Durga Puja - festive time for the drummers too

September 26th, 2009 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Kolkata, Sep 26 (IANS) Dilip Ghorui, 45, of Mahishadal in East Midnapore district, barely earns enough as a rickshaw puller to make ends meet throughout the year — except during Durga Puja. That is when he takes on a different job, of a dhaki or traditional drummer.

The four-day-long annual festivity brings a fresh lease of life to Ghorui and his family. He is able to earn some extra money during the occasion by playing the dhak — a large traditional drum played mainly during religious festivals in West Bengal.

“We wait for this Durga Puja for the entire year. I live at Pahalanpur village, one of the remotest parts of our district, where we don’t have many options to earn our livelihood.

“We face acute poverty in our everyday lives and make a very meagre living out of pedalling rickshaws. During pujas, we can earn a moderate amount by playing the dhak at Kolkata puja pandals (marquees),” Ghorui told IANS.

According to him, most of the dhakis come to Kolkata to play at different puja pandals across the city. They arrive at the pandals two days before the puja starts and stay on till Dashami, the last day of the festival marked by the immersion of the idols of Goddess Durga in the Hooghly river or other water bodies.

Ghorui, along with a five-member team, has come to play the dhak at a prominent south Kolkata puja - organised by a group called Sanghamitra.

The dhakis are an integral part of the Durga Puja celebrations — the biggest festival of the Bengali community. The intricate beats played out on the dhak add fervour to the religious occasion.

“I know my family is awaiting my return. We earn between Rs.700-Rs.1,000 per head during the festival,” said another dhaki, Narayan Maiti.

Dhakis hang the large drums, decorated with feathers, around their necks. They play it with two thin wooden sticks. The rhythms are an integral part of Durga Puja.

“It’s sad that our next generation is not very willing to join this profession. I’ve seen my grandfather and father playing the dhak during Durga Pujas. I remember when I was a kid, I used to come to puja pandals with my father. I used to watch them playing the dhak,” said Bharat Bag, a dhaki.

“I don’t know what our next generation thinks about the age-old tradition of playing this grand instrument. But I have noticed they are not very interested. Maybe it’s an effect of the changing times,” said Bag.

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