Photographer's Note

The drum-beats are an integral part of the Durga Puja (the most important festival for us Bengalis). This special variety of the drum, known as 'Dhak’, enthralls the hearts of the Kolkatans with its majestic rhythm. The dhak is an ancient instrument. It is very large, with both ends covered with skin. It is held on the shoulder with the beating side in the bottom and is beaten with two sticks, one thick and another thin.

Braving ravaging floods which forced the Dhakis (the Dhak players as they are called) to live on tree tops for days together in early October last year, they arrived in Kolkata from remote villages of districts as far flung as North to South Bengal for the pujas. You can check on my earlier post of the dhakis here

The dhakis play in unison. And keeping pace with everyman in the group of dhakis, was a ten-year-old boy, Shukanto Guin. Small he may be, but his bols and baajs (rhythm of the beats) were as perfect as anybody’s else in his group. Shukanto is the son of Shaktipada Guin, one of the dhakis who played at this Puja pandal.

Shaktipada’s four-member group has been playing the dhak at this Puja In Ballygunge area in Kolkata. It was not as if Shukanto played second fiddle in the group. He was extremely good with the dhak. But initially there was some hesitation to take him in as playing the dhak during aarati (a Hindu ritual, in which light from wicks soaked in purified butter or camphor is offered to one or more deities. It is said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung during the ritual. Aarti is performed and sung to develop the highest love for God) is strenuous. Shukanto though insisted and they had to include him. The Guins have their own Kali thakur (idol) at their place and since his birth, Shukanto had been hearing his father play the dhak every evening. He thus picked up the art.

Here, Shukanto shares a quiet moment with his father Shaktipada.

Workshop : As an afterthought, I have done a conversion to B&W in Picassa. I think the light & shade effect comes out better, but I've sacrificed the glowing red of the 'dhak'. What do you think?

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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