Dharohar , founded by Shri Bhutte khan Manganiar, is a congregation of folk musicians and dancers from the Manganiar community who have strived to keep alive and propagate the folk tunes and beats of not just their community but that of Rajasthan, through performances across the country , besides workshops, training and teaching the art of making and playing the “Kamaicha”.
The vast unending expanse of burning hot sand that makes up the Thar Desert of Rajasthan hosts one of the most vibrant and evocative music cultures of world. The heady, hypnotic combination of rhythm and melodies sung and played by the Langas and Manganiars are part of the eternal appeal of this mysterious and wondrous land.
The soulful, full throated voices of these two music communities have filled the cool air of the desert night for centuries in a tradition that reflects all aspects of Rajasthani life. Songs for every occasion, mood and moment; stories of legendary battles, heroes and lovers engender a spirit of identity, expressed through. music that provides relief from the inhospitable land of heat and dust storms.
The Langas and Manganiars are groups of hereditary professional musicians, whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations. Both sing in the same dialect, but their styles and repertoires differ, shaped by the tastes of their patrons. The monarchs of the courts of Rajput and Jaipur maintained large music and dance troupes an in an environment where the arts were allowed to flourish. Though both communities are made up of Muslim musicians, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities and celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi. The Manganiar performs traditionally invoke the Hindu god Krishna and seek his blessings before beginning their recital. At one time, the Manganiars were musicians of the Rajput courts, accompanying their chiefs to war and providing them with entertainment before and after the battles and in the event of his death, would perform at the ruler’s vigil day and night until the mourning was over.
Langa literally means ‘song giver’. An accomplished group of poets, singers, and musicians from the Barmer district of Rajasthan, the Langas seem to have converted from Hinduism to Islam in the 17th century. Traditionally, Sufi influences prevented them from using percussion instruments, however, the Langas are versatile players of the Sindhi Sarangi and the Algoza( double flute), which accompany and echo their formidable and magical voices. They perform at events like births, and weddings, exclusively for their patrons ( Yajman), who are cattle breeders, farmers, and landowners. The Langa musicians are regarded by their patrons as kings.
“The ‘Sindhi Sarangi’ used by the Langas, is made up of four main wires, with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings which help to create its distinctive haunting tones. The bowing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the ‘ghungroos’ or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent. The word ‘Manganiyar’ means those who asks for alms. On different occasions they would go to patron’s house and sing appropriate songs and in turn would be rewarded. The Manganiyar community is divided into two parts, one whose patrons are Hindus and the other who have Muslim patrons. The Hindu patrons mostly belong to Bhati and Rathore communities of Rajputs , the Muslims patrons are Sindhi Muslims. Even though the Manganiyars are Sunni Muslims by birth, their lifestyle and the way of dressing up reflect the Hindu or the ‘Ganga-Jamana’ culture. They present a perfect example of communal bonhomie as for generations they have been closely linked to both Muslims and Hindu families for their livelihood. Since generations the traditions of singing and composing for occasions is going strong. Singing at their jajmaans house on various occasions is their traditional profession. Describing their jajmaans illustrious history which is full of honor and pride, is their speciality. The descriptions of jajmaan’s Genealogy with the support of artists is known as ‘Shubhraj’. Such is the ability of these people that they could recite all the names of the last few generations of the jajmaans within the space of a single breath. This also includes the descriptionsof their achievements. In exchange of the above, the manganiyars were rewarded handsomely in the form of grain, wheat, goat, camel, sheep, horse or cash.
Kamaicha is the most significant instrument of Manganiyar community.it is like an ancient niche amongst string instruments which is linked with Manganiyar community since ages. Khamaycha is made up of mango wood. The big, round, hollow part on one end of it is covered with goat skin. This instrument has 17 strings out of which three special strings are made from goat’s intestine and the rest if the 14 strings are made up of steel. When they touch those three special strings with their special bow made from horse’s hair, it produces some stirring music. Other than Khamaycha the instruments that they play are Dholak and Khartaal. Dholak is a hollow drum tapering at the both ends. Both the ends are covered with leather (animal skin). They use loops of rope to the tighten the animal skin at the two ends. Sometime they use traditional Dhol also. Khartaal produces melodious musical sounds with the special movements of the hands. The four pices of Khartaal are made up of Sheesham wood. When the Manganiyar artist plays Khartaal, it evokes a delightful combination of rhythm and the musical notes.
Khartaal, the word mean Khar and Taal. Khar means hand and Taal means Rhythm. Rhythm of Hands. Khartaal is a kind of castanets, made of teak wood, and the artistes hold them in both hands and perform with tremendous ease. A young man’s Karthal play holding it in his hands was a thrill to watch for the way he created complex percussion sounds, while his partner was playing the dholak.
The Dholak is a classical North Indian, Pakisthani and Nepalese hand drum. A dholak may have traditional lacing or turnbuckle tuning. The dholak has a simple membrane and a handle on the right hand side. The left hand membrane has a special coating on the inner surface. This coating is a mixture of tar, clay and sand (dholak masala) which lowers the pitch and provides a well defined tone. The wood used for the membrane is usually made of teak wood, also known as “sheesham” wood. The process of hollowing out the drum is the determination of the sound and quality of the dholak A dholak has 2 heads a small part for the high pitch, and the large part is for the low pitch and it’s pitched depending on size and tuning sounding like a bongo in playing mode.
Kalbeliya is a Nomadic community who sometimes introduces themselves as Naath, Jogi,Sapere and Sadhu. Their family business is to catch snakes. This comes in handy as they showcase a number of tricks using these snakes while giving spectacular shows in nearby villages and qasbas and at their jajmaan’s place and thus earn livelihood for themselves.As the time changed they have made permanent lodging outside the cities.
Pungi is a special instrument of Kalbeliya community. They catch snakes with the help of Pungi. They enchant the snake by playing this instrument and then catch it. They believe that the snake can never bite them and they also make ‘Surma’ using the snake’s poison. Due to the use of Surma they believe never lose their eye sight.
The women of this community are expert in singing and dancing. In olden times the women use to sing and dance only on special occasions such as weddings, festivals, etc. in their very own distinct style. As times changed these wome started performing stage shows around the whole world and with it changed their dancing style as well as their attires. Their swaying dresses, made up of colourful beads give a distinct identity to the women of Kalbeliya community.What makes this attractive dress more interesting is that it is made by the Kalbeliya women themselves. A very interesting fact about them is that they never teach the folk arts to their children.They gain expertise in singing and dancing by watching the elders doing it at home.
In Rajasthan, there is only one tradition of puppetry-the marionette tradition-in which the puppets are manipulated by strings. We have no examples of shadow or glove puppetry. I t is possible that this string puppet tradition could have migrated all the way from Rajasthan to Maharashtra, Karnataka and west Bengal, but we can’t be sure. In fact, there is no clear evidence about the origins of puppetry in Rajasthan itself. All that we have are some legendary stories that pass off as history.
Traditional Kathputli play of Rajasthan is known by the name of Amar Singh Rathore-ka-khel (play of Amar Singh Rathore ). He is a historical character of seventeenth century during the reign of Mugal Empire, contemporary to Shah Jahan. Amar Singh Rathore belonged to royal family of Jodhpur state and was eldest son of Gaj Singh. Thus the throne of Jodhpur was inherent to him by natural succession but the king was infuriated with him, therefore Maharaja Gaj Singh appointed the younger brother Jaswant Singh as his heir apparent. Amar Singh was given Subedari of Nagaur area in Marwar which was under the central rule of Mughal Emperor. Due to this faithfulness to the Emperor he served as one of the important courtier of Mughal court. But his sharp contours of character always bruised fellow courtiers. He came in controversy with Salawat Khan who was brother-in-law of the Mughal Emperor and his trustworthy courtier.
The discomfort between the two grew to the extent that one day Amar Singh found an opportunity to slay Salawat khan in open court and in very presence of the Emperor. Total confusion prevailed, everyone ran to save their lives.
Emperor Shah Jahan found it difficult to suppress Amar Singh. Therefore he employed Arjun Gaur, brother-in-law of Amar Singh and conspired with him to kill Amar Singh. One day Arjun Gaur found opportunity to bring Amar Singh to the court and stealthily stabbed in his back.
Due to fear of the people’s revolt Amar singh dead body was kept under guard at Agra and nobody was allowed to take it to Nagaur for cremation. Finally Amar Singh’s nephew Ram Singh bravely broke the cordon and bought the body of Amar Singh for the cremation.