Drummers ready to welcome deity

Dhakis are at crossroads due to cost cutting and changing trends


A priest prepares to worship Durga in Kolkata. AFP

Meet Mahesh, the ‘dhaki’, who now makes it a point to pitch his tent around this time every year to earn some fast bucks by drumming in the pandal of his choice.

As Kolkata gears up to welcome goddess Durga on her five-day sojourn to the earth, dhakis tend to breathe a new life and ambience as they dance to the tunes of a divine rhythm. The likes of Mahesh are not to be missed as they potter around the Sealdah station waiting for puja organisers to seal a contract for drumming up those divine tunes during the five-day festivities.

Mahesh, who is from a village in the Sunderbans Island, still takes pride in claiming that Durga puja without them are incomplete and it starts with them and obviously ends with them.

“Dhakis are an integral part of any puja organised in the city or elsewhere. The deafening yet divine drumbeats add a world of glory to any puja. With the rapid commercialisation of the Puja, the custom of arranging dhakis has been dwindling though,” said an octogenarian priest at a popular puja pandal.

It is the sound of these traditional rural drums that welcomes the deity to the mandap (pandal) and it is this sound that still carries a magic during the festival, he says. “ ...and it’s this sound that makes us cry during ‘bhasan’ (immersion)”.

Mahesh does not argue the point that the art of drumming up new tunes has been dying as the young generation hardly has any devotion .”

Another aspect posing a threat to this is a fad which the ‘dhakis’ abhor. Some organisers have discovered a substitute for the ‘dhakis’ by replacing them with tape-recorded drum beats.

Standing at the crossroads are the poor drummers many of whom might be rendered jobless if this becomes the reigning trend as the cost cutting spree have started re-shaping the tradition.

In overcrowded pandals, they are sadly aware, what matters are the ‘dhak’ beats and not necessarily the men behind the ‘dhak’.

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