Every year, the arrival of the Ganesh festival is marked by the reverberation of the dhol (drum) and tasha (cymbals) in the city’s open areas. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no public celebration of the Ganpati festival this year. So, several dhol-tasha pathaks have decided to volunteer for social activities like blood drives and service at prominent mandals.
“Utsav hai magar utsah nahi (It’s a festival but there’s no festivity). There were no dhol-tasha practices and understanding the gravity of the situation and social safety, we decided to not be part of any public celebrations or the immersion procession. Instead, several pathaks have involved themselves in social work like distribution of food and ration kits…there is melancholy among dhol-tasha players as they will not be able to come together and play for their beloved Ganpati,” said Parag Thakur, president of the Maharashtra Dhol Tasha Mahasangh.
Sanjay Satpute, president of one of the prominent pathaks, Samarth Pratishthan, said this is the first time in 45 years that he will not play in the festival. “Our troupe plays for the second manache Shri Tambdi Jogeshwari mandal. It saddens not only me but the members of the pathak that we are unable to play. Instead, many players from our team of 450 are enrolling themselves for seva at various mandals, such as helping maintain social distancing,” he said.
Since the pandemic left several communities dispirited, the group has stepped in for 275 differently-abled families and 150 families of band members, Satpute said. “Small businesses have taken a severe financial hit and for the band members, their key earning time has been lost due to cancellations. So, we decided to help them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Akshay Balkawade of Shiv Samraj Vadya Pathak, which has held a blood drive around the time of the festival since 2012, said, “…this time, only half the people turned up as compared to earlier years,” he said.
To acknowledge the efforts of Sabir Sheikh, Danish Khan and Arun Jangam, who volunteered to conduct cremations and burials of many coronavirus patients in the city, the Vandemataram Sanghatana Yuva Vaadya Pathak decided to have their vadya pujan with the social volunteers. “…we will have our vadya pujan with the corona warriors. It will just be a representative pujan with 10 people maintaining social distancing, instead of the 2,500 pathak members we have. The mayor will also attend,” said Anish Padekar, president of the Yuva Vaadya Pathak.
Padekar said they will also supply residents a powder advocated by the local administration, which will make idol immersions at home easier.
“While I am unsure of the chemical background of the substance, the powder is used to help immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris. As there will be no immersion at the ghats, our volunteers will provide people with the compound so they can have visarjan in the safety of their home,” he added.
Ashutosh Deshpande, president of the Shiv Mudra Dhol Tasha Pathak, said, “It is unfortunate that the virus has changed the face of our celebrations. But most pathak members have kept aside their grief and are volunteering in any capacity possible,” he said.
For Shweta Indapurkar and her mother-in-law Smita Indapurkar, it was a yearly affair to train as many as 30-35 new freshers in the dhol-tasha routine one-and-a-half-months before the festival. This time, the celebrations are limited to four walls. “We are an all-women group, which started in 2011…girls and ladies come with enthusiasm to participate and for many, it is the primary reason to leave their household and work for two to three days for two months of practice. The highlight every year is our performance of Aigiri Nandini, as it is a powerful song, as well as our Nauvari saree costumes. We are trying to have a performance online, but we will have to figure out the technicalities,” said Shweta Indapurkar.
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