanistan. It is one of the major principle stringed instruments in Hindustani / North Indian Indian Classical music.
Although it is performed by some rural itinerant musicians in Rajasthan and in modern media of radio, film and television. The sitar was practiced in both Muslim and Hindu courts. Nowadays it is performed on stage and through media. Melodies for the sitar are rendered by the voice, the sitar or other instruments,
It is often termed as a classical instrument in the Sastriya Sangeet “canonical music. The sitar is normally accompanied by a pair of tablas. Alternatively the sitar maybe accompanied by other instruments in a collaboration between two instrumentalists.
Etymology: The name sitar has its origins from an Urdu transcription of the word Sitar. The name sitar has became established early in this period [in the Hammira-raso of Jodhraj, Rajasthan c. 1725] though we hear of “fretted and unfretted tambura” the 1800s to distinguish the sitar from the fretless drone instrument.
History: The sitar developed from the Persian setar having only three strings that along with other influences were introduced by the ‘Mongols’ of Mughal Empire as they were originally Chagatai Uzbeks from Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Note: There is a prevailing modern view that the sitar originated from the tritantrika veena [a three stringed chordophone]. Such a claim only further negates the actual history of musical instruments like the sitar. There is no musically sound foundation to back up this claim. There were no lutes back in this period as most of the instruments were stick zithers.
Development: By the 1800s [Sadiq A. 1184:17, p. 183]. By 1875 the sitar had acquired five main melody strings, two chikari [extra plucked strings], nine to 11 tarab [sympathetic strings]. These are the basic underlying characteristics of the modern sitar.
Construction: The sitar is construction from a body that is cut from a gourd and fitted onto the neck. 22 thick, large and curved brass frets are tied onto the neck. This allows for the frets to be adjusted according to the raga being performed. Sometimes a secondary gourd called a “tumba” is added.
The chronology of the sitar’s development took hold during the 17th century to 18 centuries. Changes included the widening and thickening of the neck. Now always straight, not tapered the use of gourd for the body in steady instead of carvel built ribs.
Citations: Bibliography: Abu’I Faisal; In-I-akhbari [circa 1500s] translated by H. Blochmann in the imperial Musicians [Calcutta, 1873, 2/1927] 680ff, translated by H. Jarret, rev. J. Sarkar are in Sangit, Bibliotheca Indica, cclxx, [Calcutta, 1948] ; Pratap Sing, compiler Sangit-sar [Jaipur, circa 1800s] ; Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19th Centuries by Allyn Miner ISBN 978-81-208-1299-4 Websites: