Pune: Economic setback beats louder amid absence of dandiya-garba events

Written by Ruchika Goswamy | Pune |

Updated: October 17, 2020 9:24:16 am

With a credit crunch, Naresh Bhat’s troupe had to shift to making wooden carvings and sculptures. (File)

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For the last month, professional dhol player Naresh Bhatt has held onto the hope that whenever his phone rings, the person on the other end of the line would make a request for his troupe to play at a small dandiya or garba celebration. Meanwhile, Eknath Abnave, a wholesaler in Kharadi, said that this year, he did not stock up on new dandiya sticks at his shop due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the incessant rains that lashed the city.

The nine-day autumnal festival of Navratri, which will commence from Saturday, is associated with the worship of Goddess Durga, and is not complete without dandiya and garba events, known for their sheer scale, magnificence, and vibrancy.

With Covid-19 casting a pall over all annual festivities, not only will events not be conducted (according to guidelines issued by the state government), but offstage units, such as dhol players, dandiya-garba choreographers, dress rentals, among others, are facing a massive seasonal dump.

“Playing the dhol is a family tradition, and I have been in this occupation since 1996,” says Bhatt, who started a troupe with 10-15 players, who are paid a salary of Rs 10,000-15,000 per month. “After the wedding season, Navratri is a predominant season in a year. However, because of coronavirus, we have been rendered without any occasion to play in the last eight months.”


With a credit crunch, Bhat’s troupe had to shift to making wooden carvings and sculptures.

“While some dhol players travel from Rajasthan to play during the peak period, local players have picked up other jobs to keep their households running,” he said.

Taruna Rathod, director, Art 4 Fun, which has been organising Rangila Raas for the last five years, said there have been overall economic repercussions on not only organisers, but also small vendors and professionals associated with the event. “Vendors in-charge of the lawn, lights, sound, food, and handicrafts are all facing a financial setback,” she said. “I have been choreographing authentic dandiya and garba dances, and we often rent costumes for members, which in itself is a fifty-thousand-business for them.”

Rathod also said that while she has made attempts to hold dandiya-garba masterclasses so patrons can attend from the safety of their homes, people are deprived of festive enthusiasm due to the pandemic.

For Yogesh Mehta, a designer at Sujata Dresses at Kasba Peth, traditional costume designing for Navratri begins a few days after Rakshabandhan. “Traditional Navratri costumers and jewellery sets are our forte. We source material from Gujarat and Rajasthan, and deliver authentic designs for rental, as well as purchase. With a team of seven karigars (craftsmen) and designers, we prepare every year for the season, and also deliver on demand. This year, despite no orders, I have decorated the shop to keep up spirits,” Mehta said.

Meanwhile, staff at BookMyFancyDress, Akurdi, said rentals during the season account for 10 per cent of their annual business. “Starting from a rental range of Rs 250, we get massive traffic for chaniya choli or ghagra cholis for women, and for kediyu, which is a garment worn by men. We also get bulk orders from dance groups. We usually book newer designs months earlier, from Gujarat and Rajasthan, keeping in account delivery over states, but this year, we did not initiate it,” one staff member said.

Dance choreographers Yogesh Gosavi of Abstract Moodz in Choreo Dance Studio, Kharadi and Nikhil Bhosale of Nikhil Dance Studio, Bibwewadi, said that as Navratri was round the corner, they received heightened footfall from those keen to learn a traditional dance routine, with registration fee between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500.

“There are two kinds of dancers we usually attract during this season – those who wish to brush up their skills, and those who have no clue about dandiya-garba. On average, we have a footfall between 500 and 2,000 people, including choreography sessions with nearby societies and some corporate offices,” said Gosavi.

“During Navratri season, walk-ins for dandiya-garba range between 40 and 50. While for garba, one needs practice of 15 days, it is a month or so for dandiya. We also have a team of 15 to 20 dancers who are invited to various events across the city, where they earn Rs 2,000-3,000 per event. This year, there has been no movement in our studio since February,” said Bhosale

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