In last few years, the cities of Mumbai and Pune have witnessed people from different backgrounds, like engineers, doctors, students and housewives, come together to share their passion for rhythm and play the dhol voluntarily.
If you are travelling anywhere in Mumbai or Pune during Ganeshotsav or Gudi Padwa (Maharashtrian New Year), you might come across big groups of kurta clad youngsters hanging huge dhols around their waists and standing in a perfect formation. These vibrant youths are the pride of Maharashtra, they are the members of the famous Dhol Tasha Pathaks (groups) of the state.
The thunderous sound of huge dhols (big drum like instruments) along with tashas (a small rhythmic instrument) in a breathtaking tempo and humongous power, played by more than 100 youngsters together, is sure to make anyone’s heart skip a beat or two. Their enormous energy, radiant faces, impeccable coordination and roaring dhol beats, create a larger than life spectacle. A dholtasha pathak is generally called on religious celebrations, social events or festivities, but you can see them in their full strength during Ganeshotsav and Gudi Padwa, where more than 100-150 people play together for hours at a stretch.
A Passionate Endeavour
Though originally a part of Pune’s culture, many such groups have sprouted in Mumbai in the last couple of years. Vinayak Pawar, the founder of Sairaj Dhol Tasha Pathak of Mumbai, says, “We founded the group four years back in 2012. It was Gudi Padwa and we had called a pathak from Pune. They apparently asked for a huge amount and that is when I thought of having our own Dhol Tasha group. We started with 12 youths and now we are 120 in strength. In fact, many such groups mushroomed in Mumbai during the same time.”
These groups are mainly voluntary, where people from different walks of life come and share their passion for rhythm, minus any monetary returns. Vinayak adds, “Whatever little money we get from our performances, we put that in the maintenance of our group and instruments. After which, if we save anything, we give it to NGOs called ‘Helping Hand’ and ‘Youth for Democracy’. We train all those who approach us and show their willingness to be a part of it. Starting from dabbawalas to doctors and engineers, we have them all in our group and here, we are all equal.”
It was the same passion for music that drew Geeta Damle, a crew manager in a shipping company, to join the group. Geeta, at the age of 44, is the oldest to join the group. “Rhythm always fascinated me and that was my sole purpose of joining a Dhol Tasha Pathak. I had seen their videos on social media. I researched about them and found Sairaj group close to my home. I immediately got in touch with them and they were generous to take me in and teach me the instrument. On my way back from office, I join them for practice and now I regularly play with them. It gives me a different high and happiness. I joined it last year during Gudi Padwa and so far, I’m enjoying my journey thoroughly.”
Geeta adds, “It feels larger than life to play during festivals like Ganpati and Gudi Padwa, where thousands gather to see you perform. You feel nothing less than a celebrity. People come to click pictures and back home, you are a star among your neighbours and friends.” Geeta can play dhol for four hours at a stretch, which weighs close to 17 kg. Women playing such huge dhols leave onlookers in awe at the first sight and their participation is almost equal in strength as that of men.
Like Geeta, Payal Pravin Dalvi, a law student, is a part of Morya Dhol Tasha Pathak in Mumbai. “I saw the group perform at the Palki procession of Siddhivinayak temple during Maghi Ganpati two years back. It moved me so deeply that I joined them immediately afterwards and since then, there has been no looking back. Playing Dhol Tasha is sacred for me. It gives me a break from my mundane life and transcends me to a different world.”
Morya is one of the first few Dhol Tasha groups of Mumbai. One of the founder members of Morya, Prasad Parkar tells us, “The trend of Dhol Tasha became popular in Pune. In our Ganpati Mandal, we used to call such groups from the city every year. Many used to gather to see them as such type of procession was not that popular in Mumbai at that time. Most of the Ganesh mandals would have DJ music playing in loudspeakers. That is when the thought of forming our own group struck us. Little skeptical whether people would come to see us, we formed a group of seven and called few Dhol Tasha players from Pune to teach us. It was March 2013 and now we are 150 strong. People welcome us wherever we perform. At that time there were only three such groups in Mumbai and now there are 80.” Prasad, who is working as a CFO in an equity sector, devotes most of his spare time managing the group’s activities.
The Dhol Tasha Pathaks are an integral part of Pune’s culture and tradition from where it mainly originated. Pushkar Gokhale, vice president in an IT company and an active member of Shaurya Pathak from the city, says, “Dhol Tasha Pathaks reflect Pune’s rich culture and it has been around for the past 30 to 35 years. From 20 to 30 groups around 20 years back, now there are more than 200 groups in the city. We take honour in teaching the future generation the art form. Also, we divert our youth strength for social causes. Like last year, 26,000 members of different pathaks joined hands in Clean Pune drive during Ganeshotsav.”
Along with keeping the tradition alive, such groups are surely spreading more joy and hope through music.
Did you know?
Dhol is a double-sided drum-like instrument. The barrel is made of steel and is covered on both sides by a pair of leather sheet (stretched hides). The sheets (paan) are stretched across the barrel using interwoven ropes in order to tighten them, this creates sound of any desired frequency. It is played with the help of a tipru- a wooden stick and tied to the player’s waist.
(Written by Rajany Pradhan)