The History of Dhunuchi Naach And The Bengali Durga Puja Traditions

history of dhunuchi dance
A typical image of Durga Puja is men and women holding an earthen pot emitting smoke while they dance in their traditional attire. Dhunuchi naach or dance is closely related to the traditions of Durga Puja in Bengal.

Durga Puja is the ultimate festival for all Bengalis, they fly down from around the world to just be in their hometown and celebrate it with their family. It is a four-day affair filled with happiness, food and dance. Dancing with dhunuchi is an age-old tradition in the ending hours of Durga Puja. Men and women wearing their traditional kurtas and sarees take up an earthen pot carrying burning coconut scrapes that are being held in their hands or even in their mouths as they dance away with the sound of dhaak.

What is Dhunuchi Dance?

On the eighth day of Navratri or Durga Pujo which is Ashtami, the Dhunuchi dance begins and even on the last day the idol is taken out for immersion people dance with Dhunuchi. Dhunuchi is nothing but a symbol of prosperity as it spreads the smell of dhuno. The earthen pot is specially made with clay in a shape to hold coconut husk and camphor which burns with dhuno. Dhuno is a form of incense made up of resin from sal trees. The smell of dhuno is considered to bring positivity and good luck and the dance with it is a form of devotion to the goddess. Dhunuchi dance primarily started with only men participating and later on women joined them too.

Holding the Dhunuchi while dancing is not very easy as it is an open pot and the burning husk may fall down. So balancing it in the hand as one dances is quite a thing to watch. But it doesn’t end there, people carry three pots together with one in each hand and another in between their teeth. Not everyone can do it perfectly and takes time to learn it. Many Durga Puja committees in Kolkata who organise pujas in their clubs also hold events and competitions for Dhunuchi dance.

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History of Dhunuchi Dance

In the religious scriptures, it is said that when Devi Durga was fighting with Mahisasur for 9 days it commemorates Mahisasur Mardini. During their battle, devotees of Devi Durga were dancing this particular dance form to offer strength and energy to the goddess. The dance form is quite intense and takes a lot of effort to execute continuing the tradition of offering power to a powerful goddess.

Next time one visits Kolkata or any part of Bengal during Durga Puja, it is a must to watch people perform this dance and feel the energy that the festival creates.