Outside the Oval stadium in Adelaide on Tuesday, in the sweltering heat, the rhythm of drumbeat created an air of celebration that was almost infectious. Ahead of the final ODI match between Australia and India, traditional Indian dhol-tasha troupe, Shivagarjana, welcomed the Indian cricket team.
The Pune-based troupe was accompanied by Team India’s official band, as well as Sudhir Kumar Gautam, better known as ‘Sachin Tendulkar’s biggest fan’, as they ushered the team in for its final ODI against Australia.
“It was surreal, to have the opportunity and the honour to welcome our country’s team to the stadium,” says Anup Deshmukh, who founded the Adelaide chapter of the troupe in 2013. The dhol-tasha troupe currently has branches in Pune, Adelaide, Sydney, and Toronto. It is soon going to set up a branch in Singapore.
“Dhol-tasha is an important part of who we are, of our culture, I think it’s so important to spread this Maharashtrian culture in other parts of the world as well, I couldn’t leave the dhol behind,” says Deshmukh.
While there are several dhol-tasha troupes all over Maharashtra, Shivagarjana, a commercial troupe, stands out. The troupe, which has nearly 600 members only in Pune, comprise mainly IT professionals, doctors, and engineers. For most of them, dhol-tasha is not their primary career, but they are all dedicated to the art and use it as a platform to help others.
“The troupe was originally a group of 20-30 high school students who would perform with us, their teachers, but this format was not sustainable,” says Vijay Salunke, one of the founders and the current manager of the troupe.
Members of the Pune troupe teach middle-school and high school students how to play dhol-tasha for free, and have even undertaken clothing and food drives to help out poor students. “Now that most of us are older and settled, we want to help out the disadvantaged and disempowered youth, so they too can further themselves in the same way,” says Salunke.
Incidentally, Team India won the match as well as the series. Perhaps the triumphant dhol provided the inspiration they needed.