Despite the intricately carved idol of Goddess Durga, the larger-than-life pandals and the aroma of traditional delicacies prepared for the puja, the celebrations would be incomplete without the reverberating sounds of dhaks . While the rest of the world has been looking towards recorded music and remixes, the traditional dhakis remain an integral part of the Durga puja celebrations.
Shaping the festive aura at the AMCOSA function hall are Rabindra Das and Taposh Das. With large drums hanging around their waist, embellished with white-coloured feathers, the two play several compositions that have been handed down over generations. The duo has travelled all the way from Midnapore, a place in West Bengal, to play dhak in the city.
A legacy to shoulder
“I am primarily a farmer, but playing dhak has been a tradition in the family. So every year around this time, we take a break from farming and set out to play for the Goddess. I can never miss playing dhak at a puja pandal as there is so much of positivity and devotion during those 10 days,” says Rabindra.
While it is the legacy and the atmosphere at the pandal that keeps Rabindra going, Taposh does not shy away from stating that it is the extra income which attracts him. So, he does not mind being away from his family during the festival time. Higher remuneration paid by communities that have settled outside the state are a major source of income for the dhakis . Dhaks have always been used to mark the arrival of happiness in Bengali culture and hence one can see them being played during every joyous occasion. Apart from Durga puja, they also play the dhak during Kali puja, Manasa puja and Jagdhatri puja. “I play over 17 compositions taught to me by my father. Though people keep improvising compositions, I like sticking to the traditional ones,” says Taposh.
Despite dhaks being a sought-after instrument during the festive, not many from the younger generation are keen to learn the art. Rabindra, however, says that he will teach his children.“Playing dhak is not just about money. It is a family tradition that has been followed for decades and I wouldn’t want that to die. I will not deprive my children the joy of being at the centre of this divine celebration,” he says.
Trip down the memory lane
For Kushal Chatterjee, a resident of MVP Colony, the sound of dhaks is indelibly linked to festivities. “For probashi Bengalis (Bengalis who live outside the state), dhaks hold more significance as they are a way to connect to our native place. They bring back the memories of Durga puja in Bengal. For children who have grown up away from the state, it is a way of introducing them to our culture,” says Kushal.