Every month we have a Shivratri, but once a year, we are visited by the big one called Maha Shivratri. The monthly one is called Maasik Shivratri. Unlike many other gods like Lord Rama and Lord Krishna whose birthdays are celebrated, Maha Shivratri is not treated as Shiva’s birthday. That’s because it is believed time started with him, and he is the ultimate, so how can he have a birthday? The day is celebrated instead as Shiva’s wedding day, by millions, especially in North Indian areas. It is on this day that music events are held to sing hymns to him, and to participate in his marriage ceremony with goddess Parvati. Do recall Shivji bihaane chale paalki sajaaye ke (Hemant Kumar/Munimji, 1955) and Chale bhole baba byaah rachaane ko (Rafi/Kailashpati, 1962). In the former song it was Dev Anand, and in the latter, Jeevan who was offering a running musical commentary of the marriage of their Royal Highnesses. This year the big day arrives on Tuesday the 13th of February.
But it is not just his wedding that appeals to lovers of the performing arts, it is the fact that Lord Shiva as Nataraj is the king of dancers. His Shiv Tandav performances are the epitome of gracefully-vigorous dancing. He is also the inventor of India’s oldest percussion instrument, the hand-held, hourglass-shaped two-sided drum called dumroo. From ancient times has the instrument been identified with him, either in his hand or tied up with his trident called trishul. Besides these, he is associated with the sound of Om, as also with Bhairav, the raga of sorrow.
But we focus on his music now, specifically the dumroo. It is believed by his followers that nada, the first dhwani (sound) that was made in the universe was generated by the dumroo. Lord Shiva danced to the beat of this instrument, and this dance created the universe.
Coming to present times, for its simplicity of one-handed use, its lightness of weight and economical pricing, this drum cannot be beaten. Because it can create short and powerful bursts of drama, the dumroo has become the favorite instrument of wandering minstrels in India who do street acts with intelligent bears or monkeys, or seemingly omniscient young boys. The dumroo both punctuates and dramatizes the short scenes in longer performances. Here’s an example.
The dumroo has found its way into the recording rooms of many a film song, not all of them to do with Lord Shiva or itinerant performers. Here are some instances:
- Shivji bihaane chale paalki sajaaye ke (Hemant Kumar/SD Burman/Munimji, 1955)
- Teri duniya mein aa karke bhi (Rafi, Geeta/Avinash Vyas/Aadhi Roti, 1956)
- Baakad bum bum bum bum baaje dumroo (Lata/Shankar-Jaikishan/Katthputli, 1957)
- Chale bhole baba byaah rachaane ko (Rafi/Avinash Vyas/Kailashpati, 1962)
- Zara si aur pila do bhang (Rafi, Asha/Ravi/Kaajal, 1965)
- Dum dum dum dum dumroo baaje (Lata, Kamal Barot/Lala-Asar-Sattar/Sangram, 1965)
- Beta jamoore keh de duniya ko lalkaar ke (Manna Dey, Rafi/Biradari, 1966)
- Tum kaun Mamul, main kaun Aamil (Rafi and unknown voice/Ravi/Phool Aur Patthar, 1966)
- Damak damak dam dumroo baaje (Mahendra/Ramlaxman/Jiyo to Aise Jiyo, 1981)
In the following songs, the instrument is not clearly heard, but it is clearly mentioned in the lyrics: Jai Shiv Shankar Gaurishwar (“…he dumroodhar kya jhaanjh bajaoon”/Manna Dey/Bulo C Rani/Jai Hanuman, 1948); Bhole naath se niraala koi aur naheen (”Unka dumroo dum dum bole”/Geeta, Badrinath Vyas/Avinash Vyas/Har Har Mahadev, 1950); Shiv Shankar bhole bhaale (“Dumroo ke bajaane waale…tumko laakhon salaam”/Geeta/Avinash Vyas/Har Har Mahadev, 1950); Bholanaath re (“Dumroo bajaane waale, bhole-bhaale hain Bholanath re”/Geeta, Manna Dey/Manna Dey-Khemchand Prakash/Shri Ganesh Janam, 1951); Nitya nirantar bole antar (“Damak damak jab dumroo baaje”/Mukesh/Avinash Vyas/Shiv Shakti, 1952); Jai jai jai Tripuraari (“Dimak dim khaaj dumroo baaje”/Gopal Mishra/Manna Dey/Jai Mahadev, 1955); Tu hai mera prem devta (“Dum dum dum dum dumroo baaje”/Manna Dey, Rafi/OP Nayyar/Kalpana, 1960) and Dimak dimak dim dumroo bole (Mahendra/Avinash Vyas/Kailashpati, 1962).
Lord Shiva has dozens of other names, each referring to a specific facet of his personality, and such names have for ages been given to us by our parents. Jagdeesh, for instance, is Master of the Universe, Jatin is the one with rope-like strands of matted hair, Omkara is for one who has the sacred sound of Om, Pinakin means armed with a bow, Nataraj, as we saw earlier, is the ace of dancing, and Anagha which is unisex, means one who is faultless. Out of these, Jatin was chosen as the name of their son by a family of Khannas living in South Bombay, way back in 1942. This boy would grow up to be a top film star one day. But you wonder if the young man didn’t like the idea of matted hair, because when they asked him to change his name to Rajesh—meaning powerful king—the aspiring actor said an immediate and delighted yes. Later, Rajesh Khanna was to team up with Mumtaz in Aap Ki Kasam (1974). In the movie, they went to Shankaracharya temple near Srinagar on Mahashivratri, which day is also associated with the intoxicant called bhaang (cannabis). Jai jai Shiv Shankar, kaanta lage na kankar they went, clearly under the influence, and we rocked, without any care whether the song featured a dumroo or not.
But an advisory. They say in TV commercials, never try these stunts, they are done by trained professionals. It’s the same thing for bhaang. It doesn’t taste great by itself, which is why they put it in pleasant drinks like lassi or thandai (essentially a mix of almonds and fennel seeds in milk). The yummy taste makes you have glassfuls of it. Don’t even wish it upon your enemies. It’s possible you’ll imagine yourself enjoying with Mumtaz or Rajesh Khanna up in the hills. But it’s equally possible you’ll hear too many dumroos than are good for you. The intoxication from bhaang can barely be described in a small column such as this!
Featured images: On top, 123 feet high Lord Shiva statue at Murudeshwara, Karnataka. Just above, from Jai jai Shiv Shankar.
Originally published in DNA Jaipur page 15 on 11 February 2018