Jawari

Common knowledge

The most radical maintenance work on a sitar is undoubtedly, and most commonly named, “(doing) jawari”. The correct meaning of the word “jawari” (or “jiwari”) is “saddle which gives life to the sound”. It comes from the hindi combination of “jiv” (= life) & “sawari” (= saddle). The actual bridge, as we casually also adress to as “jawari” is in fact called ghodi. This is a construction of wooden legs, glued to a piece of hard material in a rectangular shape and a curved surface. How to make a ghodi can be seen here.

The legs are made of tun, teak or even sheeshum but also mahogany, ahorn, rosewood or almost any other fine quality wooden leftover piece can be used. The harder the wood, the clearer and louder the sound that will come out. The upper part of a ghodi is also made of a hard material. Professional quality sitars are usually fitted with a piece of staghorn. The antlers of the barasingha, a type of deer native to India & Nepal, are most wanted for this but they became very rare and are now protected. Nowadays many sitar makers experiment with synthetic materials. The sound which comes from a fine piece of fiber is a bit different, but at least very useful and comparable to staghorn. And they have a big advantage that they resist wear much more better than any other material such as camel bone, ebony, rosewood, ivory, buffalo horn and staghorn.

Jawari’s basic principles

Very important is the curved shape of the bridge and in particular the narrowing between bridge and string. This is the most important factor, determinating the typical sound of a sitar. Since the bridge is wide (2,5 – 3 cm) the contact with the string is spread over a longer distance. This makes that a vibrating string will have several “touching points” which generate extra harmonics. These create a very rich, complex resonating, almost self entertaining, and evolving buzzing sound.

Two main extremes are to be distinguished

1. Open jawari or “khula” (= open sound, for ex. Ravi Shankar style) is created by a long and wide narrowing between strings and bridge. This combination is full of harmonics and sounds very bright, loud and buzzy.

2. Closed  jawari or “band” (= closed sound, for ex. Balaram Pathak style) is created by a rather short and small narrowing between strings and bridge, or even no narrowing at all. This sounds more warm and less, or even not buzzy at all.

These two main types are scarcely found under their extreme form. (Only a tanpura has an extremely open bridge). In reality the sound of the bridge is mostly in between these two types, guided by personal preference and gharana style.
The degree of widening can easily be detected. Put your fingernail on the string and then gently slide with your fingernail perpendicular to the string over the bridge while the string is vibrating. At the point where the bridge becomes open suddenly intense vibrations will be observed.

Workflow

Use long and flat, coarse to second cut files. Depending on the amount of material which should be removed to obtain a desired curve. Or, in case of regular maintenance jawari work the choice of your file may be determined by the amount of wear. Make sure your files are always clean and intact. Fine cut files and sandpaper are used for the finishing touch. A fine clue which Hariji taught me is to use the backside of sandpaper to give a final polishing stroke.

For a good result it is important that you can keep the jawari surface solid and stable against the file. A very helpfull tool might be a good workbench vice to firmly clamp the ghodi. Or even better, use a traditional Indian floor bench vice. Take a look here if you want to make one yourself.

Doing jawari is a question of practice. No written rules exists on how, where and when to start filing or sanding. Just take your time to create a slow but steady, exponentially inclined curve. At regular times, create a finishing stroke with fine sandpaper and try out on your instrument. Remove it again and work further, step by step. It’s also a good idea not to experiment with your one and only fine staghorn jawari but look out for a piece of cheap camel bone, leftover ebony or fiber and make your own ghodi from scratch. It might take some time, but once you succeed to create a good sound with a self-made jawari…

Finetuning

When your sound starts to come, you can feel the desire that one or more strings should sound different. For example, you want cikari strings to sound more open than playing strings, or laraj kharaj only to become more closed. From that moment onwards you should work locally by means of a scraper. This is a cutting tool which is used in a perpendicular position towards the surface. Make sure your cutter is not too wide but very sharp and clean. Relax the string and pull it aside. Remove some material by scraping it off. Make the narrowing wider if you want a more open sound, or remove some material from next to the point where the narrowing begins to make the string go deeper and as such making the narrowing smaller to obtain a more closed sound.

Before you start

Note that a jawari is never glued to the tabli. It should always be possible to remove it without force. In case of problem, one can mount one or two very small bone pins to prevent the jawari from sliding away while playing meend. Sometimes a drop of shellack is applied to the feet in order to fix the jawari. But, before you remove a jawari, make sure to be able to put it again in the same position. If needed, mark the feet’s position by making a small incision on the tabli with a sharp knife or chisel.

If you want to change the sound more drastically from open to closed sound or reverse, it is better to work on the jawari’s full inclination first. This is done by removing a very small amount of wood from under the jawari’s feet. Removing wood from the frontside onwards, will make the jawari turn over to a wider narrowing with the strings and thus make it sound more open. Removing wood at the backside will make it turn over to a smaller narrowing and make the sound more closed. For this you can use a coarse or second cut file, or cut the wood away with a sharp chisel. Make sure that the feet’s original curve is maintained so that the jawari is in perfect contact surface with the tabli.

Ready for more ?

How to make a ghodi
Dead notes
Jora tar tuning problem
The Indian floor bench vice
Black buffalo horn


Comments

Jawari — 11 Comments

  1. Hi sitar factory,
    I just wanted to say thanks for your web site. It gave me the courage to make my own bridge for my sitar which i would never have dreamed i would have been able to do….. anyway I thought i’d share some pictures of it with you. It is made of rosewood, synthetic bone and delrin and has definitely improved the sustain of my sitar (which was already pretty good). I’m not sure if this is just cause i fitted it more carefully or because the bridge is better. But anyway here it is.

    Thanks again for the excellent site.

    Regards

    Adam

    PS Oh yes i also made the tarab bridge (from an old bone tarab bridge i had lying around) by basically just replacing the bridge surface with delrin.

  2. A more systematic approach for doing the jiwari can be found in the book of Manfred M. Junius: “The Sitar”(117 pages), on pages 84-79 Thomas Marcotty describes a step by step method. He divides the bridge in 16 squares with a pencil, and goes on how one can grind the different curves for each string with the help of these squares.He gives special attention to the first playing string, the curve for it on the bridge must be parabolic!On one drawing he shows the different zones on the bridge like on a relief map. I have used this method on several of my Sitars with success! The book is published by Heinrichshofen’s Verlag, Wilhemshaven-Locarno- Amsterdam. (ISBN 3-7959-0173-1) It is written in Englisch, I don’t know if it’s still available, anyway it’s a very interesting book about the Sitar!

    Henny Vreeling

  3. Bonjour,
    merci de vos informations et du site. j’ai récemment changé mon jeu de cordes et remplacé la 4° qui était à l’origine en laiton avec celle de la pochette de jeu qui est en cuivre et du coup celle ci frise en do et moins quand elle est en do dièse. Que puis je faire elle semble un peu plus grosse de diamètre également..?
    j’ai vu sur des vidéos, un petite pièce cordée avec un crochet sur la dernière frette, est ce réalisable par moi-même? -
    combien coûte un narka? je n’en trouve pas en france
    cordialement
    Serge

  4. First, let me thank you for sharing the above text.

    2nd, and If I’m allowed an opinion: whenever one buys a sitar IN-HOUSE in India (& some other places elsewhere), they will be happy to sell you extra jiwari(/s !!) for the instrument you just purchased, in which case you may also suggest they glue the spare one in place so you get to compare it to the original one: in this case & as suggested on the above article, it is a good idea to have them MARK the jiwari position beforehand.

    Extra cuts on jiwari are a good idea, and some people say that an extra [close] cut for the baj string at the targahan may also get the jiwari some extra-life, though some may consider an implied tradeoff: both of these procedures will change string-spacing somewhat.

  5. What do you mean by “detaching” from the tabli ?

    Sometimes a jiwari can move away from its original position while playing meend. If this is your problem, you can mount one or two very small bone pins to prevent the jiwari from sliding away while playing meend. (see picture) Sometimes a drop of shellack is applied to the feet in order to fix the jiwari. But, before you remove a jiwari, make sure to be able to put it again in the same position. If needed, mark the feet’s position with a sharp knife on the tabli.
    Jiwari Pins
    Ordering a new jiwari will not help you because every jiwari has to be adjusted to the instrument on which it is supposed to be mounted. In either way you will have to try to adjust the jiwari yourself (try to understand the guidelines in this article above) or to find someone in your neighbourhood who can help you with that. But you will always need to keep the jiwari and his sitar together.

  6. Hello…Im having trouble with my jawari…I have a Vilayat Khan style sitar made by Nitai in benares, it has like 4 years old and the jawari is opening too much and it is detaching from the tabli too often making me puting a little glue every time it detaches and also every time this happens I have to almost guess where was the jawari positioned in the tabli in the first place… Also ive used up all the slots for the baj string and jori (they are too opened) so its two options or I get a new jawari from nitai in benares that hopefully matches my sitar or I do the job my self…can you help me out here? thank you very much for reading this…

    Nico (sitar student from Chile)

  7. You have done a very good job. I have also written a book on Acoustic Principled behind Pleasing timber of Sitar and tried to reveal the individual properties of each copmponent of sitar.

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