Dilruba is around 200 years old and is one of the most popular bowed stringed instruments in North India. Its mention is found during Mughal era in India. According to one theory Dilruba is a smaller version of sitar and was developed to accommodate women singers who as it was understood that time, were finding Sitar too big and heavy to hold while performances. And at that time Sarangi was played by men alone. Another theory suggests Sikhs downsized it to replace taus. Dilruba is used as an accompaniment instrument especially where female vocalists are concerned because it creates higher tone that compliments the women’s higher pitched voices much better. Dilruba is a combination of Sitar and Sarangi.
The fretted finger board is like Sitar’s and the belly upon which the main bridge rests that is covered with goat skin is similar to that of Sarangi. The stem of the dilruba has eighteen or nineteen elliptical movable frets tied to with thin pieces of gut which helps the frets to move according to the scale of the raga played. The bridge is placed on the skin-covered body, over which all the main and sympathetic strings pass. There are four main strings, and the last is the principal playing string. There are about twenty-two sympathetic strings underneath the frets that are fastened to the pegs on the side. The frets guide the player in locating the correct position of the notes. The dilruba is held vertically, the lower portion on the lap of the performer or in front of him and the top resting against the left shoulder. The bridge of dilruba is placed on goat skin which is glued on a 6 by 8 inches hollowed out wooden chamber. Some dilruba makers put an extra one inch leather strap below the bridge for strengthening that area so that the bridge’s legs don’t tear the main skin. The playing technique is similar to that of Esraj.
In both Esraj and Dilbrua bow is drawn across the strings to create sound. Even Sarangi is played with bows. The person who can play Dilruba will not have any difficulty playing Esraj, but what sets them apart is the shape of their resonators and the manner in which the sympathetic strings attach. The Dilruba is crafted from organic materials like wood and skin. Both these react to temperature. Change in humidity level directly affects the tuning of Dilruba. If you have bought a Dilruba recently, please keep it in mind that you may find it difficult ot tune for a first few days. Once the skin soundboard settles things will start falling into place and tuning will get easier.. To begin tuning your instrument you can tune the Dilruba in the key of C which is equivalent to Indian key of Sa. Players can also tune their Dilruba using a tuned piano or even an electronic tuner.