The sursingar (IAST: sursiṅgār), sursringar or surshringar (Sringara: Pleasure in Sanskrit), is a musical instrument from India having many similarities with the sarod. It is larger than the sarod and produces a deeper sound. It precedes the sarod chronologically. In Dhrupad style it was used as a solo instrument in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is regarded as a further development of the Dhrupad-Rabab that has more or less disappeared today Its neck has a metal fingerboard and the steel and bronze strings are played with a metal pick, while the bridge is made of a flat horn. It has two resonant boxes; the main box is made from a cut gourd, on which a wooden cover is attached.
The main body is made of wood and not leather (the material used in earlier instruments). The sound producing mechanism of the instrument is formed by a gourd. The gourd is attached to a hollow wooden handle. The handle is sometimes covered with a metal plate to facilitate the glissando. It has four main strings and four rhythmic drones (chikari). The strings are usually made of brass (instead of catgut used in earlier instruments). These modifications resulted in the increase of resonance in the instrument and thereby in its popularity. Some also contain sympathetic strings as in the Sarod to further enhance the resonance
The instrument is supported by the left shoulder, as the veena and is played with a plectrum (mezrab) or tab (and sometimes with a bow). It is used to play music in the Hindustani style Dhrupad. Today there is a tendency for musicians to play it like a sarod where the instrument is held almost parallel to the ground or like a sitar where the instrument is held at an angle to the ground.
Only the Sursringar, Surbarhar, and Veena are capable of rendering the low, sustained pitches necessary for Dhrupad. Unlike the other two, the Sursringar is also capable of delivering sweet notes that are high in pitch. Of the three, the Sursringar has the most played strings making it possible to render beautiful intervals, chords and drones. In addition, due to the fretless stainless steel fingerboard, the Sursringar has the capacity to easily emit meend (glissando) that is 2 octaves long. Sursringar was well-suited for vilambit (slow) alap, and the techniques of both veena and rabab playing could be incorporated in it. The instrument Rabab had some limitations. Its gut strings and skin parchment upon the resonator make the slow passages of alap, impossible unlike the Veena. Moreover, due to the dampness in the monsoons, the sound of Rabab used to deteriorate so much that the notes played on it could not even be discerned. Sursringar became a distinct improvement over the rabab with regard to the tonal quality and for the alapchari of dhrupad anga. The melodious effect of Sursringar was so overpowering that it could even outshine the veena in its vilambit alap. Thereafter,it became a tradition amongst the Rababiya gharana to play the Sursringar during the rainy season. The instrument was well received in the world of music and became popular in a very short time in northern India. Sarod players used to play alap on the Sursringar before playing gat on Sarod in the same manner as Sitar players used to play on the Surbahar before playing gat on the Sitar. Therefore, it was customary to learn the Sursringar along with the Sarod till the early years of the twentieth century. Gradually, when the sarod and sitar were modified and became well equipped with greater range of expressiveness, the popularity of the Sursringar and Surbahar ebbed and these became obsolete in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Pyar Khan, Basat Khan, Jaffar Khan, Mohammad Ali Khan (Son of Basat Khan), Bahadur Sen Khan, Allauddin Khan, Radhika Mohan Maitra, Kumar Birendra Kishore Roy Choudhury, Shaukat Ali Khan were noted sursringar players. Allauddin Khan had a few Sursringar recordings as did Radhika Mohan Maitra.
- Audio clips at Parrikar.org