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Himachal Pradesh

Uttam Chand Dholru

Beating Drums Down the Hills


When we first encountered the word Dholru we wanted to know more about it as it sounded like an instrument. After asking the locals we got to know that it is a festival which is celebrated in the month of Dholru where people from a particular community sing songs of this season going from one house to another in the entire village. For people of the region, they consider it very auspicious to listen to the songs sung but the Dholru community. While getting to know more about the song we met a couple who belonged from the same community. Their names were Uttam Chand and Ikko Devi.  They both sang songs of the harvest during the month of Dholru. Uttam is into full-time music whereas his wife takes care of the house and follows her tradition also. Uttam performs Kangra folk music with his wife, Ikko Devi. The music that they play is indeed very different from the ones played by the others in that region. Uttam plays the instrument Dholki whereas Ikko Devi simply sings with her Manjra.


They were afraid to sing for us their special songs as we had gone to meet them in the month of September. So we had to take them to a place where no one comes and that place was in the middle of gushing of river Beas which was flowing all in her glory. We requested the hesitant artists to sit on the rock in between the river and thus with our wireless recording setup they started with their music. The couple is one of the only few lefts who perform the traditional Hindu new year folk song of the month of ‘Baisaakh’ or Dholru. They are an old couple who earn their living mostly by performing at marriages and festivals. The couple is said to perform a unique song which is sung when someone is facing difficulty in getting married; statues of Lord Krishna and Radha are married in a small ceremony and then floated away in a water body. The song is sung during that ceremony. They also sing songs about Rain, Marriages, local deities, new year, and other folk songs with their signature instrument Dholaki.  Upon asking we got to know that all they get from their music is varying number of shows with a payment of Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 for each. Clearly the amount is not enough to run their family in today’s time but still, they prefer not to quit their traditional music and still follow it for their living.

Mahendro – Veena

A 42 Years Old Musical Bond


In the middle of the mountains, the peace one feels is equivalent to the one that you feel after listening to the Mahendro and Veena’s melodious voice and rhythm. Mahendro belongs from Gaddi community and his music as sweet as his nature. He has beautiful stories of Chamba and Palampur from where he belongs. He was doing a job as labour until he was 20 but after that, the Gaddi music pulled him and he became engrossed in the sweetness of it from where his musical journey began. Chirping and down to Earth Mahendro shyly told us that he is married to Veena for 42 years and from that time ever since they have been singing together. When you see the duo you could see only two people but they are playing the role of five. Mahendro plays Rubab, Khanjira and Dhol together simultaneously with his singing whereas Veena plays Majira and sings too. To document them we reached a place in the beautiful mountains of Dharamshala. We had to make it special for the duo and there we chose a place which was at the edge of the mountain in between a river valley going down the hills. The place was just perfect to record them as it signified its serenity and beauty together with the music of this couple.


After making them settle down and wiring them up with our equipment when they went ahead and started singing, everything came together in the picture. They started with a song dedicated to their Lord Shiva describing his life with both his wives Gauri and Parvati, leading to another which stated the tale of Lord Shiva’s marriage. The music was so sweet in the rhythm that it bound us for the entire time and it felt like they should never stop. Mahendro and Veena hail from Palampur and have been their ever since they got married. About the Gaddi folk music they told us that it is a culture which is different and beyond from the world, and thus comparing it with something else is just they can’t even think of. They would do anything but never leave their music. They have two children together, both are married and the condition of their living is also doable but still never thought of retiring from the music that they play. Because for them their love for music is nothing less than their love for their children and their families. On this note, Veena tells us that, its passion for her which she would never let go off and it is the dearest thing in her life. They can’t imagine their life without it.