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Dhepa Dhol / Dhepa Dhulia dance
- Meenakshi Medhi
Photos: Arup Jyoti Kalita

(This article is part of Meenakshi Medhi’s documentary project under EZCC, Govt. of India on Dhepa Dhol/Dhulia dance which is becoming extinct today.)

August 12, 2016

Dhepa Dhol, made from the trunk of mango tree, is a cylindrical drum of 1.5 mtr length. It takes 6 to 7 days to prepare the instrument. For better preservation, “Matia tel” (oil) is used while making this dhol. This dhol has a narrow left end which is called “Taali”. It is interesting that both ends of the dhol is covered with leather made from the skin of Khassi goat. The right end which is said to be “Kup” is double layered and has a small hole on the outer layer. With the help of “Pani Khuwa Khila” (the hole on the outer layer) water is poured into the small hole between the layers so as to get a thud sound. A unique sound is created when the Kup end of the drum is beaten with the "Bojuwa baah" (playing stick made with bamboo) . The instrument is so known as dhepa dhol due to the unique sound produced.

In the end of 16th century, Koch king Naranarayan , got attracted by the Dhepa Dhulia dance which was prevalent in Darrang , then Mangaldoi sub division. Since then, this unique traditional folk dance of Darrang district of Assam has been continuing as a popular form of entertainment. According to many scholars, this dance form was taken from the tribes like Bodo, Kachari etc. Here, two to four performers play the dhepa dhol and accompanied by 4 to 6 persons playing cymbal. Likewise the group dances while playing the instruments. During earlier days, Dhepa Dhulia dance was performed in wedding ceremonies or in social occasions like Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Jagadhatri Puja etc but now it is also performed on stage during various folk dance festivals across the country. It is to be mentioned that Lalit Chandra Nath Ojha, Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee, was the first personality from Assam to introduce this folk dance on stage.

Some of the names of “baadi” (bajanas/rhythms) of  Dhepa Dhuliya dance are Deo baadi, Ghor baadi, Chalani baadi, Jumuri baadi, Talibhurini baadi, Kheda baadi, Nak Kata baadi, Neolkhujia or Neol Buloni baadi, Vekuli nason, Xokhamukhiya nason, Xorgi nason, Lota nason, Goramara nason, Bolidewoli nason etc. Similarly, names of some of the khoj (foot movements) are Aguwa- pasuwa khoj, Tinkhujia khoj, Beoghura khoj etc.  The dancers attire themselves in brightly coloured shirts and gowns having three basic colours- red, green and dark blue.

Presently, this dance form is practiced in many places of Kamrup district like Rangia, Nalbari, Barpeta etc. 

Sattriya dancer Meenakshi Medhi has been trained under some of the illustrious exponents of Sattriya dance tradition. She runs an institute Satkara (Sattriya Nrityar Prakhishan Kendra) which is affiliated under Asom Sattra Mahasabha.

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