Dilruba: Ravisher of the Heart

Girls Play Dilruba
Girls Play Dilruba. S. Khalsa

Dilruba may be interpreted to mean one who steals or ravishes the heart, is Persian in origin, and comes from the root word dil, meaning heart. The dilruba is a stringed instrument played with a bow and constructed of wood and animal skin.

The dilruba is about 200 hundred years old and thought to have originated around the time between Guru Hargovind and Guru Gobind Singh. It became popular with Sikh warriors as a light weight portable instrument used to play shabads, or the hymns of Gurbani kirtan, accompanied by the tabla.

Interest in playing the dilruba waned during the early 1900's and the instrument became very scarce until only a few relics remained by the 1980's. Renewed interest in performing kirtan with traditional string instruments revived the art of making the dilruba. Learning to play dilruba is gaining popularity since they have become more readily available.

The dilruba has 18 to 22 metals strings consisting of 4 main strings with a balance of sympathetic strings which resonate when the main string is touched with the bow. The dilruba has a long neck with metal frets which rests against the left shoulder with the instrument resting between the knees when sitting cross legged. The dilruba is played by sliding the fingers of the left hand up and down the strings along neck placing them between the frets while the right hand holds the bow sliding it across the main strings in order to produce notes of raag, a classical Indian musical score.

The size and pitch of the dilruba makes it ideal for women to play and sing with. Frets are designed to move and are adjustable to a desired raag. Strings are tuned to the Ma Sa Pa Pa or the corresponding raag. In the key of C tune main strings two octaves down C F G and one octave down G. Tune sympathetic strings:

  • One octave down F G G A B
  • Middle octave C C
  • Middle octave D E F G G A G G
  • One Octave up C D D E F


Dill - roo - ba (a sounds like u as in but)


"Dil meh khoj dilai dil khojahu ehee thour mukaamaa ||2||
Search your heart looking deep within your heart of hearts into the home and the very place where Divine God lives. ||2|| SGGS||1349