What is Sarod?

June 12, 2024

Sarod maestro Pandit Rajeev Taranath, who was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Mysuru, passed away recently.

About Sarod:

  • It is a stringed instrument in the lute family and one of the most popular instruments in Hindustani classical music.
    • It is often accompanied by the tabla (drums) and tambura (drone lute). 
  • It is an adaptation of the Afghan rabab, which arrived in India during the 16th century.
  • The modern form of the instrument was designed in the 19th century. 
  • Design:
    • The sarod is 100 cm long and has a body made from hollow teak, sagwan, or tun wood.
    • High-quality instruments have a body, neck, and peg box made from a single piece of wood.
    • The resonator has a stretched membrane (usually goatskin) and a bridge made from horn where the strings rest.
    • The bridge is very thin, like that of a violin. The melody strings are stretched across the bridge, and the sympathetic strings run through holes drilled into the bridge. 
    • The strings were traditionally made from gut or silk, but today are usually made from steel or bronze.
    • The neck of the instrument does not have a fretboard, but rather a polished, steel plate.
  • Playing:
    • One who plays the sarod is called a sarodiya, and the word sarod is Persian for song or melody.
    • The seated player holds the instrument across his lap. 
    • The strings of the sarod are plucked using a triangle-shaped plectrum called a jawa, usually made from coconut shell, ebony, or horn., while the fingernails of the left hand press the strings.
  • Two prominent Indian schools of sarod playing are those of Ghulam Ali Khan and Allauddin Khan, each with its own playing style, type of sarod (e.g., size, shape, and number of strings vary), and tuning system.