Type: Fretless > Box Zither > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Region: South Asia.
Description: The swarmandal The swarmandal (Hindi: स्वरमण्डल [s̪ʋərmən̪ɖəl̪]). The name is a portamento combining the words swara [notes] and mandal [group] it belongs to the plucked box zither sub-group of the category of zithers. It is also known popularly as surmandal. The strings are plucked in melody with singers voice. The swarmandal is tuned to the notes of the raga being performed. This instrument is primarily played in vocal Hindustani classical genres.
Usage: Some of the vocalists who have used this instrument extensively are Bade Ghulam Ali Khan [1902–1968], Salamat Ali Khan [1934–2003], Jasraj [b. 1930], Kishori Amonkar [1932–2017], Rashid Khan [b. 1966] and Ajoy Chakrabarty (b. 1952). Other vocalists such as Amir Khan have played around with it privately but preferred the simpler, less intrusive tampura for accompaniment.
Construction: Having 21 to 36 individual strings in total. Its construction is very similar to the autoharp in appearance although the dimensions are slightly larger in actual size.
Exposure: This instrument gained exposure outside of India. When the Beatles recorded their 1967 single “Strawberry Fields Forever” features a swarmandal, played by George Harrison, as does “Within You Without You”, from the band’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.