Covid beats the soul out of dholis

Pandemic curtails income during Navratri festival, when it should be soaring

Covid beats the soul out of dholis

Dholis perform outside the Bara Hanuman temple in Amritsar on Sunday. Photo: Sunil kumar

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 25

The pandemic has dented the dholis’ income during this Navratri festival. The comical sight of wallet buzzing with flies, only a couple of banknotes lying, is really not hard to imagine.

Sonu, a dholi, castigated its management for issuing dictatorial edict which halved the income of his likes. “At any given time of the day during the Navratri, there were three queues of devotees with less than 1ft of distance,” he claimed, adding, “the management did not bother about implementing the social distancing then.”

His comment comes after the Durgiana temple management committee did not allow them to accompany langoors inside the temple due to distancing norms.

Shaila, another dholi, said that making matters worse police personnel standing outside the main gate of the temple did not allow them to let rip one on the instrument. And it really hit their earning opportunity. “It was almost a ritual with parents of langoors and their relatives to give money to dholis when they danced inside and in front of the main gate of temple,” he added.

Despite repeated requests, he said the management’s office-bearers did not bat an eye to the income-depleting decision. “Ours is a seasonal profession. Earlier, marriage season was consumed during the lockdown and later due to the restrictions of not more than 50 persons and now this.” He added that hopes of improving their financial condition after the lifting of the lockdown were dashed by the stubborn and short sightedness of the temple’s management.

The festive season offers them a good business which starts from Navratri and extends up to Diwali. Subsequently, it opens into marriage season, locally called ‘saye’, which lasts for some months. All these occasions together offer a soaring business to about 2,000 Dholis in this border district. Billa, another victim, said this season offered a regular income unlike the rest of the year when they remain unemployed.

Apart from conventional sources of engagement, now they are also hired by schools as trainers to students in the art and are also in demand across different parts of the country and even abroad.

Harish Taneja of Durgiana Committee said their decision was inspired to contain the spread of the virus. “The playing of dhol inside the temple would have only added to the congestion,” he told. He also stated that the committee had introduced several Covid safety regulations during the Navratri festivities in the temple complex. “But that many people still did not abide by the norm of wearing face masks,” he expressed.

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