”I was at the loom when the Dhol player came along, playing on the Dhol. I forgot my meal and Sindur on my forehead when I heard that sound.”
A crucial musical instrument of Assamese folk tradition, Dhol seems to be more inseparable when the festival in question is Bihu particularly for the Rangali Bihu dance and songs.
Girls dancing to the rhythm of Dhol during Rongali Bihu.
“Dhuliar dhol”, sets the rhythm of every native in Assam to the tune of Bihu geet, especially during the month of Rongali Bihu. Dhol as a percussion instrument is so closely knit with the folk culture of Assam that it assumes the position of an inseparable cultural symbol of the folk tradition of Assam. The performance of Bihu songs and dance is impossible without Dhol. The earliest reference to the origin of Dhol in Assam goes back to the late medieval period of the Ahom and Koch kingdoms. ‘Sadhan Dhuliya’ deserves a special mention since it is said that he was one of the main Dhuliyas of the courtier of Sukapha of Ahom Kingdom.
It is said in Bihu Naam (Bihu song) how a woman weaver runs to the Bihu tali (a place of performing Bihu songs and dance) leaving behind her work and even forgetting her hunger and thirst.
Dhol is a cylindrical wooden drum, both sides of which are covered with hiding. The diameter of the left-hand side is bigger than the right-hand side. This instrument is loud and meant to be heard from a distance. The Dhol hangs with a leather strap around the neck of the player who bets with a small bamboo stick in his right hand and by hand on the skin cover on the left side. The size and shape of the dhol however vary from place to place.
In regard to the shape and manner of playing in different regions of Assam, Dhol can be classified into four categories, namely
• Bihu Dhol
• Jay Dhol
• Bar Dhol and
• Dhepa Dhol
Different types of Dhol.
Of course, besides these, there are also Dhols of different shapes among different tribes of Assam. The Name and function of different parts of the Dhol of Assam are as follows:
An illustration of Dhol (All Parts):
The hollow wooden body of the Dhol is called Dima or Khola. The length of the Dima of the Bihu Dhol generally is about 50cm. The diameter of the right-hand side of Dima is about 23 cm. and the left side is about 28cm. Generally Kathal (Jack), and Sham wood are used for the Khola. It is seen that in Assam a Gamocha knitted with designs of flowers is usually used to cover the Khola.
• Kobani (Daina):
The right-hand part with a parchment head is called Kobani. Players beat it with a stick of bamboo.
• Tali (Bewa):
The left-hand goat skin-covered side is called Tali or Bewa. Tali is played by hand.
• Chawani (Pudi):
Leather of Kobani and Tali is called Chawani.
The Chawani of Kobani and Tali are tightened by leather thongs. These thongs are called Barati.
• Maluwa or Bandhani (Gajara):
Both Chawanies are laced to a ring (usually of bamboo) that fits tightly on the neck. This ring is called Maluwa of Bandhani. Maluwa of Kobani is also called Kuruk.
• Tikani or Kanari:
There are a group of very small straps on both sides of the dhol to connect the rope of the leather- strap for hanging around the neck of the player. These small straps are called Tikani or Kanari.
• Katani- Chal (Cati or Kinar):
Each side of the Dhol is made from a circular piece of treated goat skin partly covered by a second skin trimmed to form the rim around its circumference. This rim is called Katani-Chal.
There are some very small holes towards the side of Chawani for passing Barati through the Chawani. These small holes are called Puli.
The rope of leather which is connected with the Tikani or Kanari and which is used for hanging the Dhol around the neck of the player is called the Kanari-Jari. Sometimes this Kanari-Jari is used by covering it with a Gamosa to make the Kanari-Jari Soft and comfortable for hanging on the shoulder or around the neck.
The small Bamboo Stick by which Kobani of Dhol is struck for playing the Dhol is generally known as Dholar-Mari or Kobani-Mari. There is a small gable (high part) of the Dholar-Mari for easy grasp of the Mari by the player.