Being Indian gives you an opportunity to experience a magical weave of various festivals and traditions. The festival of Pola, which signifies the importance of farmers and bullocks who majorly contribute to ploughing and enriching the fields and marks the end of Shravan maas in Maharashtra. Attending this festival gave me an opportunity to witness the grandeur of worship and discipline. I engaged in watching the performance of Dhol Tasha Pathak, an art form performing music during visarjan of the Ganapati idol. The performance of this four-decade-old art form has now evolved to a different level. The Dhol Tasha Pathaks have hundreds of members- all playing tasha and dhols with an excellent discipline and rhythm.
The history of Pathaks as an art form can be traced back to the year 1965. A riot had taken place and police had banned the playing of musical instruments during visarjans. However, this did not deter Jnana Prabodhini, founder Vinayak alias Appa Pendse, to go out and play tasha to protest against the ban. Before Appasaheb started the Pathak, people from rural areas used to come to cities and play the instruments.
It was not looked upon with very high standards. Earlier men used to dance to the beats under the influence of alcohol, due to which women and children kept away from such processions. But in the past five decades, the Pathak has evolved itself into a landmark stature in the field of local performance art. The changed social status of women allowed them to not only watch but also take part in these performances. Many young girls can be seen performing with energy and enthusiasm beating the dhols with equal strength and zeal, as their male counterparts now.
I was invited by one such young and vibrant girl- my niece to attend her first performance in the Pathak. I have seen her toil for hours in past two months, practising and preparing for the upcoming Ganeshotsav festivities. It was a performance of Maanvandna by the Shiv Pratishtha Dhol Tasha Pathak. When I reached the temple courtyard, there were hundreds of young boys and girls dressed up in the traditional attire of red kurta and white churidaar with tunics. The girls looked adorable and beautiful adorned with traditional Maharashtrian pearl nose pins and big balis in their ears. The boys wore the big balis and malas around their necks. Their faces glowing with enthusiasm, it was a sight to behold. The younger generation carrying the pride of culture in them.
As the Maanvandna started with their heads held high and the slogan- “Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jay!” resonating in the surrounding, four to five members danced to the rhythm of dhols holding the Kesari Dhwaj (saffron flag), high in their hands. The performance continued with changing rhythms and beats. The energy and positive vibes coming from the happy faces of the performers charged up the environment.
The girls who otherwise looked so tender and fragile were handling the huge dhols tied to their waist with rhythmic movements without an ounce of tiredness and energetic smiles. The perspiration on the foreheads added to their beauty. The discipline with which they were following the instructions without missing a beat showcased their hard work and preparation.
While congratulating my niece after the performance, I got to meet a few of them. They were all between the age of 18-25 years. It felt good to see these youngsters channelising their energies in the direction of cultural roots. Rather than spending hours on social media glued to their mobile screens, following this art form not only gives them an opportunity to engage themselves but also imbibes good values in them. The respect for girl members and giving them equal opportunity to perform also adds up to the much needed social values.
I came to know that the donation this Pathak was receiving was to be used for charity, which is indeed a noble gesture. Preaching to youngsters is always boring but activities entice them. When their energy is diverted towards a positive cause, society also moves in a positive direction- because youth power is the essential ingredient of the future development of society, nation and humankind. A bright, energetic youth with respect for positive tradition and culture is a strong pillar for concrete future.