Tripura is a north eastern state of India. It has Bangladesh, Assam and Mizoram as its neighbors. The languages of Bengali and Tripuri or Kokborok are spoken in this state which has Agartala as its capital. This sate was independent till 1949 when it merged with the Indian subcontinent according to the Tripura Merger Agreement.
This beautiful landlocked state has a mountainous topography with altitudes that vary from 50-3080 feet above sea level. The plains here are more thickly populated as compared to the hills. The state is accessible through Cachar district in Assam and Aizwal district in Mizoram.
Tripura has an aristocratic heritage rich in music, dance, handicrafts and fine arts. The tribals of Tripura have music and dance as an integral part of their life. Song and dance sequences are their way of celebration and every marriage, religious occasion and festival is incomplete without them. There are many myths that are associated with birth of first note in Tripurian musical history and hence mystery and awe is intermingled with socio- cultural life.
There are many different musical instruments associated with Tripuri tribes and their music. Some of the popular ones are Kham, Sumui, Sarinda, Dangdu, Cymbals and Chongpreng. Of these Sarinda is a string instrument, Sumui is a flute like instrument made of bamboo and Kham is more or less like a drum made of animal skin and wood.
Sarinda is used in traditional dance and music as sole accompaniment for a group of folk singers or a solo performance. The instrument in its most recent form of Sarinda Uakhrap is made of bamboo and is very popular among the music loving people of Tripura.
The original Saringa can be made of wood or bamboo and gives an appearance of a peacock, or more imaginable, mandolin. The resonating chamber is oval in shape and is hollow. Made of wood, the lower part of chamber is covered with thin animal skin. The skin of iguana is ideally used. The top wider portion is left open. The body of this instrument is shaped such that the upper and lower portions appear as separate. The lower or oval shaped portion is small with large middle portion and wide edges. Three pegs are fitted to the open cave portion. These pegs are used for fastening of strings. Originally the strings were made from gut of animals or Muga, but more recently metal strings are also being used. The instrument is 65 to 70 cm in length. It is played using a bow made of horse hair. The pegs can be rotated to loosen or tighten the strings for tuning.
The bow is known as ‘Gaz’ and varies quite a bit. A simple version is a piece of wood that is bent into the shape of a bow and strung using horse hair. In a more complicated version a wooden frog supports the horse hair on a wooden bow. The wooden frog is then attached to the bow body using string. Some folk musicians tie small bells or ghunghuru to the ends of the bow or on the wrist of the right hand.
The number of strings or tar on the Sarinda varies. The simplest version has only one string. The most common one has three to four strings that can be bowed. Among these there is a main string or the ‘Baj Tar’. The strings are drones and help to extend range to lower octaves. In addition to these strings there may be some sympathetic strings which vibrate without being bowed or struck. These strings support the notes played on the instrument and gives it the unique touch.
The musicians use the left hand technique for playing Saringa. The instrument is held in an upright position with the left hand and the bow is held in the right hand. The position of holding varies from person to person. The technique used fro bowing is essentially the underhand technique, like in German bass, every time and the French overhand technique is always avoided. Similar to how the Sarangi is played; the Sarinda is played by sliding nails of the ring, index and middle fingers of the left hand over the string. This is different from other string instruments where the tips of fingers are used to press the string against the fingerboard.
The stretching of skin on the resonating chamber is a feature that Sarinda shares with almost all of Indian musical string instruments. There are two kinds of string instruments – angulitra, instruments that are played using a mizrab which is a device worn on the finger; and dhanustata or dhanuyantra, instruments played using a bow. There are numerous string instruments in use. The length, number and material of string used varies from instrument to instrument. The tone of the instrument is determined by the string in the bow. Taut strings give a high pitch while slack strings give a low pitch.
Tripuris have deep respect for forces of nature and they practice religious rites and rituals to pacify animal spirits and local Gods. They believe these forces to be responsible for disease, sickness and death. They treat sick people with complicated rituals accompanied with beats of drums and other instruments. Originally, the drums, rattle and a file made of wood or bamboo are the ethnic musical instruments. The file had rows of sharp points on the surface which was made of sticks and this is rubbed using another piece of wood or even the shoulder blade. The people of Tripura can make interesting instruments from materials available locally like bamboo, wood, animal skin, animal horns etc. They firmly believe in the power of instruments to bestow material benefits on being treated with reverence. The Sarinda is very similar to Sarangi and it is played in the same manner. But Sarangi has a square shaped base as compared to the rounded or pointed base of Sarinda and the neck construction is different. Thus Sarinda is considered to be a folk fiddle of the class Sarangi.