The Rabab and Sikhi

Bringing Back the Youth Through the Sikh Arts

Music Workshop

The word rabab for a Sikh is still like an unconscious trigger to a deep relationship with the Guru, enjoyed through the medium of kirtan. It has come to represent the pure, untainted medium of kirtan, by which Gurbani's blessing is delivered to the world. Thus, the rabab is the enduring emblem of Sikh sacred music.

The rabab is the enduring emblem of Sikh sacred music. Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion modified the Persian rabab of his day and presented it to his musician-companion Bhai Mardana, who played 19 ragas on it as the Guru sang his divine poems in praise of God. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last living Guru of the Sikhs was equally adept in the arts of poetry and music as he was in martial arts and state-craft. His rabab, pictured above, is the only known musical relic of any Sikh Guru that has survived the ravages of time, heat and history. Given by the Guru to Maharaja Sidh Sen (1684-1727) of Suket Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, this rabab was later gifted (along with other relics) to the local Sikh community. On June 26, 1999 the Shiromini Gurdwara Parbandak.Committee, through the efforts of Dr Kharak Singh sanctioned Chris Mooney Singhís Rabab Revival Project. The making of replicas of the rabab and other traditional Sikh instruments has commenced for re-introduction into contemporary Sikh devotional music. Copies are also being prepared for display in international museums and institutions. These are initial steps in a systematic program of sharing the Sikh religion through its rich heritage of sacred arts with the international world.

The word rabab for a Sikh is still like an unconscious trigger to a deep relationship with the Guru, enjoyed through the medium of kirtan. It has come to represent the pure, untainted medium of kirtan, by which Gurbaniís blessing is delivered to the world. Thus, the rabab is the enduring emblem of Sikh sacred music.

Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion modified the rabab of his day and presented it to his musician-companion Bhai Mardana, who played as the Guru sang his divine poems in praise of God.

Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru was equally adept in the arts of poetry and music as he was in martial arts and state-craft. His rabab is the only known musical relic of any Sikh Guru that has survived the ravages of time, heat and history. Given by the Guru to Maharaja Sidh Sen (1684-1727) of Suket Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, this rabab was later gifted (along with other relics) to the local Sikh community.

The original rabab of Bhai Mardana has not survived. That means the rabab of Guru Gobind Singh is one of the most priceless treasures of Sikh history. Many weapons of the Guru can be viewed in several historical locations, but there is only one rabab. This is indeed a remarkable fact since kirtan is a fundamental foundation on which the Sikh Faith is built and yet no other examples of musical instruments used by the Gurus have been preserved.

It is significant that Guru Gobind Singh gave both a weapon (rifle) and a rabab to the Mandi Maharaja as these aptly symbolize the two sides of Sikhism: Miri and Piri or Shakti and Bhakti. The purpose of weapons in Sikhi is to protect dharma and in the Sikh religion, kirtan is the main medium of disseminating the Guruís shabad. Symbolically speaking, the sword is to protect the rabab. The wielding of shakti must be tempered by the inner discipline gained through bhakti. Therefore, given the importance of shabad kirtan, making a replica of the 10th Guruís own instrument is a way to remember the other side of the Father of the Khalsa who transformed his Sikhs into great warriors, but at the same put them on the path of sainthood.

Traditional Sikh Musical Instruments

Guru Rabab in Mandi Gurdwara Guru Rabab at Mandi Gurdwara with Chris and Savinder

Learning the Skills of Sikh Music Sardar Chris Mooney Singh

Rabab Expo in Singapore @ 2000 / 2001 Sikh Music

Sardar Chris Mooney Singh Musician Sardar Surjit ji

Sharing Guitar Tips Manpreet Masters Guitar Fingering

Rabab Niwas in the Punjab


Sikh Rabab and Bani - Flickr