An instrument that is widely known throughout India and in the world of Indian Classical music is the Sarangi. The Sarangi is an enchanting and powerful instrument created by the great scholar Raavan around 5000 BC. This instrument is the oldest bowed instrument still used today. The classical Sarangi is made from Indian Tunn wood, which is similar to Red Cedar. It has three main strings, which are made from natural Gut. The sound box is covered with goat skin, on top of which rests the bridge that supports all the strings.
The name ‘Sa-rangi’ translates to ‘one-hundred colors.’ This instrument is known as the mother of all stringed instruments. One very remarkable characteristic of the Sarangi is that it is the only stringed instrument that most closely resembles the human voice. The rich, attention-grabbing sound of the sarangi can easily be mistaken for a person singing.
During the time of the Sikh Gurus, the Sarangi was not used for spiritual purposes, it had a very different role in society. In the court of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib, it was brought back into the spiritual arena. The Sarangi was promoted and used to sing the 22 Vaars (ballads) written within Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji.
There is a huge difference between a Dhadd Sarangi, or Tota, which is used to sing Dhadi Vaars, and this sarangi, which is also known as a classical or full size sarangi. The purposes and sounds of these two instruments differ greatly.