The sound of the dhak is an essential part of Pujo celebrations, says Indrayanee Mukherjee.
Pujo (or Durga Puja) is not Pujowithout the resounding echoes of the dhak (the percussion instrument played during the festival). I call it the ‘daak of the dhak’, the call of the dhak. The dhak literally beckons you to break barriers of whatever is holding you and to celebrate the joy of victory. Ultimately that is the message of the festival: victory over evil.
Evil and victory here have very deep meanings, I daresay. Evil is evil in every way and somewhere it starts in the deep recesses of our mind.
Harbour a doubt towards your own self and evil is catching on.
Victory, on the other hand, is to recognise how the mind is manipulating its way down the spiral stairway of hell. Victory is to cleanse the mind of any such negative thought. This translates into action and words uttered.
For me, Pujo has a special place because I love the frenzied beats taking over everything! Standing in front of Ma Durga, I may be mulling over several thoughts but once the dhakis (drummers) roll in with their beats pacing up the atmosphere it becomes a beautiful war zone, reiterating good over the devil every moment!
Pulsating the atmosphere suffused with incense and the sweetly acrid smell of dhunuchi (incense)...the revellers break into a celebratory dance. The frenzy and zest are infectious. You just have to witness the atmosphere to truly feel the strength of it.
I have watched the dhakis very intensely. Frail men smoking a bidi in their free time, sipping some tea if they are lucky to procure it, huddled together, they sit and chat while some others take a quick power nap to rest their tired bones.
I was once in Kolkata before Pujo and happened to be there at Sealdah station. It was a bizarre sight to see groups of dhakis outside the station playing away as if this was their only chance. And I guess yes, that was it. They were playing to attract club members to hire them for the Pujas.
A long time ago, I had asked one of the dhakis, who are the regulars at Goregaon’s Kallol Club, over a conversation if they miss being home for this quintessential celebration of the Bangla calendar.
He had a smile on his lips and some sadness in his eyes as he answered thoughtfully. ‘What to do, Didi, this is the way our household runs. When we play, our families back home can celebrate. Yes, of course we miss being with them but yes, this is the truth of it all, and being with them once we are back becomes more meaningful.’
This conversation and the sight at the station are etched in my head. There is no message or sob story here, but it is ultimately about survival and celebrating it at every moment come what may. Pujo would not be the same without the dhak.
The dhakis breathe life into this entire celebration and I have tremendous gratitude for them and their families to keep this tradition alive in such a beautiful way. Today, our world is changing and electro is in. Still I know and pray that the dhak and the dhakis continue to enchant us all, all through the way.
Indrayanee Mukherjee is a student of Kathak. She is the first Ganda-Bandh shagird of Smt Uma Dogra, a leading Kathak exponent.