When the heady scent of sheuli flowers, mesmerizing sight of numerous kashphul (kans grass) dancing in the breeze and beautiful azure sky speckled with cottony clouds declare the arrival of autumn, the countdown for Sharodio Durgotshob gets off to an auspicious start.
But the real joy of Durga Puja makes its presence felt only when the sound of Dhak (percussion instrument) enchants almost everyone, not to mention the aesthetes.The moment Dhakis start playing their large hollow wooden instrument, hanging in a sling from their shoulders, with their thin pair of bamboo sticks, people gather in large numbers around the puja mandaps (temples).
From the establishment of the deity on the day of Shashthi, which marks the beginning of the Puja, to Her emersion on the day of Dashami, the sound of dhaks is essential for every segment of the five-day-long festival.
As a result, before the Sharodio Durgotshob, the demand for dhaks increases every year.
Consequently, dhakis visit the houses of dhak makers and shops to buy the new instrument and repair their old ones ahead of the Puja.
But the scenario is quite different this year.
The sale of new dhaks and order for repairing old ones has plummeted due to Coronavirus pandemic.The dhak makers and dhak sellers have been struggling to make their ends meet.
The entire clan of Gazipur Dorgarchala area’s Horilal Das has been involved in Dhak making and selling for generations.
He and his brothers collect raw materials and assemble them at their home-cum-workshop. Big dhak shopowners from across the country place their orders to them.
Horilal Das said, “Weeks before the Durga Puja we had to work round the clock, but ahead of the upcoming Puja we are not getting much work order as Covid-19 outbreak has changed everything completely.”
The overall arrangement and celebration of Durga Puja will go through a significant adjustment this year.
The government advised Puja organisers to discourage the devotees from visiting the temples at night and asked them not to arrange any arati (The waving of a lighted lamp before the image of a god).
If arati is organised on a limited scale, the appeal of dhaks will surely be decreased. May be that is the reason why dhakis are not buying and repairing dhaks.
When asked about the current situation of their business, Dilip Das, owner of Mridanga Bhandar, a reputed music instrument shop situated at Satish Babu Lane in Chattogram, replied, “The number of Durga Puja has dropped, budget has been reduced and a number of restrictions have been put to constrain the spread of Coronavirus.”
Fearing that the Puja organisers will not spend much money on hiring them this year, he said, adding that the music instrument players stopped buying new instrument and repairing their old ones.
“Besides, after the long break of monsoon, dhakis and other music instrument players usually visit our shops with their damp instrument as during this time of the year they begin preparing for the winter festival. But this year Coronavirus has pushed everything into a grave uncertainty.”
In recent years, Dhak makers and sellers are struggling to survive through their ancestral business as the use of dhaks and incomes of dhakis have declined amid the rising popularity of electronic sound boxes.
The ongoing crisis is hammering the final nail in their livelihood.