Thursday, September 28, 2006


I had started writing this post way back during Pujo last year. Never got around to publish it. Posting it as it is. Also there is a new video here. Dhaak....created by Rajesh Chakraborty, this does capture the essence that is Pujo. Aasche bochor aabar hobe, maa aabar aasbe....

This is post long overdue. A lot has changed since my last proper post. My last day at Syntel was aeons back. In between I spent the months coming to terms with XL. In the blink the first Sem flew and here I am in the second Semester. But that is not the subject of this post. As the title suggests, this post is about the humble dhak.

"Dhaak", an image associated with Durga Poojo, "Dhaak", as can be described to a non bengalee, is a huge barrel-shaped drum, one end of which is decorated with feathers and on the other end the dhaaki, or the maestro; whose unsurpassed virtuosity finds expression in the frenzied pounding which invokes an almost hypnotic rapture.

In every Bangalee home, come autumn and young and old alike eagerly wait for the sound of dhaak. The first sounds, or as we say it dhakee porlo kaathi, brings with it the unfettered emotions of another year past. A year with its joy and sorrows, a year with its pain and triumph, everything is merged together on the five days of Pujo. Pujo aasche. Words that inspire. Words that trigger the memories of home. Every Probashi Bangalee, whereever he may be looks forward to planning to go home during Pujo. Every Bangalee, tracks his year by the Pujo. It is an expression of everything that is beautiful about life. It is an expression of the creativity, the spontaneity, the jubilation, it is an expression of life. And in this dhaak plays an important role of heralding the autumnal festival. No Durga Pujo can be complete without the hypnotic rhythm of the dhaak.

According to the Bengalee calendar, the days for the Durga Puja are counted on the basis of the sunrise and sunset while the tithi depends on the rising and setting of the moon. The Sasthi, Saptami, Nabami, and Dashami pujas are performed after sunrise even if they fall on the previous evenings. The Goddess is worshipped as a kumari or young girl, and later reveals herself in her true form on Mahasaptami (the seventh day of the moon). On Mahashtami (eighth day) and Mahanavami (ninth day) the celebrations reach a feverish pitch. On Dashami (tenth day) the idol of Durga is immersed in water. She is usually accompanied by what Bangalees hold as her family - Ganesha and Kartikeya - who are her sons, and the goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati, who are supposed to be her daughters. This is a tradition unique to Bengal. The reason for this is that Durga is believed to come to Bengal not as the Mother Goddess, but as a daughter visiting her parent's home along with her children. She is believed to have lived a difficult life all year long in the Himalayan snows, and therefore a great deal of fuss about her comfort is made when she comes for a visit. The immersion of the goddess into the Ganga, after the pujo is over, is seen as the dissolution into the Universe of the Mother. This ceremony recreates that divine act of transcendence, as well as delivering a valuable lesson on the impermanence of all things, no matter how beautiful and valued they may be.