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The sitar, also known as the Indian lute, is a musical stringed instrument that is very popular in the Indian sub-continent.
A sitar's musical notes are soft and melodious and greatly suited for Indian classical music.
Sitar music used to resonate in Indian homes alone. Today, thanks to the efforts of well-known Indian sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, these instruments are being played in the US and Europe too.
The sitar has a very unique shape with a head that is made of a gourd shell and a long neck made of teak. It's head works as the resonator, and produces musical notes of great sweetness. Some have two heads. The second head being made of a small gourd shell.
Like most Indian instruments, sitars too have three different kinds of strings; playing strings, drone strings and sympathetic strings. In most, there are seventeen strings.
The number of playing strings in sitars varies from two to four while the drone strings that are used to provide base music number four in most sitars. The rest are sympathetic strings, and are never strummed. They run under the sitar's frets and vibrate with the playing strings.
Sitars are not assembled in factories. Instead they are handmade by craftsmen living in small Indian towns. There is therefore no standardisation, with each instrument carrying the distinct stamp of the family that has been making them for generations.
Sitars are also very delicate instruments and need great care in transporting because of the danger of gourd heads cracking under pressure or breaking away from the neck. There is yet to be a heavy-metal sitarist!