Dhammar: A Brief Note
By Bageshri Joshi
Dhammar is a form of Dhrupad composition composed in Dhammar Tala. Ragahav Menon in The Penguin Dictionary of Indian Classical Music states (page 45) that Dhammar Tala is one of fourteen matra-s in four unequal sections. “The first beat is the Sam, second beat is on the sixth matra, the eight matra is empty or khali and the eleventh matra is the next beat.” Aban E. Mistry observes (Pakhawaj Aur Tabla, page 30) that while there is no clear record whether or how Mridang was used for accompaniment with Dhruva-Gan or Jati-Gayan, use of Mridang or Pakhawaj with Dhrupad-Dhammar, if not in written form at least in practical form, is recorded since 15th century. The Dhammar taal is given as
Most texts record Dhammar as Dhrupad-Dhammar for a reason. This style of singing was an offshoot of Dhruva-pada which employed several tala-s (many of them like Brahma Taal, Laxmi Taal, Nishang, Parvati Rochan have fallen into disuse out of complexity) and involved wider variety in poetic themes. Dhammar deals only with theme of love revolving around Krishna. Dr. Lalmani Misra states(Tantri Nad, p. 50) that Dhammar presentation of any Dhrupad artiste sounds similar to Dhrupad compositions. Almost all dhrupad singers have traditionally sung Dhammar as well but authentic information regarding its genesis is not available. Prabhu Dayal Meetal’s observation in his Braj Ki Kalaon Ka Itihaas that Dhammar might be a link between Dhrupad and Khayal is based on absence of Dhrupad’s stately somberness in the other two. Meetal himself refers to an observation of Shambhunath Mishra that Hori differs from Dhammar in the use Raga Kafi alone with taan, palta, khatka, murki in Khayal fashion instead of astounding rhythm patterns characteristic of Dhrupad like dugun, tigun, tigun, adi, biyadi, kuadi, ateet, anagat etc.
In the poetry of Dhammar there is description of Holi played by Gop – Gopi-s, Radha and Krishna. For example, text of Dhammar composition in Brindabani Sarang runs:
Braj dhoom machi aayo hori ke khilaiya!
Bhari bhari pichkarin rang daarat
Abir gulal munh rori ke malaiya.
Braj is filled with festive joy as Holi-players gather
They splash colours filling their pichkari-s (cylindrical device for splashing coloured water) again and again
And rub others faces with abir, gulal and roli paste.
After a vocalist has presented serious Dhrupad compositions he finishes off with a Dhammar much in the same way a Khayal singer might round off his presentation with a lighter Dhun, Thumri, Kajri or Hori. It may construed to be the reward for listening patiently to the serious composition.
The Vaishnav (Pushtimargi) sect tradition which started with temples of Braj over five centuries back and was popularized all over the northern belt of India has been kept intact as Haveli Sangeet. The celebrative singing also expressed itself as dance. Because of its pace – madhya laya – Dhammar was initially more a form of dance than singing alone. Modern artistes have sometimes presented it in slow pace, but traditionally the rhythm supported dance. Yet, today it exists as a singing style only.
Apart from the celebrated singing duo, Ustad Rahimuddin Fahimuddin Dagar, Abhay Narain Mullick, Ram Chatur Mullick and Sumati Mutatkar are known for their Dhammar presentations as well. Siyaram Tiwari, Udai Bhawalkar and Phalguni Mitra too have sung Dhammar compositions.
The Penguin Dictionary of Indian Classical Music. Ragahav Menon
Pakhawaj Aur Tabla. Aban E. Mistry
Tantri Nad. Dr. Lalmani Misra
Braj Ki Kalaon Ka Itihaas. Prabhu Dayal Meetal
Details of books cited.