The surshringar is a combination of three instruments of the stringed variety found in the north. One opinion is that the surshringar was first made by the late Nawab of Rampur, Syed KaIb Ali Khan Bahadur. But the more popular view seems to be that it was introduced by the famous brothers Pyar Khan, Jaffar Khan and Basit Khan who flourished in the early part of the 19th century. Great musicians in themselves, they were also directly descended from the celebrated Tansen.
Mohamed Ali Khan, son of Basit Khan, who lived in Rampur and later in Lucknow, ‘was a master of the surshringar and the last descendant of Tansen. The surshringar is a combination of three stringed instruments, namely the ii’ ahati veena, the rabab and the kach¬chapi veena. The small gourd and the neck to which the strings are attached are features of the mahari veena; the finger-board with the metal plate is very much like the type of rabab which Tansen played; and the main body is similar to that of the kachchapi veena, popularly called the kachchapi sitar, with its flat gourd resembling the back of a tortoise. There are six main strings which are placed on a flat bridge.
There are two additional strings for the drone and the rhythmic accompaniment. To play it, the instrument is placed in front of the performer and held in a slanting position so that the upper portion rests on the left shoulder. The strings are plucked with wire plectrums (mizrabs) worn on the fingers of the right hand and the notes are held with the fingers of the left hand. The polished metal plate on the finger-board facilitates the sliding of the fingers thus making it easier to produce the gamakas and other graces of Indian music. The surshringar is restricted to serious types of music, mainly the Dhrupad and Dhamar styles.
After playing the alap of the raga in vilambit, madhya and drut layas (slow, medium and fast tempo), the performer usually ends the recital with varieties of jhala played to the accom¬paniment of the pakhawaj. The surshringar is a difficult instrument to practise upon and hence is not popular. However there are a few masters in the north who maintain the traditional style of playing this instrument.