Kumar Rajiv Nayan

Ara:  The unique sound of dhaks rent the air during the ‘aarti’ by the Bengali community at Durga Badi here from Mahaashtami. Though it is in the east where Puja is celebrated with maximum grandeur especially in West Bengal,  Ara too never misses the festivity and spirit of Bengal. “ In fact, Puja does not assume the festive aura without the  beats of the dhak, a large drum that men hang around their necks and play with two thin sticks to infuse the frenzied rhytm into listeners,” said Soma Chatterji, organizer of Puja Committee at Durga Badi.

No ‘aarti’ can commence at any Puja pandals organized by Bengalis unless a dhaki starts playing the dhak. Most of the dhakis come from the districts like Malda, Purulia, Murshidabad, Bankura and Asansol in West Bengal to earn a livelihood during the Puja. The art of playing ‘dhak’ is normally handed over from one generation to another.

“We wait for this festival for whole year. As Puja approaches, we travel the country right from Delhi in the north to Tripura in the east,” said a dhaki from Asansol who is here this Puja,  Ramgopal. However, the old rhythms of these traditional drummers are undergoing changes. “The rhythm is no longer as slow as in earlier generations. Now-a-days dhakis opt for faster tunes,” he said.

Earlier, different beats were used for specific aspects of Durga Puja, for example ‘chokhhu daan (eye donation)’, ‘patha bali (goat sacrifice)’, ‘bisarjan’ (immersion ceremony)’, ‘sandhya aarti’ (evening offerings), ‘sandhipuja’ (worship of conjunction of two phases), and so on. Swaying dhanuchi dancers add to the festive mood on the beats of dhaks. “The dhaki contest is about celebrating the true spirit of Puja and utilizing this as a platform to recognize and reward the efforts of the dhakis,” said Soma Chatterji.

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