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Chordophones or Stringed Instruments or Tata Vadya are of three varieties (a) Bowed: Here the sound is produced by drawing a bow across the strings. Examples include, Sarangi, Violin, etc. (b) Plectral: Here the strings are plucked by fingers or by a plectrum of wire or horn e.g. Veena, Sitar, etc. and (c) Instruments which are struck by a small hammer or pair of sticks e.g. Gotuvadyam and Swarmandal. Tata is derived from the root tan, which means to stretch in tension. Some of the other Tata Vadyas are Rudraveena, Sarod, Santoor, Surbahar, Tanpura, Dilruba, Esraj, Ektara, Kamaicha, Ravan Hatha, Mayuri, Tarshehnai, Gopichand, Rabab, Banjo, Tambi and Tuntuna.



These are one of the most widespread of bowed stringed instruments in use in India, in classical, religious, folk and popular music. While, Dilruba is found in the north, Esraj is found in the east and central areas, chiefly in West Bengal and present-day Bangladesh. Esraj is used in a somewhat wider variety of musical styles than the Dilruba. The Esraj was a favourite instrument of the famous poet Tagore, who employed it in his songs.



The gottuvadhyam, more correctly called Chitra veena, is a complicated ancient instrument with twenty-one strings. Unlike the traditional veena or sitar, it is fretless. The fretless nature of the instrument makes it the closest instrument to vocal standards. There are six strings used for the melody with the remaining strings used for providing a drone and resonance. The fingers on the right hand are usually used with plectra to pluck the metal melody strings while a cylindrical block made out of wood, Teflon or ebony is used to slide along the strings to vary the notes played.

 Maestros: Ravi Kiran is the undisputed master of the instrument.



Santoor is a stringed instrument, which can be considered as the eastern relative of the hammered dulcimer of Europe. The Vedic shata tantri veena, also known as the vana veena, having 100 strings and played with sticks, is the possible precursor of Santoor. This was associated with the religious singing of the Shaivaites in the 12th century AD. Santoor has been popularly used in Kashmir as an accompaniment to the Sufi music. It was traditionally played with the wasul, a Pakhawaj-like instrument. Today, it is played solo, with the tabla or the Pakhawaj as accompaniment. It attained the status of a classical instrument only about 60 years ago, after certain structural modifications in the original instrument. Santoor is a versatile instrument, and can even produce complicated musical embellishments like the gamaka and the meend. The characteristic feature of the Santoor is that once the strings are struck, the sound lingers on for a long time and therefore tremendous skill is required to control it.

Maestros: Shivkumar Sharma and Bhajan Sopori are two of the leading exponents of the Santoor today.



The name derives from Sau Rangi meaning 100 colours. Sarangi is played with a bow and has four main strings and as many as forty resonant strings. The Sarangi was the premier bowed instrument of North Indian music, which became popular in the mid-17th century as accompaniment to vocal music. It is believed that Sarangi declined in its importance in Hindustani Classical music as it became identified with the mehfils and tawaifs (dancing girls). Today Sarangi is largely replaced by the harmonium and faces oblivion.  Sarangi is considered as an instrument, which has the unique distinction of being the closest to the human voice in its richness and melody. The eminent violinist Yehudi Menuhin described this instrument as one that "most poignantly and most revealingly expresses the very soul of Indian feeling and thought".

 The origin of Sarangi is not clearly defined. Some attribute its discovery to an Egyptian named Bu Ali Ibn Sina, who was a disciple of the great Pythagoras. Legends apart, no authentic account of the development of the Sarangi is available. From the point of view of shape and structure, the ancient musical instrument without the frets known as Ghosvati or Ghoshak Veena perhaps bears the closest resemblance to the later day Sarangi. In more modern parlance, the Pinaki Veena, a gut-string bowing instrument described in Sarang Deva's Sangeet Ratnakar (13 AD) bears close resemblance to the modern Sarangi.

Many instruments very akin to the Sarangi have been in vogue in different parts of India. These instruments known as the Ravana hatha in Western India, Kingri in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, Kunju in Kerela, Pen in Manipur, Kamayanch in Rajasthan and Banam and Kenara in Orissa, were made of ordinary wood or coconut shell, devoid of all ornamentation. The other variations of the same theme are Saran in Jammu and Kashmir the Sindhi Sarangi, the Jogia Sarangi of Rajasthan, srimandal, the Gujaratan Sarangi and Alabu Sarangi.

 Maestros: Sabri Khan and Ram Narayan are two of the most popular exponents of the Sarangi today.  Murad Ali is an upcoming Sarangi player of great potential.



Sarod is a fretless lute, with a fingerboard faced with metal. It has a sound table of goatskin. The Sarod has generally 8 to 10 main playing strings and 11 to 16 sympathetic strings. It is played in accompaniment with the tabla though formerly the Pakhawaj was used. It is shorter than the Sitar in length and has a clearer, rounder tone. The name 'Sarod' was derived from the Arabic sahrood or the Persian sarood, meaning music. The present form of the Sarod was developed about 200-250 years ago in India, as adaptations of Rabab, Sursringar and Veena. It is believed that the most significant predecessor of the modern Sarod is the Rabab, the folk instrument of ancient Afghanistan, Persia and Kashmir. The Rabab (Seni Rabab) was already in use in India in the 16th century during the reign of Akbar. This instrument was later modified by Jafar Khan, one of the descendants of Tansen, by the addition of a metal fingerboard, a wooden head, metal strings and a at bridge of the Sitar type. This instrument came to be known as Sursringar and was a forerunner of the Sarod. The Pathan Bangash family, which hailed from Afghanistan, contributed greatly to the evolution of the present day Sarod. His son Ghulam Bandegi Khan Bangash appreciated the basic difference between the folksy Rabab and the Indian classical music, which resulted in the modification of the Rabab. His son Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash perfected, to a large extent, the practise of playing Indian ragas on the Sarod. It was this perfection that led the Maharaja of Rewa Vishwanath Singh Ju De to take Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash under his wing. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan made a definite change in the shape of the instrument for improving its tonal quality. Sarod-like instruments have been found in carvings of the 1st century in Champa temple and also in paintings in the Ajanta caves.

Maestros: The Bangash family - Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash, Nanne Khan, Murad Ali Khan, Asghar Ali Khan, Fida Hussain, Ahmed Ali Khan, Hafiz Ali Khan and his son Amjad Ali Khan -- were the pioneers of Sarod.  The seventh generation of the Bangash family represented by Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, sons of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, have started accompanying their father and even giving solo performances, thereby carrying on the traditions of their forefathers. Other stalwarts of Sarod include Amir Khan, Umar Khan, Niyamatullah Khan, Karamatullah Khan, Allauddin Khan, Hafiz Ali Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Timir Baran, Brij Narayan and Biswajit Roy Chowdhury.



The word Sitar is derived from the Persian sehtar where se means ‘six’ and tar means ‘string’. Sitar is the most popular stringed instrument of India and has been in use for about 700 years. It is mainly used for solo performances and is also played with the Sarod in jugalbandi. The origin of Sitar goes back to the ancient Veena. In the 13th century, Amir Khusro reversed the order of the strings and made the frets moveable in order to make the instrument more flexible. Ravi Shankar, the great musician-artist of the present era brought changes and a new perspective to Sitar. There are several gharanas in sitar. Some of the popular ones are the Jaipur Gharana, Varanasi Gharana, Lucknow Gharana, Indore Gharana, Etawah Gharana also known as the Imdad Khani Gharana, Maihar Sitar Gharana, and Darbhanga Sitar Gharana.

Maestros: Kutubuddaulla, Barkatullah Khan, Imdad Hussain Khan, his son Inayat Hussain Khan and grandson Vilayat Hussain Khan, Mushtaq Ali Khan, Ahmed Hussain, Ravi Shankar, Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, and Nikhil Banerjee are some of the exponents who have contributed greatly towards the development of the sitar in modern times. P.Bhushan, Indranil Bhattacharya, Buddhaditya Mukherjee, Rais Khan, Debu Choudhary, Shahid Parvez, Anoushka Shankar and Shujaat Khan are some of the renowned contemporary Sitarists.



Surbahar is a plucked stringed instrument of the Sitar family. It has a 130 cm neck with movable and very long frets that allow a glissando of 6 notes on the same fret by the method of pulling. It has 4 rhythm strings, 4 play strings and 15 to 17 un-played sympathetic strings.  It is believed that Surbahar was invented by Omrao Khan, nephew of Nirmal Shah, and the legendary Veena player. Imrat Hussain Khan and Jadabendra Mahapatra are renowned names among Surbahar players.



Tanpura (also called tambura in the South) is an important instrument in Indian classical music. It is invariably an accompaniment to classical concerts, vocal and instrumental. It is a 4 or 5 stringed instrument which provides a continuous drone, a reference pitch for the singer or instrumentalist to follow. In fact no vocal recital can commence without the tanpura as it gives the base shadaja to which all the other tones are compared. The tanpura is believed to have been brought into India from Persia where it was called tambur. The Hindu mythological texts credit Narada for the creation of tanpura.



The Veena is one of the most revered instruments in Indian music. It has 24 fixed frets on a hollow wooden fingerboard, which is attached to two gourds. The veena strings can produce the most delicate nuances and are plucked with either one or two fingers. Veena is one of the most ancient instruments and was in use during the Vedic times. It finds mention in the ancient religious texts as the divine instrument of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. In the Ashwamedha Sacrifice, the veena was the primary musical instrument accompanying the Vedic chants. The instrument is first depicted in the 6th Century AD, however there are references in texts to a bottle gourd Veena, as far back as 500 BC. This instrument has dominated Indian music for nearly 2000 years.  Veena or the lute was used by Bharata for his musical studies. Ancient treatises on music such as Narada's Sangeetamakaranda and Bharata's Natya Shastra describe various kinds of Veenas. Tansen developed the Rabab (Rudra-Veena) and the Hindusthani Saraswati Veena. Tansen, along with his youngest son Bilas Khan, his son-in-law Misri Singhji and Nirmul Shah were renowned Veena players. Sursringara is another musical instrument, similar to Veena, which was invented by Jaffar Khan in order to equal the charms of the Veena. The veena is played as a solo instrument accompanied by the mridangam and sometimes the flute. Many recent instruments like the sitar and tanpura owe their origin to the veena.

Many kinds of Veenas exist like the Vichitra veena, Mahaveena, Saraswati veena, and Rudra veena or been. They mainly differ in their size and number of strings. Because of its antiquity, Veena is used both in the Hindustani and the Carnatic music. In South India, the Saraswati veena is popular, while in the North the Rudra veena is used more often.

Rudra Veena (Been)

Rudra Veena or the Bin was extremely important in Indian musical society in the past. The Been, which is the Veena of the North Indian music is the oldest of indigenous instruments, is still used in classical music. The present day Been which crystallized in the 16th-18th centuries, features a hollow wooden tube to which is attached 24 high frets. Most Beens have 7 or 8 strings, four of which are fretted, and 3 or 4 strings are used as open drones. Typically the Been is 5 to 8 tones lower than its younger sister the Sitar. Wazir Khan of Rampur gave recognition to the Been as a concert instrument in the early 20th century. Maestros: Among the prominent beenkars are Wazir Khan, Dabri Khan, Ustad Zia Mohinuddin Dagar, Asad Ali Khan and Ahmed Raza. The great veena players of the Tansen School include Mohammad Hussain,  Nabi Bakash, Ali Hussain, Challapally Chittibabu and Pramathanath Bandopadhya.

Carnatic Veena

The Carnatic Veena is the principal instrument used in the performance of South Indian music. It is directly related to the Rudra Veena, but underwent structural changes in the 16th Century. The Carnatic Veena originally had the tube with two-gourd design, but musicians introduced a series of refinements. It has 4 main playing strings and 3 drones. There are 24 metal frets.  Maestros: Pithapuram Sangameswara Sastri, Seshanna, Subbanna, Venkataramana Das, Dhanammal, the Karoekudi brothers, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, Yamini Shankar Shastry, S.Balachander, K.N. Narayanaswami, D.N. Iyengar, Chitti Babu, Mokkapati Nageswara Rao, and Narayana Menon are some of the well-known exponents of this instrument.

Vicitra Veena

Vichitra Veena, which is similar to the rudra veena, is a comparatively recent addition to the Veena family, having evolved only in the 19th Century AD. It is a fretless stringed instrument with four main strings, three drone and rhythm strings and eleven to thirteen resonating strings. The strings are plucked by a plectrum on the index or middle finger of the right hand. It is played by rolling a ball along the strings. Because of the absence of frets, one can play perfect meends (glissandos) on an octave and a half, something difficult to perform on a Been, and so get closer to the abilities of the human voice. Its actual shape has been claimed by a Patiala Gharana musician, Abdul Aziz Khan. Maestros: Gopal Krishnan is currently the leading performer on the instrument. Dr Mustafa Raza is an up-coming artist of Vichitra Veena.

 Sarasota Veena

The Sarasota Veena is the string instrument of Carnatic music. It is the last survivor of many types of Veenas created in South India. Its form has been fixed definitely at the end of 19th century AD and it has progressively replaced all the other Veenas.



Violin is a very important string instrument used both in Hindustani and Carnatic music. It was brought into India by the Europeans in the 18th century AD. The credit for adapting it into the Carnatic music goes to Balaswami Dikshitar. Although it is of western origin, its ability to produce the gamakas and other embellishments peculiar to Indian music has made it an integral part of Indian music. Although the violin is played solo in Carnatic and Hindustani music, its primary role in Carnatic music is as an accompaniment to vocal performances.

Maestros: V. G. Jog, L. Subramanium and Dr N. Rajam are some of the great exponents of violin in the Hindustani music. Allauddin Khan was also an accomplished violinist, who played the violin with his left hand. In Carnatic music, Prof. T.N.Krishnan, Lalgudi G.Jayaraman, M.S. Gopalkrishnan, V.V.Subrahmanyam, Papa Venkataramaiah, Balmurali Krishna, Kanya Kumari and Dr L.Subrahmanyam are well-known violinists.


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