Culture & History

The Journey of the Sarangi: From Popularity to Nullity

The Journey of the Sarangi: From Popularity to Nullity
Published On: 17-Aug-2023

Article by


The Sarangi is a short-necked instrument, but this small instrument, when played skillfully, mesmerizes the listeners. Sarangi is actually an instrument of East and South Asia. It is very popular in Nepal, Pakistan and India and many Indian and Pakistani sarangi players have gained international fame and much respect. The sarangi consists of strings that are rubbed with the fingers to create different types of music. According to the legal expert and linguist Ahmad Deen, 'Sarangi' is related to its originator “Mian Sarang”, Sarang was a famous singer associated with the royal court of Muhammad Shah Rangeela. But the opinion of Maulvi Syed Ahmad Dehlavi, the author of Farhang Asafia, is somewhat different in this regard. According to Syed Ahmad Dehlvi, 'Sarangi is a baja in India whose response has not been invented in any country. It was invented by Hakeem Saranga of Ujjain. Its origin is that the idea arose in the heart of Hakeem Saranga that as nature has created all kinds of music from the throat of a man, a similar instrument should be invented. So he invented an instrument in the form of a half torso to throat and named it 'Sarangi' meaning portion of body.

Pakistan is fortunate in that many eminent and talented Sarangi players were born here, including Ustad Nabi Bakhsh Khan, Ustad Nathu Khan, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad Khan, Ustad Nazim Ali Khan, Ustad Haider Bakhsh Malwe Khan, Ustad Sharafuddin Khan and Ustad Ghulam Hussain Khan. The names of Ustad Faqir Hussain and Ustad Ghulam Hussain are the most prominent. Ustad Pheru Khan, Ustad Allah Rakha Khan, (who continued to play the Sarangi on Radio Pakistan), Ustad Bandu Khan and the aforementioned Sarangi players made a name for themselves as experts in this art. All these Sarangi players also accompanied the Queen of music, Roshan Aara Begum. Renowned Sarangi played along with Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan also created the magic of Sarangi. Music experts describe Ustad Faqir Hussain as a very sophisticated and advanced Sarangi player. Ustad Faqir Hussain was trained by Ustad Ghulam Shabbir. He was a master of many ragas. Ustad Faqir Hussain's father was also a Sarangi player. His name was Khair Din. Ustad Khair Din's father was also a Sarangi Nawaz. Ustad Faqir Din has also performed his art in foreign countries. He has also participated in programs in China, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia and won accolades.

So all the instruments are sweet and attractive but Sarangi is different, you must have heard that when a musician adds the sound of sarangi to his style, it becomes more attractive. Once upon a time, Sarangi Nawaz Bismillah Khan of India was famous throughout the ages. He was a native of Banaras and the people of Banaras were proud of him. He performed Sarangi playing and got appreciation all over the world. When he died, he was mourned all over India. A strike was held in Banaras for three days. Both Muslims and Hindus participated in his burial. Other sarangi players who made a name for themselves in India include Ustad Bare Saghir Ud Din Khan (of Calcutta), Ustad Shakur Khan, Pandit Ram Narayan, Ustad Sultan, Pandit Gopal Misra of Banaras, Ustad Ghulam Sabir Khan of Kanpur, Ustad Bare Sabri Khan of Anbala.  and Ustad Sultan Khan also made a lot of repute in this field. Ustad Sultan Khan also played Sarangi in films. The sound of his Sarangi is heard in the songs of composer Khayyam's film "Amrao Jaan Adaa". The greatness of Ustad Sultan Ali Khan can be estimated from the fact that personalities like Prince Charles, George Michael, Goldie Hawn and George Harrison are his admirers. Famous Hollywood singers also benefited from the art of these eminent Sarangi players. Apart from Madonna, few other famous Hollywood singers and musicians also worked with these people.

According to one tradition, the Sarangi is an instrument of India, according to Hindu belief, the Sarangi was invented during the time of “Ravan”. On the contrary, Muslims say that the Sarangi is their invention and the Sarangi was discovered in Iran. Sarangi was also used in other Islamic countries. In the beginning it was called the Teacher's Teacher. There was a time when classical music concerts were considered incomplete without the Sarangi, but now this instrument is fast disappearing. Ustad Mazhar Amrao Bundu Khan, who is the grandson of Ustad Bundu Khan, has been practicing this art for 40 years and has also played Sarangi tunes on Radio Pakistan. Ustad Zohaib Hassan is also a well known Sarangi player of Pakistan who belongs to “Amritsari Gharana” of Sarangi.According to him, Sarangi is a very difficult instrument that requires a lot of practice, cultural institutions should take steps for the survival of this instrument. A Sarangi school was established for music lovers in Lohari Gate, inner city of Lahore, but unfortunately the number of Sarangi learners could not increase.There are only five Sarangi players in Pakistan's population of around twenty two crores, out of which two are in Lahore, one in Islamabad and two in Karachi. This instrument is now gradually becoming silent.

Music critics say that the closest sound to human grief comes from the Sarangi, it is the only instrument on which every word of the language and perceptive can not only be played, but the listener can understand its demonstration letter by letter. Unfortunately, Sarangi players are dying out one by one in our country. If steps are not taken to preserve it, this instrument will be seen in the museum but there will be no one to play it in Pakistan.

اس کی اک آواز سے شرمایا سنگیت

سارنگی کا سوز کیا، کیا سِتار کا ساز

(Embarrassed by its voice, the song revealed the pain of the sarangi, the melody of the sitar.) 

   Ustad Sultan Khan 

About Us

Monthly "Azeem English Magazine", launched in 2000, records the information about diverse fields like mental health, literature, research, science, and art. The magazine's objective is to impart social, cultural, and literary values to society.

Contact Us

Azeem English Magazine

 +92 51 88 93 092

  First Floor, RAS Arcade, Eidhi Market, Street#124, G-13/4, Islamabad, Pakistan, 44000.