Resonating sigh on Bordhol
The last of the Kamrupi dhuliya artistes - the torch bearers of a unique folk art of Assam, are struggling hard to keep it alive even when they have no money to replace their worn-out musical instruments and most of them on wrong side 60 or 70. A troupe of Kamrupi dhuliya comprises of drummers of traditional Assamese Bordhols, cymbalists, comedy actors (called Bhaira in Kamrupi dialect) and dancers who also perform dhuliya circus (acrobactis). This ancient folk art which is prevalent in areas under undivided Kamrup district of Assam has been kept alive perhaps by the last generation of artistes while the new generation show no interest in it as Kamrupi Dhuliya artistes are unable to live life free from worries when compared to other folk art forms due to lack of patronage by the government and the society.
Madan Das (48), an artiste of Rupjoyti Bor Dhulia troupe of Karhana village in Baksa district says that their troupe with 21 members including the drummers, cymbalists and actors earns Rs.37, 500 for three days of performance during puja season. While puja committee provides the accommodation, the troupe has to make their own arrangement of transport and food. This year the to and fro transport to a Durga puja venue at Baganpara area of the district cost the troupe Rs 2200 while they spent about Rs 2000 for food. “The Dhuliya Circus (acrobatics) has now been replaced with modern dances performed young troupe members to playing of audio cassette. Most of our troupe members have become aged and they can only play the Bordhols, cymbals, singling and stage Dhuliya Bhaona (play),” adds Mr Das, who doubles as the troupe manager. He became a member of this troupe at the age of 12 years and his 75-year old father Harish Das, a popular Kamrupi dhuliya artiste (popularly known as Hoge Bhaira) is still an active member of the troupe.
Every year, one month ahead of Durga puja festival, the troupe has to repair the Bordhols and replace the animal skins that make both sides of the percussion instruments. “The side of Bordhol which is beaten with a stick is made of either cow skin or buffalo skin. A new side made of buffalo skin costs about Rs 1500 and about Rs 1300 if it is made of cow skin. The other side which is played with the hand is made of goat skin and it costs about Rs 600 or Rs 700. ,” says the artiste. Low cost plastic ropes have replaced animal skins for the braces of the Bordhol as they cannot afford to use animal skin. The troupe has five Bordhols, five sets of cymbals.
He also says that most of the troupe members are daily wage earners and they do rehearsals during night for about a month before the onset of a new season after working at somebody’s paddy field during daytime to earn their bread.
Uren Boro ( 65), a senior artiste and Tola Ram Das, a retired school teacher, both of them senior artistes of the troupe, lament that despite all odds they have making efforts attract local youth towards this art form in a bid to prevent this unique folk art from becoming extinct but they do not show much interest in it.
Photo and Text - Dasarath Deka