The origin of dilruba is esraj. It is a string instrument found in two forms throughout the north, central, and east regions of India. It is a young instrument by Indian terms, being only about 200 years old. The dilruba is found in the north, where it is used in religious music and light classical songs in the urban areas. Its name is translated as “robber of the heart.” The esraj is found in the east and central areas, particularly Bengal (Bangladesh and Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura) and it is used in a somewhat wider variety of musical styles than is the dilruba.

The dilruba originates from the taus and some argue is the work of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, whilst that of the taus was the work of Guru Hargobind (the sixth guru of the Sikhs). The Dilruba was then produced to replace the previously heavy instrument (the taus). This attempt was intended to ‘scale down’ the taus into what is now known to be the dilruba. This made it more convenient for the Sikh army to carry the instrument on horseback.