The sarod is one of the most popular instruments of the stringed variety in the north. Though it is not known for cer¬tain where the sarod originated it has been suggested that it is a descendant of the rabab, a popular instrument of the Middle East. The famous Tansen seems to have played a kind of rabab in Akbar’s time. Though built on the principle of the rabab the sarod has a few structural modifications which make it suitable for the purpose of rendering all the subtle graces of Indian music.
The sarod is from three to three and a half feet long and is made of wood. One end of the body is rounded, nearly a foot in diameter and covered with parchment. The round part gradually joins the neck. There are six main strings including the chikari for the drone and rhythmic accompaniment. All the strings are metallic. They are fastened to pegs at the neck end of the instrument. Some varieties have a small gourd attached to the neck end.
The finger-board is covered with a polished metal plate to facilitate the sliding of the fingers while playing. The sarod has eleven or twelve sympathetic strings which help to improve the reso¬nance. The instrument is played with a plectrum held in the right hand while the fingers of the left hand are used for stopping the strings and playing the notes. All the characteristic styles of instru¬mental music namely alap, jod, jhala and meend can be rendered perfectly on this instrument. In the lower octave, the tone of the sarod is rich and vibrant. In the middle and higher octaves, the notes are more brightly illuminated. The sarod is mainly a solo instrument. In recent years it has secured an important place in the composition of modern Indian orchestras owing to its deep and rich tone which blends easily with other instruments.
It is worth mentioning that in the ancient Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara (modern Afghanistan); an instrument of this type in a primitive form is represen¬ted in the early centuries of our era. This instrument was played with long plectru¬ms, probably made of bone or wood. This Gandhara instrument could be a precursor of the modern sarod and per¬haps it was not imported from the Middle East at all. It is said that Khan Saheb Asadullah Khan introduced this instrument in Bengal more than a century ago and since then Bengal has become noted for the manufacture and popularisation of this instrument. Of late, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other parts of the country have also taken to this instrument.