Women break gender stereotypes with the dhol

Meet the women members of percussion bands in Maharashtra that once enrolled only men

Thirty three-year-old Esha Rajput, who works with Oracle, Mumbai, rushes home from work to get into a nauvari (Maharastrian-style nine-yard sari). She completes the traditional look with a nathni (nose ring), necklace, bangles, jhumkas, a chandrakor tikali (half moon-shaped bindi) and turban. Finally, she ties the dhol, weighing around 13 to 14 kg, around her slender waist and is all set to join the Swargandhar Dhol Tasha Pathak’s performances in pandals across Mumbai.

This is the routine Esha and 50 other girls, who are part of the 150-member youth band, follow through the 11 days of Ganesh Utsav. As the booming beats of the dhol tasha rent the festive air, gender stereotypes are broken as these women perform along with their male counterparts.

Esha Rajput

Esha Rajput  

These percussion instruments were traditionally played by men and the pathaks (band in Marathi) did not enrol women.

Originally, the beats of these instruments signified victory during a war. Appaji Pendse of Pune is credited with founding the first dhol tasha pathak in the early Sixties as part of Ganesh Utsav celebration. Over the years, many such bands have been formed.

The popular Mumbai-based Swargandhar was started by 26-year-old entrepreneur Prasad Pimpale in 2014. “I was concerned about the dilution of the music, and keen to take forward this beautiful tradition in all its authenticity. I realised it could happen only by involving the youth. Our members belong to the 11-35 age group. Community celebrations are a great way to inculcate cultural values among youngsters and make them aware of our rich heritage,” says Pimpale, who led a 30-member team last year to the European Union of Folklore Festival (EAFF) in Spain.

The resonating beats of the dhol make Hemangi Haldankar, who works with Axis Bank, feel empowered. “When I told my parents about joining the band, they were initially sceptical. But, they are now happy to see me pursue it with passion. It’s hard to put in words the joy that I derive by playing the dhol. It also feels wonderful to don traditional attire. Fortunately, you now get pre-stitched nauvaris, making it easier to wear and move around,’’ says Hemangi, who is looking forward to Swargandhar’s musical outing during Dussehra.

The band follows two practice sessions in a year — January to March to prepare for Gudi Padwa (Maharastrian New Year) and June to September for Ganesh Chaturthi. “Since most of us are working, and some studying, we meet during weekends and play for three to four hours,” says Hemangi.

Women break gender stereotypes with the dhol

Though it requires a lot of energy and effort to master the beats, Shivani Patil, who is pursuing a course in German, thinks the dhol tasha has strengthened her physically and mentally.

“I am excited that we have entered a once male-dominated musical domain and are performing as well as them. But during performances, disparities based on gender, caste or background hardly come into play. The sound of the dhol binds us,” says Shivani.

The members do not get paid for the performances; they do it for the love of music.

“Since I began playing the dhol, I feel more confident to take on the world. The rhythm is rejuvenating. I feel more women should take it up to experience the joy of music and oneness. When the Ganesh Utsav draws to a close, my favourite chant is Ganpati bappa morya, pudhchya varshi lavkar ya (My Lord Ganesha, return soon next year),” laughs Minal Mukesh Shigvan.

Minal Mukesh Shigvan

Minal Mukesh Shigvan  

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 5:07:37 PM |

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