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Antima Khanna

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Sitar and its Making

I feel extremely happy in sharing with you
what I have read today about
‘The Making of Sitar’

You all must have heard to Sitar,but,
do you know
how it is made?

pandit ravi shankar

The Sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in
Hindustani music and Indian classical music.
The instrument descended from a similar but simpler Persian instrument
called the Setar (meaning “three strings”) and
its predecessor the Dutar (meaning “two strings”).

The sitar flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and
arrived at its present form in 18th century India.
It derives its distinctive timbre and resonance from
sympathetic strings, bridge design,
a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber.


Used widely throughout the Indian subcontinent,
the sitar became popularly known in the wider world through the work of
Ravi Shankar beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The construction of the sitar generally took placein fourteen steps,
divided into two major sections.
The first section was from raw materials to where it is all assembled,
with no ornamentation or carving.
The second section was through inlay and engraving, carving,
finish work, and setting up for playing.


The tools used are generally simple hand tools.
Hand saws, rasps, hammers, and similar tools are the norm.
Power tools of any kind are generally not used.

The glues, paints and varnishes are usually made from scratch.

Glue for instance, is usually saresh; this is a mucilage which comes in brown sheets.
It is mixed with a small amount of water and kept over a small fire.
There has been a recent introduction of synthetic glues into the craft,
but still mucilage is the preferred glue.


There is no varnish as we think of it in the West.
The traditional varnish is actually lacquer.
Lacquer is a mixture of laq (a tree gum which has been partially digested by insects) and alcohol.  Occasionally chandresh is added to give more of a sheen.
Paint is made in the same, way except pigment is added to the mixture.


The fasteners are very interesting.
Metallic nails have very little use in the craft of making the sitar.
Screws are sometimes used.
The most common fastener is actually a small tack or nail made from slivers of bamboo.
These tacks may be anywhere from 1/4 to one-inch in length.
The are made by slicing the outer skin of bamboo.


The neck is based upon six pieces.
There is the major portion of the neck, this is known as dandi.
There are three front plates, and two camel bone bridges (ard patri).

The patri are the two bridges at the top of the neck.
The word “patri” literally means “leaf” and may be applied to any flat leaf like object.
One will find other parts of the sitar also referred to as patri.

Taraf Mogara
The taraf mogara are the small grommets made of camel bone
that are glued into holes on the neck front plate.
They serve to strengthen the hole so that the strings do not bite into the wood.

The gullu is the wooden cowl that joins the neck (dandi) with the gourd (kaddu).  It is hollowed out of a single piece of wood.


Kaddu ka Tumba
The gourd (kaddu) forms the bulk of the resonator (tumba).
This is a large, hard gourd, roughly 14 inches in diameter.


The tabkadi is probably the most important wooden piece of the sitar.
It is made from a single piece.
It is very important that the grain of the wood run in the direction of the tabkadi.
It is also very important that this wood be free of knotholes or other imperfections.
The tabkadi should be neither too thick nor too thin.
If it is too thin, the sitar will have a very loud sound;
unfortunately it will have a very poor sustain.
If the tabkadi is too thick, the instrument may have a good sustain, but a very low volume.

These decorative leaves are usually made of wood and glued to the gourd,
just below where the gullu attaches.
They are purely decorative and are sometimes left off the instrument.


Tardani Mogara
The tardani mogara sometimes referred to as kili are the posts where
the strings attach to the base of the sitar.
The name “kili” literally means “nail” while
the term tardani mogara literally means “the jasmine blossoms that hold the strings”.
The term kili is so named because the posts somewhat resemble protruding nails,
while any of the camel bone protruding bits may be referred
to as mogara (Jasmine blossoms).

Wooden Tail Mount 
The tail mount is a piece of wood that attaches to the base of the gourd (kaddu).
This forms a strong base in which the tardani mogara are placed for the attachment of the strings.

The tuning pegs:


Lotus Kunti – The lotus peg is considered to be the finest peg.  The presence of this peg is often a visible indication that the great care was taken for the whole instrument.  This is usually found on the professional quality sitars.

Fluted Kunti – The fluted peg is not nearly as refined as the lotus version.  Although one sometimes finds professional quality sitars using this style, it is often an indication of a middle grade of instrument.

Simple Kunti – The simple peg is often an indication of a student grade instrument.  Although there is nothing wrong with this style, it is often an indication that there has not really been a lot of care taken in the fabrication of the instrument.

Taraf Kunti – There are also the smaller pegs for the sympathetic strings.

The mogara are the two post that raised the chikari strings above the neck.
The name “mogara” literally mean “jasmine”.
It is so named because the posts somewhat resemble the blossom of the mogara.
These posts are placed in holes that are drilled in the side of the neck.

The tumba is an optional part of the sitar.
It appears to be a relatively recent addition.
Even today it is not universal.
There are a number of styles.
Sometimes it is made of a gourd (kaddu) and sometimes it is made of wood (lakadi).
Sometimes decorative leaves are applied (patri).

The main bridge, often referred to as the ghoraj or bada ghoraj,
is one of the most unique parts of the sitar.
It is composed of two parts.
The major portion is wood.
However the most critical section is the bone plate, often referred to as the jawari.
The preferred material for this plate is antelope horn (barah sinha).
However over the years the antelope from which the horns are obtained
has become an endangered species.
This horn has therefore become hard to obtain.
The most common substitute is camel bone.
Camel bone produces a material which is surprisingly similar to elephant ivory (hathi ka dant).


The parda are the wire frets on the sitar.  They are composed of metallic rods bent to their characteristic shape.

I came across this beautifully written
documentation on
which inspired to write this article.

Its a document written by Jay Scott Hackleman
for his Apprenticeship
in the shop of
Jan-Nov 1987
Sitar Making in India

You must read it!!

Last but not the least, here’s the beautiful
Sitar music by Pandit Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka

Have a great week ahead!!


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