About an illustrious family of accomplished
musicians of Gwalior & Kirana Gharana
History of Sitar
The Sitar Origin and Development
The Sitar occupies a place of pride among Indian musical instruments. It is easily the most charming of all instruments. The Sitar was known in ancient India by various names like devadattaa, maruyashti, mahati, parivaadini, saptatantri etc.
The origin of the Sitar is lost in antiquity. Though its origin is generally attributed to Amir Khusro, and is one of the most ancient Indian instruments. Amir Khusro is credited with making the Sitar by fixing three strings to it and calling it the Sehtar (seh - three; tar - strings). The word sitar is said to be a corruption of the word sehtar. This doesn't stand to reason because:
(1) The three-stringed instrument tritantri and the seven-stringed instrument saptatantri were in existence centuries before Amir Khusro. 165 years before Prophet Mohammed there lived a singer and poet called Jarham Binatoi who participated in a Poetry Conference in India for three years in succession. The three poems he read at the Conference were etched on golden plates and hung at Mecca. Jarham Binatoi writes: "The people of India are fortunate that Raja Vikram (also called Samudragupta) is their ruler. He is generous, religious, concientious, and a great musician. His sehtar-playing is such that the listeners' heart-buds blossom. He treated us foreigners also kindly. He sent many scholars of his community to spread the message of the holy religion and they shine like the Sun in our country. From these great men we learnt ishwar-jnana, sangeet-jnana, kavya-jnana, samajik-jnana and learnt playing the sehtar for bliss. These men had come to our country on instructions from Raja Vikram to spread knowl edge, religion and music." Coins are also available on which King Vikramaditya is seen playing the parivaadini. This is conclusive evidence that the Sitar is Indian in origin.
2) There is no word in Persian from which the word sitar is derived. The word sitar is derived from the Sanskrit root SA (to bind) It is made of SIT + AAr + R = SITHAE : = BANDHANAE:, AH = SAMANTHATH, RA = RAJAYATHI ETHI SITAR = which means an instrument which through fastenings gives pleasure from all sides. In the Sitar strings are fastened. pardaas are fastened mijraaf is fastened,
gats are bound by rhythm. Thus, the Sitar is an instrument which is full of fastenings (BANDHAN). Even if one of these is violated it affects the pleasure. So the word sitar is not a corruption of any Persian word but a pure Sanskrit word. 3) The Sehtar had three strings whereas the Sitar has seven. But there is no gainsaying the fact that Amir Khusro, the versatile genius, gave the Sitar a great fillip and did much to popularize it.
Rudra Veena
3) The Sehtar had three strings whereas the Sitar has seven. But there is no gainsaying the fact that Amir Khusro, the versatile genius, gave the Sitar a great fillip and did much to popularize it.
It is agreed upon all sides that the Been (Rudra Veena) is the mother of the Sitar. Before the birth of the Sitar. the Been among string instruments and dhrupad ang in singing were prominent. That is why, the Been was played for the most part in dhrupad style only. At the time the Sitar came into being the khyal system also was gaining ground. Musicians developed a liking for taans in drut laya as also various ways of layakaari. There was no dir bol in the Been and hence it could not give the specific pleasure in drut. When, keeping all the majesty of the Been, the dir bol was introduced in the Sitar it afforded adequate pleasure in drut also. It was at this time that many instrumentalists switched over to the Sitar and perfected it in such a way that without giving up what was considered important in Been-playing and dhrupad - singing, khyal-style and taraana were also incorporated in Sitar-playing.
The Sitar has been singularly fortunate in having many trend-setters down the ages. From available historical evidence Firoz Khan, a descendant of Amir Khusro, was the first great sitar-player. He composed gats set to chaar tal which came to be known as the Firozkhaani baaz. He had an illustrious son in Maseed Khan. He composed gats set to teen tal played to the accompaniment of the Tabla. It became so prevalent that the Firozkhaani baaz came to be forgotten. If the characteristic feature of Maseedkhaani gat is vilambit laya, that of Razakhaani gat is drut laya. The latter tame to be named Razakhaani or Pur vi baaz after Gulam Raza Khan of Lucknow. The difference between Maseedkhaani baaz and Razakhaani baaz is essentially the same as that between khyal and thumri. The one is stately, the other lively. In Maseedkhaani gat, meend. gamak, krantan, jamjamaa. murki etc are used to embellish the raaga. Its bol is dir, da dir, dara, da da ra. Razakhaani at is like agchota khyal. Its bol is daar daar dir daaraa, daa dir daa etc. The peculiarities of the notes are presented by playing the bol in various layakaari. The, gat is made attractive by tode taan and jhaala. Rahimsen was a descendant of Suratsen, the second son of Tansen. When Rahimsen switched over from dhrupad-singing to sitar-playing somebody teased him by saying "You keep pldying dir dir dir dir " - Rahimsen replied proudly, "Really, the Sitar is nothing as compared to dhrupad, but I have to make this stone-like instrument into a gem". That is exactly what he did; He improved the technique of playing the Sitar in a big way. He was incomparable, indeed, except for his son, Amritsen. Amritsen (1813-1893), so outperform his father that Rahimsen is reported to have said "It is good that Amritsen is my son. Had he been. born in another family and playing the Sitar so incomparably, I would have ta'ken poison. "At the insistence of the nabob of Zazar the father and the son once played raag Sorath when a cobra came and listened enrapturedly and slipped away when the recital was over. It is said that Prince Vinaysinh recovered from fever by listening to the Bhairavi played on the Sitar by Rahimsen and Amritse. Amir Khan was the chief disciple of Amritsen who, in turn, had two chief disciples, Barkatullah and Imdad Khan (1848-1920). Imdad Khan's son was Inayat Khan (1965-1938) who was a great sitar-player of his day He raised the standard of sitar- playing and introduced the gayaki-ang. One of the three main disciples of Inayat Khan is his son, Vilayat Khan.
Another milestone in the development of the Sitar was Rahimat Khan's (1863-1954) addition of Kharaj Shadaj string. The absence of Kharaj Shadaj hampered alaap in vilambIt. And alaap, jad, badhat, jhala played on the Been were not possible in the earlier Sitar. Rahimat Khan's innovative mind not only added the Kharaj Shada! string but also rearranged the strings. This resulted in increased melody. flexibility and variety.
Earlier arrangment of Strings
1) Mandra Madhyam. 2) Mandra Shadaj. 3) Mandra Shadaj 4) Kharaj Pancham. 5) Mandra Panch:Jm. 6) Papiha. 7) Chikari
Thus was born the present Sitar complete with for saptaks. Now the Sitar could perform all that the Been and Surbahar did. Rahimat Khan contributed to the development of Sitar in yet another way. The sitar-player par excellence that he was, he developed his own style o.f systematic movements of both the hands, one playing over pa,daas and another striking the strings simultaneously when the swaras are expressed with lightning speed. The gals are perfectly set to talas. Another speciality of this style is mahara, a melodious group of swaras set 10 two and a half matras which come at the end of teen tal, a rhythm of 16 matras played in all the raagas. This came to be called Rahimat-khaani baaz. Rahimat-khaani baaz is predominantly gayaki-ang
Thus, with Rahimat Khan's improvisation, the Sitar became the only instrument which can be played equally well in both the dhrupad and khya/ styles. Now there are as many styles of playing the Sitar as there are of singing. The present century can boast of brilliant Sitar artistes like Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan and a host of others some of whom have attained international fame.
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