The booming beats of the dhol in sync with the rolling of the tasha are played by the selfless youths for the forthcoming festival of Lord Ganesha. The various dhol-tasha groups are gearing up for the grand festival by intense rehearsals in the heart of the city every evening. We had an opportunity to witness one such evening that has left a huge impression on my mind!

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As soon as we reached Ramanbaug, we were pumped with this massive energy by the echoes of the sound. As the beats of the dhol were playing, my feet couldn’t stop taping along with the rhythm.
The tradition of dhol-tasha was started my Appa Pendse, his aim was to spread this traditional practice against the increasing vulgarity and unethical practices started by the “loud speaker” bollywood music and to preserve this cultural tradition. The Ramanbaug school is one such school that encourages people to join them spread this tradition and keep it alive. Other schools are Dyan Prabhodini, NMV, and Garware.
The Pathak consist of all kinds of people with no kinds of barriers or discrimination. Everyone is welcome to come and join them in any way possible. The entire troupe works together hand in hand. The seniors guide the newcomers at every step from how to make the drum, tie the ropes, bind the drums, and tune the dhols and so on. There is a great deal of patience required for teaching the newcomers, but the seniors are always at it. Throughout the evenings of practices together the members build amazing bonds with one another and an entire support system is created. As one of them said, ‘If I ask for help from one person, there would be ten people at my door’.

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The dhol is all about the theka and the thaak. 7-8 days are spent in teaching the freshers these two sounds. The seniors try to come up with new rhythms using their creativity and experience. Some rhythms from the tabla and other instruments are played on the dhol and similarly the rhythms of the sambal and halgi are played on the tasha. The traditional rhythms of Rajasthan (Tukdi , Kathewadi) were tried to be played on the dhol tasha. They have created over 21 rhythms. The rehearsals last for atleast 2-3 hours but not a single person seem to get tired at the end of it. The sincerity and the devotion of the players is unbeatable.
We could differentiate between the call, the rhythms and the breaks played at the beginning of the rhythms as we could connect it to the Djembe lessons.

What struck me the most was the dhwaj or the flag of honor. The flagbearer leans backwards and balances his body on his one leg and the flag is sprung up and down .The entire troupe’s attention is on the flag as the flagbearer has to keep his speed of dancing in complete sync with the speed of the varying rhythms. It helps the pathak to keep the rhythms is the correct pace. When I saw Anand sir performing the dance, I was completely speechless. There is a great amount of strength, attention and concentration required to perform this task! The dhol and tasha always go together in gradual progression from start to end with increasing speed. The entire cycle is known as an awartan.
The respect of the players towards the instrument is remarkable. The entire process of learning and being a part of the pathak has a great deal of responsibility and dedication towards the people, the instruments and the entire tradition. I could sense a significant sense of belonging and teamwork. The pathak has to maintain the same level of energy, vigour, discipline, coordination, and intensity throughout from the start, which they do accomplish.
The pathak also has a sense of a service towards the society and they try to fight for social causes and form a social support system and help with donations. They supported the trekking group at their outset to the Mt.Everest. They accompany Kasba Ganpati, the God of first honour in Pune.

At the end of our visit there was a heavy down pour of rain, which I strongly believe that came from the energy that was created in the atmosphere by the dhol-tasha . The entire experience was brilliant, my feet were glued to the school and I didn’t want to leave the place at all!

Author – Aishwarya Shah