A brand of sitar that should get mentioned as a nice and relatively cheap alternative is Manoj kumar Sardar . I was very pleasantly surprised to find how good these are when I purchased a #2 from the Ali Akbar school this christmas. I was getting it to replace my Mangla Prasad gradeAAA tune that I bought a few years ago from buckingham and loved unfortunately it met with an accident and the gourd is completely smashed. I did not have the money to get the same model again so I had already accepted that I was going to get a lesser model. The one I bought was on sale for $720 but I was not to thrilled about getting a plastic bridge so I had them make me a bone bridge as well that added another $50 to the price, it made me fell good to know that Brian Godden was actually the one to do the jewari since he is who everyone told me get my broken sitar fixed by. Now that I have the sitar I am very glad that I went with the Manoj instead saving longer for another Mangla. I have only had it for about 2 weeks and already it sounds much better than my last sitar ever did. The face is a very large center cut piece of with an exquisite hourglass grain and a nice big gourd. The wood in the neck has straight grain that runs all the way up, and the pegs are a dark brown almost black wood I'm not sure if they are ebony or rosewood but they are fit perfectly which makes them turn smoothly and stay in tune nicely. The workmanship is a lot cleaner than most of the indian instruments I have seen and for the price it is a steal. The set up that brian did is perfect and the people at the store were very knowledgeable I would highly recommend anyone who is thinking of buying a sitar to check them out. As soon as get some more money I will probably drive my smashed Mangla up to brian and see if he can put it back together.
I finally got myself a sitar! It's a gorgeous Vilayat Khan style sitar I purchased directly from Monojji. I dedicated a small website (in honor of our old friend Billy's web efforts) to my new sitar with some helpful information on the whole process. Enjoy!!!