In this blog we will be seeing a few of the traditional performances unique to the region of Maharashtra. The performances are namely Dhol Tasha, Lezim and Lavani. Dhol Tasha is traditional instrument played during the Ganesh Festival. Lezim is performed alongside on the beats Dhol Tasha. Even Lavani finds its rhythms from the tempo of the Dhol Tasha which is why I have chosen to further study these performances.
The Dhol-Tasha tradition is one of the most beautiful examples of inclusiveness as it allows people from all ages, gender and walks of life to join as participants, showcasing the diversity of the tradition wonderfully. Shown below are images of a people playing Dhol Tasha.
The dhol has leather coating with bamboo sticks to play with, it also has a prelude of Tasha and a clarion and shiv garjana or war-calling. Dhol is made up of two stretched membranes tied by strong string. One side of dhol is played by wooden stick called “tiparu”, on that side black coloured ink paste stick in the centre. This membrane is called the “dhum”. In technical language it is called base.
The players would tie the dhol around their necks and play but now many tie it around their waists.Another side of dhol is called “thapi” or “chati”. In technical language it is called as tremer, this side of membrane is only played by palm.
Boll of the dhol is “Taa”, “Dhin” and “Dha”. “Taa” for the “Thapi” side, “Dhin” for the “Dhum” side and “Dha” for both sides played together.
A shallow metallic bowl with a parched face. Used as a secondary drum in ensembles paired with a larger drum.It has a bowl shaped body. Its face is made of leather, tightly fitted by Rojju (cloth straps). A percussion instrument, played with the help of two sticks. Previously, cane sticks were used to play the tasha but now even fibre sticks are used to play Tasha.
History and Evolution of Dhol Tasha
Dhol tasha was used to encourage soldiers during the time of wars. It was also used to commence their victories during wars.They were also used to make announcements in the king’s courts.
In mid 60s there was a curfew and riots in the state due to an anti-muslim stance taken by the Sena government. The atmosphere during Ganesh Festival was very dull. Thus Dr. Vishvanath Pendse a scholar of those times, got playing the instruments on Laxmi Road in Pune. Since then people made it a tradition and in todays time dhol tasha has become an inseparable part of the Ganesh Festival.
People Who Perform Dhol Tasha
In Pune, numerous groups known as pathaks prepare performances for the festival. They perform in rallies and processions where many youngsters participate and celebrate together. They start performing months before the festival begins. They usually wear a white kurta with red/orange feta (turban) and duppattas tied around their waist.
Lezim is a folk dance form, from the state of Maharashtra in India. Lezim dancers carry a small musical instrument with jingling cymbals called the Lezim or lezium, after which the dance form is named.
Lezim was originated in 1986 during the rule of Chhatrapati Shivanji. Lezim was a sport played by men to build their muscles. Some people of the community preserved this sport and started presenting it as a dance performance.
Lezim is especially popular in rural Maharashtra, often played during the Ganesh festival in village Jatras (religious processions) and in schools as part of the fitness regime.
In one variation a 2.5 feet long bamboo pole, called Reedh was used which was connected with an iron chain called Dhanusyasarakhi. The main purpose of using this heavy prop was to exercise and make the body strong.
Another variation was called Koyande. In which a 15-18 inches long wooden pole was used. The pole was hollow from the inside. The hollow part was used to connect a one kg iron chain to the pole by running it through from one end to another. There was another 6 inches long chain was connected to the pole called Salaisakhali.
Performance and Participation
Lezim is a group dance with minimum of 12-20 dancers.
Earlier only males performed this dance as it came from a sport, but later as it evolved as a dance form, female participation increased.
Dholki, a drum instrument is used as the main percussion music.
In Lezim dance, there are various types of movements like stepping, hopping, squatting and bending. Every movement of the dance is executed in perfect time with the proper strikes which is swung in four or eight counts. This provides a rhythmic accompaniment to the dance.
Dancers wear a traditional costume which consists of a white kurta, pajama, and colorful belt with a colorful turban. However, during a stage performance, their clothes are coordinated to produce a more majestic view to the audience.
Lavani is a combination of traditional song and dance, which particularly performed to the beats of Dholki, a percussion instrument. Lavani is noted for its powerful rhythm. Lavani has contributed substantially to the development of Marathi folk theatre.
The word Lavani is derived from the word lavanya which means beauty. It is believed their origin is in the Prakrit Gathas collected by Hala.
Originally, it was used as a form of entertainment and morale booster to the tired soldiers. Lavani Songs, which are sung along with dance, are usually naughty and erotic in nature.
This genre of folk dance deals with different and varied subject matters such as society, religion, politics and romance. However, with time, the songs in ‘Lavani’ are mostly erotic in sentiment and the dialogues tend to be pungent in socio-political satire.
A Lavani performance can be broadly categorized into two parts. The Nirguni Lavani, which deals with philosophy and Shringari Lavani which deals with sensuality. Shrinagri Lavani is more popular than Nirguni Lavani and is performed in theaters as well as Bollywood movies. Shringari Lavani deals with a multitude of genres, with the love between a man and a woman being the most prominent.
Lavani developed into two distinct performances, namely Phadachi Lavani and Baithakichi Lavani. The Lavani sung and enacted in a public performance before a large audience in a theatrical atmosphere is called Phadachi Lavani. And, when the Lavani is sung in a closed chamber for a private and select audience by a girl sitting before the audience, it came to be known as Baithakichi Lavani.
Performance and Attire
Lavani dance is basically a discussion of music and thus a musical combination of timber, song, tune, dance and tradition. The Lavani’s tempo is fast and united with dancers’ feet dancing to the rhythm of dhol tasha beats.
The ladies that perform lavani wear a long sari length around 9 metres. The sari they wear is called nauvari. The sari is wrapped beautifully and is much more comfortable as compared to other sari types.
They form a bun with their hair. They wear heavy jewellery that includes necklace, earrings, kamarpatta(a belt at waist),bangles etc. They usually put a large chandrakor bindi of dark red color on their forehead.
The tempo of the music and the dance is quite fast and the music is supported by the performers themselves who wear ankle bells called the Ghungroo.
I have lived most of my life in Pune which is known to be the cultural capital of Maharashtra. I have seen all these performances at some point in my life. I thoroughly enjoy all of them. But it was only while studying about these performances in detail, that I realized the association of small things like a ghungroo or larger things like the traditional attire (nauvari) to the overall performance.
The most fascinating part of this research was the history of each of these performances. I didn’t know the origins of any of the performances but getting to know them has put so many things into perspective. I had a long list of questions each time I read something new and finding answers to all has not been possible but the plethora of information, skill and technique each of them hold is huge.
PS: No copyright intended, no infringement intended, all the information is sourced. Apologies for wrong/ missed citations.