Tears, Sweat and Rhythm – The Workings of a Dhol Pathak

Image by Anant Nath Sharma
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With our favourite Ganeshotsav right there on the horizon, Pune is excited for two main things – the arrival of Bappa, and Dhol Tasha! This festival marks the undying spirit of our city and its connection to culture and music. These ten days are enough of a proof that Punekars do Dhol Tasha unlike any other!

However, the success, the glory, the chemistry, it’s all good to see from afar. What really goes on behind the scenes – the sacrifices and the exhaustion, that’s something not too many people know.

Pune
Image by Anant Nath Sharma

A Dhol Pathak acts similar to a state government; every individual has a role to play. Starting from teaching, dhol maintenance, to managing the Pathak and miravnuks, it’s a fluent work system. After joining a Pathak, you aren’t directly taught the dhol ‘haat’ or tasha pattern, they start with the basics.

How to tie a dhol, how to tune a tasha, how to tie the ‘dhwaj’ to the pole; these basics are essential for the operations of a Pathak, they are pivotal during a miravnuk. Not only do the basics act as a stepping stone for the actual ‘vadan’, but they also enforce discipline within every player. Whether it’s a junior, a senior, or the top hierarchy of a Pathak, every single person knows how to do these things.

Pune
Image by Anant Nath Sharma

It’s very easy to get carried away once you have the dhol tied around your waist. Herein comes the discipline, the part where you operate as a unit. Learning the dhol ‘haat’ isn’t too hard, but playing it in co-ordination is legit tough. You play with 70-100 people at the same time, there needs to be just one single rhythm from the all the Dhol players. This takes skill, patience, and most importantly, concentration.

Pune
Image by Anant Nath Sharma

Different individuals have different levels of strength. Sometimes, you have to tone down so as to not get carried away, especially if you’re a new Dhol player. Too much excitement means lack of focus, and lack of focus opens the door to mistakes. Now you must think that one dhol going off key within fifty dhols wouldn’t be noticeable. I assure you, its very, very noticeable.

Once the basics and Dhol ‘haat’ are learned, then comes increasing the stamina. These ten days of Ganeshotsav are extremely exhausting, so maintaining energy (more importantly, knowing how to save energy) is pivotal and that is taught. That itself is the main difference between the seniors and juniors- the seniors have walked the miravnuk path. They have played under the hot sun and hard rains, and that is what makes a dhol player so rugged and determined. Having every reason to stop but not stopping is the true essence of Ganeshotsav and everything a Pathak stands for!

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