Dhak. It looks like a big fat drum. Quite plain and unassuming. The dhaki picks up the kathi (drumstick) which looks inconspicuous. Most casually, he strikes the stick on the drum.
And that is when the magic starts. The first thing we feel is that our heart beat has stopped for a second. In that moment, if we could remember we would know that we have forgot what we were thinking about. In that moment, time had stopped for us.
Dum! Another one.
The mind goes blank.
Dum! It starts to pick up.
A cornupucia of memories and emotions rush through. The first is joy – for it reminds us, that it is that time of the year. The memories rush in, the sights and sensations of ‘the pujo’.
Pavlov would have called it classical conditioning. How would one otherwise explain that a beat could cause such an adrenaline rush in all ages alike?
Technically speaking, the dhak is a big ‘membranophone’ instrument, which is an instrument that has a membrane stretched across it. Only one side of the dhak is beaten, the other side is kept covered to create a deeper sound.
It does not matter how our dhaks look but does come in some varied shapes. A dhaki will also experiment how the membrane and lacing is. While we mostly see dhakis dancing around with their instruments swinging from the neck styles may vary. It can be tied to the waist or kept on the lap or the ground.
Dhak is a percussion instrument but it holds a unique place when it comes to tones and rhythm. As a Dhak is made out of the raw materials coming from nature like the Indian classical instruments, it speaks a special language.
The tradition of playing Dhaks in Durga Puja is centuries old. Although many pandals have done away with dhakis due to budget and other constraints but to make the Durga Puja complete, at least recorded dhak music is played there.
The art of dhaks run in the family traditions. The older generation readies the new one and it has been so for centuries.
There is nothing like experiencing dhak beats firsthand. When the dhaks beat in front of you, you feel the vibrations in the ground and in the air. You will also start to feel your heart actually beat with the tunes of the dhaks, you just cannot stop it. Just like you cannot stop the river of joy which starts to flow in your being as you stand there listening to the beats, thoughtlessly.
Furthermore, no matter how loud it is, it does not tire or exhaust us. On the contrary, we feel rejuvenated. We can actually feel the dhaks’ rhythm in our body. We want to dance to the beats but it does not mesmerize us. It makes us more alive! It makes us want to live once again, in unleashed joy and freedom and that is truly the blessing of the Goddess.