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The dotara (or dotar) (Bengali: দোতারা, Assamese: দোতাৰা, literally, 'Of or having two wires') is a two, four, or sometimes five-stringed musical instrument resembling a sarod. It is commonly used in Assam, Bangladesh, West Bengal & Bihar, and dates from the 15th-16th century when it was adopted by the ascetic cults of Bauls and Fakirs.
The dotara is one of the most important instruments used in various genres of folk music in Bengal and Assam. It has two main forms, the bangla and the bhawaiya. The bangla form originated in the Rahr Bangla region, where it is still predominantly played. It has metal strings, which give it a brighter tone than other instruments played in the area. Although a dotara can have 4-5 strings, most playing is done primarily on two strings, hence the name.
The bhawaiya form is almost extinct in contemporary times, that has a more primeval beginning[clarification needed] than its bangla cousin. Again the strings are its striking feature, being made either of thick cotton, silk or more popularly of catgut, giving it a more bass-rich tone. This instrument is widely used in eastern folk music forms such as the Bhhawaiya - of which the Goalpariya is a relatively well known subcategory - the Mahishali, and the Baul forms prevailing in and around the Bengal Province, including areas in Assam and East Bihar.
The dotara is a plucked stringed instrument, played in an open note combination, often played alongside folk percussive instruments such as Dhol, Khhol or Mandira. It is made out of neem or other hardwood, with an elongated, roundish belly for a sound box, which tapers to a narrow neck culminating in a peg box which is often elaborately carved in the shape of a peacock-head, swan-head or other animal motif. The fingerboard is fretless and made of brass or steel, as in a sarod. The sound box of the instrument is covered with a tightly stretched kidskin or lizard-skin, as in a rabaab or a sarod.
With four strings, the dotara is tuned as follows (from top to bottom)—Soh(lower)-Do-Do-Fah. The Indian notation would read: Pa - Sa - Sa - Ma with Do/Sa being the tonic/root note of the song.
The term is from Persian: دو تار (do târ), literally “two wires”, with the Bengali-Assamese suffix -a “having, -ed”. The instrument is known as dotara or dütara (Bengali: দোতারা, Assamese: দোতাৰা) and dütüra (Assamese: দোতোৰা).