India has a unique place in the world as a nation with a rich heritage and a multicultural identity, marked by a large number of national and regional festivals. The ceremonies, rituals and festivals of the diverse cultures and communities, dotted throughout the calendar year, add a rhythm to the life of Indians.
Some of these festivals are celebrated with a variety of sweets, performing traditional rituals and through art: like rangolis, dance, music and playing musical instruments.
Among all the forms, entertaining through Indian musical instruments is a major part of these festivals. Some of these include the flute, tabla, and harmonium used in bhajans; or Dhol Tasha Pathaks rocking the streets of India.
Dhol Tasha in Indian Festivals
Dhol Tasha is the most prominent. The artists gather in formations over the streets and play dhol in accordance with tasha and the Bhagwa (orange) flag, called Dhwaj, including zanjh, lezim and tall. Different tunes are played with energy, enthusiasm and devotion towards God.
These groups of dhol artists are called “Pathak.” Dhol Tasha Pathak was initially started by the Late Shri Appasaheb Pendse around the 1960s, who was also the founder of a school In Pune called Jnana Prabodhini.
The aim of initiating the practices of Dhol Tasha Pathak was to direct regulation among the youths, awareness among the people, and to create leaders. Over the course of time, Pathaks faced several backlashes and prohibitions. And, after a gap of two years due to COVID, Pathaks are back on the streets to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi.
There is no direct science over the sound of Dhol Tasha and its relation with the festivals and its benefits for the audiences attending the art form. Pathaks are solely performed for entertainment purpose and as a (maan) respect towards Lord Ganesha and keeping the culture alive among the youth.
Although not purely scientific, being in groups has psychological benefits for the individual, such as a feeling of safety, belongingness, gaining support and occasionally inspiring and influencing others.
With references to past interviews, artists performing in the Pathak mentioned that going to the practice after a hectic working day gives them a sense of relief and helps them forget all the stressors of the day. Also, the non-working or student artists mention the joy and physical workout while playing the dhol.
Some artists talked about how it helps transform energy, positive or negative, into a productive output: playing the Dhol Tasha and venting all the emotions through the instruments.
Pathaks, as per the authorities, also help in building discipline and leadership skills while looking at the management and new entries into the Pathak every year.
Although Dhol Tasha, with respect to the sound, doesn’t have any psychological benefits, the sound of zanjh, an instrument with two metal plates made up of brass, produces a distinct sound like a bell.
The instrument is also available in steel and iron metal. The pure brass produces a distinctive sound which helps us correlate with the sound of the bell, which is said to build a lasting sound that creates a harmony between the left and right brain. This leaves us neutral from all the ongoing thoughts making us feel relaxed, entering a state of trance, increasing inner awareness.
Apart from all the psychological gains and physical benefits for the artist, Dhol Tasha has been a core part of the Ganesh festival and other major Indian ceremonies. The acceptance of Dhol Tasha and increase of Pathak members has grown over the years and youth are embracing it.
The evolution of Dhol Tasha Pathak has been remarkable – and festivals are incomplete without them.
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