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Classification Membranophone
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Garba, Bhangra, Music of Punjab, Bihu Dance

Dhol (IPA: ɖʰoːl) can refer to any one of a number of similar types of double-headed drum widely used, with regional variations, throughout the Indian subcontinent. Its range of distribution in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan primarily includes northern areas such as the Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Kashmir, Sindh, Assam Valley, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Konkan, Goa, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The range stretches westward as far as eastern Afghanistan. A related instrument is the dholak or dholki.


Someone who plays the dhol is known as dholi .


The dhol is a double-sided barrel drum played mostly as an accompanying instrument in regional music forms. In qawwali music, the term dhol is used to describe a similar, but smaller drum used with the smaller tabla, as a replacement for the left hand tabla drum. The typical sizes of the drum vary slightly from region to region. In Punjab, the dhol remains large and bulky to produce the preferred loud bass. In other regions, dhols can be found in varying shapes and sizes and made with different woods and materials (fiberglass, steel, plastic). The drum consists of a wooden barrel with animal hide or synthetic skin stretched over its open ends, covering them completely. These skins can be stretched or loosened with a tightening mechanism made up of either interwoven ropes, or nuts and bolts. Tightening or loosening the skins subtly alters the pitch of the drum sound. The stretched skin on one of the ends is thicker and produces a deep, low frequency (higher bass) sound and the other thinner one produces a higher frequency sound. Dhols with synthetic, or plastic, treble skins are common.


A dhol player in Pune, India Dhol Tasha Player.jpg
A dhol player in Pune, India
Gandhara musicians playing d hol Five Celestial Musicians LACMA AC1992.254.1-.5.jpg
Gandhara musicians playing d hol

The dhol is played using two wooden sticks, usually made out of wood, cane, or also known as wickers cane. The stick used to play the bass side of the instrument, known as the dagga in Punjabi. Traditionally the Dhol player would go and look for a branch from a hardwood tree known as Tali (oak or mahogany) that was naturally curved at that angle and use this as the Dagga (Bass Stick). The reason for the bend stick is because of the goat skin. This is thin like 80-100gsm paper, so the stick has to be bent to avoid piercing the skin. The bass stick or Dagga is the thicker of the two, and is bent in an eighth- or quarter-circular arc on the end that strikes the instrument. [1] The other stick, known as the tihli, is much thinner and flexible and used to play the higher note end of the instrument. [2]

The dhol is slung over the shoulder or, more rarely, around the neck of the player with a strap usually made up of woven cotton. [3] The surface of the wooden barrel is in some cases decorated with engraved patterns and sometimes paint.

In the pre-Partition era, dozens of rhythms were played on the Punjabi dhol, which corresponded to specific functions. However, with the decline or disappearance of some cultural practices, recent generations of dhol-players have become unfamiliar with many of these. At the same time, the growth of folkloric staged bhangra dance in Punjab inspired the creation of many new rhythms particular to that dance. [4]

Some of the most common Punjabi dhol rhythms are bhangra (originating with the old, community bhangra dance), dhamaal (associated with many cultural functions, including worship at Sufi shrines), and kaharva , a dance and song rhythm. The staged "bhangra" dance, originating in the 1950s, gave special prominence to kaharva, for the performance of actions called luddi. In the 1970s, many more actions were added to staged bhangra to go with the kaharva rhythm, which started to become one of the most prominent rhythms associated with the dance. At the same time, this type of rhythm would be played on the dholki drum to accompany Punjabi songs. So when, in the 1990s, Punjabi pop songs began to evoke bhangra dance, they used the kaharva rhythm. It is known now by various names. Some dhol-players call it kaharva, its technical name, while other players in Punjab call it luddi to refer to the dance of that name. With the style of dhol-playing that developed in the U.K., the name chaal was adopted—probably in reference to the "chaal" movements it accompanies in modern bhangra—however, that term is not used elsewhere. Johnny Kalsi is a UK Dhol player that established a syllabus to teach the art of playing this instrument. Although there is no official syllabus or phrasing for the learning process, he took the North Indian language of Tabla to visualise the beats as phonetic phrases to make the learning easier. [5] [ page needed ]

The introduction of electronic devices such as tape recorders has led to a decline in the importance of dhol players in celebratory events. Nevertheless, dhol music still figures in the studio recordings of present-day raas, garba and bhangra music artists.


A man depicted playing dhol Kavval - Tashrih al-aqvam (1825), f.458v - BL Add. 27255.jpg
A man depicted playing dhol

Several percussion instruments such as the dhol used to exist during the Indus Valley Civilisation. [6] Dhol is depicted in earliest ancient Indian sculptural arts as one of the chief percussion instruments for ancient Indian music along with tabla.[ citation needed ] Ain-i-Akbari, describes the use of Dhol in the orchestra of the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great. [7] The Indo-Aryan word "dhol" appears in print around 1800 in the treatise Sangitasara. [8]

Regional forms and traditions

The Punjab region

Sufi dhol player Pappu Saeen, from Pakistan Overload Dhol Player.jpg
Sufi dhol player Pappu Saeen, from Pakistan

The Punjabi dhol is used in the Punjab region of Pakistan and northern India. In Pakistan, the dhol is predominantly played in the Panjab region; however, it is also used throughout the country ranging from as far south as Karachi and as far north as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In India it is found in the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi. The beats of dhol have been an element in the ceremonies of the great Sufi mystics and their followers. The patterns of dhol have been developed to catalyze the mind of the devotee who is seeking spiritual trance. Traditionally the Punjabi dhol has been the domain of men.[ citation needed ]


Men playing Assamese dhol during Bihu, Assam, India Bihu dance of Assam.jpg
Men playing Assamese dhol during Bihu, Assam, India

In Assam, the dhol is widely used in Rongali Bihu (Bohag Bihu), the Assamese new year celebrations in the month of April. Celebrated in mid-April every year (usually on 14 or 13 April according to Assamese traditional calendar), the dhol is an important and a quintessential instrument used in Bihu dance. The origin of the Dhol in Assam dates back to at least the 14th century where it was referred in Assamese Buranjis as being played by the indigenous people. This shows that the origin of Dhol in Assam was much older than the rest of India, and the name was probably due to sanskritisation. The people of the Valley reckon that the beats of the dhol are enchanting for people even at a long distance. Played by using a bamboo stick with bare hands, the Assamese dhol is made up of wooden barrel with the ends covered primarily with animal hide (unlike the rest of the Indian subcontinent, where it could be a synthetic skin as well), that can either be stretched or loosened by tightening the interwoven straps. The dhol player is termed as Dhulia and the expert in dhol is termed as Ojah(Assamese : উজা).

The dhol also has an aspect of symbolism in Assamese culture, and one considers it to be a "devo badyo" (Assamese: দেৱ বাদ্য) or an instrument of god believed to be brought to Earth by the Pandavas. [9]


Dhol (which is always accompanied by tasha, cymbals, etc.) is an important part of Goan shigmo celebrations. [10] It also is an important part of Goan temple music; the temple dhol was traditionally played by a specific caste. [11]


Dhol of Adivasi people of Gujarat, India Dhol of Adivasi people of Gujarat.jpg
Dhol of Adivasi people of Gujarat, India

The dhol was used by Gujaratis during celebrations such as Navaratri to accompany garba. Garba are the folk songs which describe the grace of the divine mother. It is one of the important musical instruments in Gujarat.


In Maharashtra, dhol is a primary instrument used in Ganesh festivals. In the city of Pune, locals come together to form dhol pathaks (troupes). Pune supposedly has the largest number dhols in India. In the city of Nagpur, there are many troupes, play dhol in festivals and other occasions. Here dhol is referred to as 'Sandhal'. Dhol is made up of two stretched membranes tied by strong string. One side of dhol is played by wooden stick called "tiparu", on that side black coloured ink paste stick in the centre. This membrane is called the "dhum". In technical language it is called base. Another side of dhol is called "thapi" or "chati". In technical language it is called as tremer, this side of membrane is only played by palm. Boll of the dhol is "Taa","Dhin" and "Dha". "Taa" for the "Thapi" side."Dhin" for the "Dhum" side and "Dha" for the Both side play together.


Called Dhollu in Kannada, the folk dance is known as Dollu Kunitha -Kunitha meaning dance. The folk art is mainly preserved and performed by the people of the Kuruba community of Karnataka. [12]


In the Garhwal region, specific musical caste groups like the auji, das or dholi have historically played the dhol and damau, the two folk instruments of the region, at special occasions or religious festivals according to the Dhol Sagar, an ancient treatise that was transmitted orally and by practical teaching. [13]

West Bengal

The " dhak " (Bengali: ঢাক) is a huge membranophone instrument from India. The shapes differ from the almost cylindrical to the barrel. The manner of stretching the hide over the mouths and lacing also varies. It suspended from the neck, tied to the waist and kept on the lap or the ground, and usually played with wooden sticks. The left side is coated to give it a heavier sound.

Drum beats are an integral part of Durga Puja.It is mostly played by the Bengali community.

Pashtun areas

The dhol is the main musical instrument in the Pashtun dance known as attan . The Afghan and Iranian Dhol is not the same drum on the Indian subcontinent.


Caucasian dhol is called dhol in Armenia, dholi or doli in Georgia and Abkhazia, and doul in North Caucasus.

In global culture

It has become popular in other parts of the world due to Indian diaspora and diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. Dhol has been a popular musical instrument in formal and informal dance performances for decades.

See also

Related Research Articles

Bhaṅgṛā is a type of upbeat popular music associated with the Punjabi diaspora in Britain. The style has its origins in the folk music of Punjab as well as western pop music of the 70s and 80s. Prior to this musical fusion, Bhangra existed only as a dance form in the native Punjab. This British music was unique in that it was not traditional nor did it seek any authenticity. While the traditional folk music of Punjab has a set of melodies that are used by various singers, Bhangra was a form of strict "band culture" in that new melodies were composed for each song. Therefore, the musicians were as important as the singers.


The dholak is a two-headed hand drum, a folk percussion instrument. The instrument is about 45 cm in length and 27 cm in breadth and is widely used in qawwali, kirtan, lavani and bhangra. The drum has two different sized drumheads. The smaller drumhead is made of goat skin for sharp notes while the bigger drumhead is made of buffalo skin for low pitch. The two drumheads allow a combination of bass and treble with rhythmic high and low pitches. The body or shell of the Dholak is made of sheesham or mango wood. The larger membrane, played with a stick, has a compound (Syahi) applied which helps to lower the pitch and produce the sound. The smaller drumhead is played with the left hand which produces a high pitch. A cotton rope lacing and screw-turnbuckle are used to release tension while playing. Steel rings/pegs are twisted inside the laces to attain fine tuning. Dholak can be played in three ways — on the player’s lap, while standing, or pressed down with one knee while sitting on the floor.


Chimta literally means tongs. Over time it has evolved into a traditional instrument of South Asia by the permanent addition of small brass jingles. This instrument is often used in popular Punjabi folk songs, Bhangra music and the Sikh religious music known as Gurbani Kirtan.

Bihu dance

The Bihu dance is an indigenous folk dance from the Indian state of Assam related to the Bihu festival and an important part of Assamese culture. Performed in a group, the Bihu dancers are usually young men and women, and the dancing style is characterized by brisk steps, and rapid hand movements. The traditional costume of dancers is colorful and centered round the red color theme, signifying joy and vigour.

Giddha Punjabi womens folk dance

Giddha is a popular folk dance of women in Punjab region of India. The dance is often considered derived from the ancient dance known as the ring dance and is just as energetic as bhangra; at the same time it manages to creatively display feminine grace, elegance and flexibility. It is a highly colourful dance form which has spread to all regions of India. Women perform this dance mainly at festive or social occasions. The dance is accompanied by rhythmic clapping, with a typical traditional folk song performed by elder women in the background.

Music of Punjab

Music of Punjab reflects the traditions of the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent, currently divided into two parts: East Punjab and West Punjab. The Punjab has diverse styles of music, ranging from folk and Sufi to classical, notably the Patiala gharana. While this style of music is, obviously, most popular in Punjab, it has seen popularity in many diverse and different areas of the world, such as Southern Ontario.

Tumbi Punjabi musical instrument

The tumbi or toombi, also called a tumba or toomba, is a traditional musical instrument from the Punjab region of the northern Indian subcontinent. The high-pitched, single-string plucking instrument is associated with folk music of Punjab and presently very popular in Western Bhangra music.

Indian folk music

Indian folk music is diverse because of India's vast cultural diversity. It is sung in various languages and dialects throughout the length and breath of this vast nation and exported to different parts of the world owing to migration.

The Bollywood Brass Band is a brass band playing Bollywood and traditional Indian music, based in London, England.

Sukhbir Singh is an Indian singer. He is often referred to as the "Prince of Bhangra". His Bhangra music varied from fusion to pure Punjabi at times.

Paramjit Singh Sidhu, professionally known as Pami Bai, is an Indian singer, songwriter and Bhangra dancer from Patiala.

Tabla Indian musical instrument (twin hand drums)

A tabla is a pair of twin hand drums from the Indian subcontinent. Since the 18th century, tabla has been the principal percussion instrument in Hindustani classical music, where it may be played solo, as accompaniment with other instruments and vocals, and as a part of larger ensembles. Tabla is also frequently played in popular and folk music performances in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The tabla is also an important instrument in the bhakti devotional traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism, such as during bhajan and kirtan singing. It is one of the main qawali instrument used by Sufi musicians. Tabla also features in dance performances such as Kathak.

Sammi is a traditional dance form originating from the tribal communities of Punjab. The dance is popular in the Sandalbar area of Punjab, Pakistan.

Taal (instrument)

The taal, manjira, jalra, or gini is a pair of clash cymbals, originating in the Indian subcontinent, which make high-pitched percussion sounds. In its simplest form, it consists of a pair of small hand cymbals. The word taal comes from the Sanskrit word Tālà, which literally means a clap. It is a part of Indian music and culture, used in various traditional customs e.g. Bihu music, Harinaam etc. It is a type of Ghana vadya.

Folk dances of Assam

Folk dances of Assam include the Bihu and the Bagurumba, the Bhortal, the Ojapali dance. Assam is home to many groups: Muslim, Indo-Aryan, Rabha, Bodo, Dimasa, Karbi, Mising, Sonowal Kacharis, Mishimi and Tiwa (Lalung) etc. These cultures come together to create an Assamese culture. Residents of the state of Assam are known as "Axomiya" (Assamese). Most tribes have their own language, although Assamese is the primary language of the state.

Rani Taj is a British Pakistani dhol player from Birmingham, United Kingdom. Although already well known in the Midlands, she rose to international fame in 2010 when she appeared in a viral video playing live in the street along with a recording of Rihanna's song "Rude Boy".

Bhangra (dance) Several types of dance originating from the Punjab region

BhaṅgṛāIPA: [ˈpə̀ŋɡɽaː](listen)) is a type of traditional folk dance of the Indian subcontinent, originating in the Sialkot area of Punjab. In a typical performance, several dancers execute vigorous kicks, leaps, and bends of the body—often with upraised, thrusting arm or shoulder movements—to the accompaniment of short songs called boliyan and, most significantly, to the beat of a dhol. Struck with a heavy beater on one end and with a lighter stick on the other, the dhol imbues the music with a syncopated, swinging rhythmic character that has generally remained the hallmark of bhangra music. An energetic Punjabi dance, bhangra originated with Punjab farmers as a cultural and communal celebration; its modern-day evolution has allowed bhangra to retain its traditional Indian roots, while broadening its reach to include integration into popular music and DJing, group-based competitions, and even exercise and dance programs in schools and studios.

Punjabi folk music is the traditional music on the traditional musical instruments of the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. There is a great repertoire of music from the time of birth through the different stages of joy and sorrow till death. The folk music invokes the traditions as well as the hardworking nature, bravery and many more things that the people of Punjab get from its gateway-to-India geographical location. Due to the large area with many sub-regions, the folk music has minor lingual differences but invokes the same feelings. The sub-regions, Malwa, Doaba, Majha, Pothohar, and hills areas, have numerous folk songs. Punjabi dance OP Bhangra music which is a genre of Punjabi modern music invented in Britain by the Punjabi diaspora.


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