Bhikal Dhinda: Hidden Gem of Indian Instrumental Music

by | Nov 22, 2018

Artists are always interesting people to meet, as they come across as sorted beings to me, with whatever they are doing. Above is a picture of Bhikal Dhinda, a warli rock-star, or should I call him a flag bearer of tribal instrumental music. Any phrase would not do enough justice to describe his passion, talent and dedication towards tribal music.

In this era of rat race, it’s fortunate to find someone who is living with contentment. Meeting him firmed my belief of following one’s interests even more. This happened when I visited a village named Walvanda, situated in Palghar district of Maharashtra. It is known as a residence of people who belong to Warli tribe, and is divided into seven beautiful hamlets. It was supposed to be a work trip but it became much more than what I thought.

I was taking a walk around the village with two Management Trainees of HUL (Hindustan Unilever Limited), who were there for a rural exposure. We saw this man siting in the veranda of his house, working peacefully on his instrument. When we went to take a closer look, he greeted us warmly with a huge welcoming smile on his face. I was curious about the object he was working with, and so I simply asked, “what’s that?” It was a tribal musical instrument called, “Taarpaa”.

Surprisingly, he was filled with so much joy to see us that he started playing the instrument and danced to its tune. It was a mind blowing experience for us, to see such an organic performer playing live, exclusively for us. I truly adore him for this kind gesture.

After that, he started narrating his stories of performances in various cultural programs. He told that he often goes to Mumbai for various events and has been honored by Maharashtra Government as a prominent Taarpa player. Looking at our curious faces, he shared his knowledge about the instrument, which he had made himself. It was built from dry gourd shell and dry palm leaves. Bee wax was used for pasting. It was created out of nature and hence, completely sustainable. When we tried to blow that instrument, we realized that it requires a lot of strength. The man, even at an old age, was able to do it brilliantly well. The pride in his eyes was clearly visible as he demonstrated his art to us.

This experience was thought provoking for me. Whether I should search meaning in my work or should I do what I enjoy the most? I contemplated on that for a long time but it was still too short to solve the dilemma. There is an urge to make money, and I’m yet to figure out how to find the balance between financial security and pursuing interests. But if money was essential for good life, then how this man is able to live so happily. Could it be that the idea of good life is subjective and the opportunity of practicing art is so comforting that everything takes a back seat.

The problem with most people I know in cities, is their maintenance cost which they have to spend in order to keep themselves in their comfort zone. Even after that, most of us look for joy outside our daily lives. It’s complicated not because the solution is tricky but because the constraints are discreet and too many in number. Reducing the number of constraints and hence, cutting down the maintenance cost could be a way to achieve actual freedom of choice.

I’m not sure if Bhikal Dhinda would have made a fortune if he was living in a city, but I appreciate his choice of living in a village, closer to his roots. I really wish to have such kind of courage and strength to pursue my passion, as this ‘Taarpaa man’.

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