Text Box: Dhol ( Assamese Dhol)

Class : Membranophone


             There are two distinct styles of playing the Assamese Dhol


Bihu Dhol  Style – As an accompanying Instrument to Bihu Songs and Dance

Oja Dhol  Style – As an instrument of solo performance.


Apart these two styles of the Dhol being discussed in this page, the other Dhols has their own characteristic styles and notes, which are entirely different then  Bihu Dhol or Oja Dhol . Though the Bihu Dhol and Oja Dhol are almost same in construction,  the notes of both two styles are different, also the purpose and level of expertise required. Oja’s often seen playing more than one Dhol at a time.


A right handed Dhuliya Should Carry the Dholar Mari in right hand, Taali towards his left. They should carry the Dhol on left shoulder. The left heel is raised a bit, and the weight of the Dhol is partially transferred to  the left thigh, for convenience of playing. If the strain on the Kobani skin is more , the Dhol doesn’t yield the desired bass, so it has to be loosened a little, by pressing with fingers,   or raw leaves of gourd  may be  ground and layered on it. Otherwise the dhol can be kept in a humid place, with Kobani side down for a while. This activity is known as ‘Pelai lowa’ or Lowering of Dhol. May be because of this , the Dhol sounds better at night.

         Major parts of an Assamese Bihu Dhol or  Pati Dhol or Simply Dhol , are shown in the Figure . The body part of the Dhol is made from wood. Usually, jackfruit wood is considered to be the best for Dhol, however, some people seen to use Mango or Sam wood .  The middle part of the trunk of the tree, say , the part at around 15 feet height is  chosen for making the body. The Dakor Basan suggests a method  to select the timber for Dhol


Baro Haate dhol,  Tero hate Khol    (Make dhol from the part that is at 12 Haat* from the ground and Khol from 13 haat)


*one haat or one hand is a rough measurement  of length , usually the distance between the elbow and finger tip of an adult- which is almost  1.5 feet; used extensively is Assamese rural society for rough approximation , later on some formal definitions of haat were also known to be developed


              The timber is put in wood lathe to form the outer shape and then bored with chisels. Earlier some traditional dies like hengul , haital were used to color the shell, now people are using chemical paints.


                 Goat skin is used for the Tali and Cow skin for the Kobani side of the Dhol  Some special cobblers collect these skins from dead animals, cut & clean, season and make it ready for Dhol. The skin pieces  are cut into proper size and then tied with lather  strings or  Boroti’s of both sides of the Khola. A rim is made around the Tali by twisting Lather strings , which is called the Maluwa. The moluwa shaped part towards the Kobani is made of lather and called Kural  or the Kobani Gher . Apart from that, a small strip of lather is introduced under the Tali , which is called the ‘ Katoni Saal’ . A few small piercings are made through katoni and Moluwa to insert the ‘Boroti’ . These holes are called Puli. On the other side a small groove is made along the periphery of the Khola on the Kobani side, and small bamboo spacers are inserted in it. The groove is called ‘Kural’ and the Inserts are called ‘Foringa ‘or ‘Foring’. The Foringas help to adjust the tension in the Borotis , and used to tune to Dhol.


The rope with which the Dhol is carried around the players shoulders is called the Kandhjori or Konari Jori. Two small loops made of lather strips are provided at the two ends to facilitate fitting of the Kandhjori. . Those loops are called Konari or Kanai . Sometimes people put another knot around the mid portion of the Khola, which is called ‘ Pet-Bandhani’ or the Belly knot, but this is basically an ornamental part of the Dhol.


A Drum Stick or Dholar Mari, made of bamboo is used to play the Dhol. The Kobani side is played with the Stick , while the Tali side is played with bare hand.  There are specific rules of construction of the Dholar Mari, generally a stick made of a matured bamboo, is cut is shape and then ground and finished to make the Dholar Mari, a bamboo node should fall on the middle part of the Stick, which helps in maintaining weight balance of the two ends. Traditionaly, the Dhulia or the Dhol Player, makes the Stick himself as per his own convenience.

 Assamese Bihu and Husari are incomplete without Dhol . The Dhol playing always takes the lead in Bihu and Husari. Dhol is played not only with Bihu dance and songs, but also accompanied while playing other lead instruments like Pëpa and Gogona etc. Dhol and Taal ( the cymbals) are played throughout the Bihu or Husari performance, while other instruments are played intermittently.

Apart From Bihu, Oja dhol was and indispensible part of any Marriage ceremony or religious functions in Assamese society. Oja Dhol is a complete single instrument performance. Now-a-days, Oja Dhol has shifted its place form marriage ceremonies to the Stage. Oja dhol ‘ Bol’  ( notes) are more difficult than normal Bihu Dhol – the Oja’s produces different sounds such as roars of animals etc.  in Dhol to entertain the audience. Dhol is also considered to be a holy instrument and is played in marriages, different religious celebrations by Xatra’s such as Raxotsv, Phalgutsav etc. Dhol is even played during traditional Buffalo Fights and Cock fights in different parts of Assam.

The contribution of Ahom Kings ( Swargadeu ) is vital in popularizing the Dhol in Assamese folk culture. The Malita’s of Dhol speak about the  Guru of all Dhuliya’sXodhan oja, who is believed to be playing in the court of the first Ahom King Sukapha. Even other Malita’s of Dhol often mention about the Ahom kings. It  can be derived that Dhol enjoyed Royal patronization  during that period. Even, when the Kings and the officials of the Kingdom went out, there was a custom of Dhulias leading the way playing Dhol. A Seo or Musical piece called ‘ Dolakaxoriya seo’ specially developed for this purpose is being played till date. Moreover, its is so mentioned that,  kings messages, orders and the news of the state was being communicated to the masses by beats of the Dhol .


 Arguably,  Dhol is considered to be the most important Musical instrument of Assamese Folk culture. Dhol is an indispensable part of any festival of almost all tribes of Assam. Because of that, in different parts of Assam, different types of Dhols with their distinctive playing styles are found. Dhol is considered to be an instrument of the gods. In the folklores , its is said that Dhol was created in  Kailash, the abode of God Shiva, and was brought to the Earth by Arjuna, one of the Pandavas. Dhol like instruments are found in almost every culture of the world, however, the Assamese Dhol is distinguished by its small size and comparatively large sound , combined with it’s varied usage. Once, the Dhol players are considered best life partners for  girls, which indicates that it was the symbol of masculinity. Dhol was also linked to  human  fertility.

Dhol is ancient instruments of Assam, statues of Dhol players in archeological excavations are  discovered.  Considering extensive use of Bamboo and timber in Dhol, it can deduced that , Dhol is an input of Mongolian Culture , though , no reliable evidences are found on the use of Dhol and its place in Folk culture in ancient times. However a Malita of Dhol says so

Satya Juge patisil hara gauri biya,     ( In the ‘Satya Yuga’  God Shiva  and Gauri got married)

Tetiya bojaisil Dhol Anadi Dhulia .      ( And Anandi Dhulia played dhol there)

Treta Juge patisil Sriramchandrar biya ,( in Treta Yuga  God Shri Rama Chandra got married)

Tetiya bojaisil dhol Binandi Dhulia .      ( then Binandi Dhuliya played)

Dwaporata Patisil Rukminira  Biya,       ( In Dwapar Yuga Rukmini tied the nuptial knots)

Tetiya bojaisil dhol Nandi Dhuliya.      ( Nandi Dhuliya played in there)

Kolijuge devabangxi raja naami jai,       ( In Kali –Yuga , the  king descendent of the Gods came down )

Xodhan ojai dhol bai anile nomai.          ( and Xodhan Oja welcomed him with his Dhol)


                                                         ( A few different versions of this Malita is also heard )


N B : A Yuga ( Assamese যুগ) are time periods or an epoch as per Hindu Philosophy .

1. Oxommor Badyajantra – Sri Dharmeswar Duwara – Bani Prakash

2. Axomor Dholbadya – Joy Oja – Axom Xhitya Xobha

3. Badya Abhigyan – Dr. Devajit Saikia – Axom Naam Xmaroh Udjapon Xomiti – Auniati xatra

4. Dholat Sapor Mari – Simanta Tamuli – A G K Publications – Silpothar

5. Bihhure Birina Paat – Jaykanta Gandhiya - / Dr. Nomal Gogoi – PrithivIraj Media

Sri Dharmeswar Duwara – Cultural Officer in Charge – Dibrugarh

Sri Jagat Saikia Oja – Duliajan

Sri Anupam Singha Baruh—AGBP,  NEEPCO– Duliajan

Different types of Dhols are used by different communities of Assam in different occasions. Though the basic constructional features of these Dhols are same, Significant differences is Shape, Size, Style of playing and use are observed.

The Bihu Dhol  or  Pati Dhol  and Oja Dhol: A Small size Dhol used in Bihu, in this article, this Dhol is discussed extensively. Oja Dhol slightly bigger is size than Bihu dhol, otherwise similar, used by Oja’s (Specialist Dhol players, the Masters of Dhol) as a single lead I n strument . the Ojas produce the sounds of different animals , birds, vehicles and machineries, Natural Phenomena like Thunder , Strom etc.  with this Dhol, and hence Assamese Dhol got the colloquial name of “ the Talking Drum”


Khram : The Dhol used by the Dimasas and Tiwa tribes of Assam are called the Khram, which is longer an parallel in shape. On the other hand similar Dhol used by Bodo’s and Rabhas is called the Kham. Since both the Kham and Khram look similar are played in similar situations, they are kept under the same heading. Khram or Kham is usually played in religious ceremonies.


Dhepa Dhol : The Dhepa Dhol , played in Dhepa Dhuliya functions of Dorong- Mongoldoi region of Assam , has quite unique characteristics. One side of this Dhol is covered with two layers of Goat skin and water is poured inside while playing. The Dhepa  Dhuliya is a complete performance of its own, with Dance , song and acting,


Jay Dhol : A Big size Dhol with large sound, usually accompanied with Deodhoni Dance of Assam. In Dorong-Mongoldoi region of Assam, solo Jaydhol performances in Joy Dhulia and use of Joy Dhol in Manaxa or Maroi Puja (religious festivals) are also common.


Madol : The Dhol used by tea tribes of Assam along with Jhumur . Apart from Assam , Madol is found in different tribal cultures of India,


Bor -Dhol : As the name suggests , Bor Dhol in the largest Dhol is Assam, almost one and half meter in length, the end diameter varies from half a meter to one meter. One side of BorDhol is played with hand and the other side with a bow shaped Drum Stick. In Dorong- Mongoldoi and Kamrup regions, Bor –Dhuliya , a single instrument performance of Dhol. Accompanied by Song and Dance by players is a popular social function. The traditional Pipette Shows, Bor Dhol is often played in these places. 


Kavi Dhol : Kavi Dhol is a wide faced Dhol, played with long Drum sticks, which is an accompanying instrument to Goalporia Lokageet, Folk song of the Goalpara region of Assam .


    (In this page of www.anvesha.co.in , only the Oja Dhol or Bihu Dhol  is discussed in detail. More information about other types of Dhol will be found in respective pages.)

                  There are three ( Ghin, Khit, Daö) or sometimes four ( Daö, Ghin, Taghen, and Khit ) main ‘Bols’ of Dhol


              Kobani Bols


Ghin or Ghen       : This Bol is played on the Kobani side , hitting the Kobani with the drum stick sharply, And allowing it to bounce back. The drum stick to be held softly, to effect the bouncing back .

Khit, Khi or Takh : There are three ways to play this bol

The kobani is hit softly with the Drum Stcik and the stick is kept pressed on the Kobani

The Khola is hit softly with the stick

Tali is hit softly with the Stick

                     Tali Bols


Daö                              : Daö is played by hitting the tali sharply with left hand , keeping the fingers spread. The wrist to be kept flexible so that the hand bounces back a little after hitting

                                               Bols played using both sides together

Taghen                                       : “ The tali hit normally with left hand and then Ghin in right , gives the Taghen Bol “

                                       ( Oxomor Dhol badya – Joy oja – Axom Xahitya Xobha)


                     Supporting and combined Bols


                      The ways to play a few combined and supporting Bols are given below.    For understanding the description  of the Bols, figure showing the parts of the Dhol may be referred


Dhin or Din                  :  Dhin is also played on the Tali, like Daö, but here the fingers are kept closed. Here also the fingers need  to bounce back after hitting the Tali.

Des or Chak or Das     :Dhes is played  on the Tali, with spread fingers, But in Dhes, the fingers are kept pressed to the Tali, after hitting.

Ti                                  : Ti is played with the rest of the fingers of the hand but the Index finger, which is kept raised, and hitting the joint of Tali and Katoni saal sharply.

Lou or Tou                   : Sharply Hitting the junction of Tali and Katoni Saal with the index finger of the left hand |

Gi                                 : a soft Ghin

Dighen (Dhin+Ghin)   : Another combined bol, here Dhin and Ghin played together, similar to Taghen

Ghina                             : Though not a independent Bol, Ghin is played extensively in Dhol,  this is a combined Bol of Ghin and Ti , while Ti marginally  lags Ghin



There are differences among the Ojas and experts about the method of classification of the Bols of Dhol . Some experts claims the following classification ( including Ragar and complex bols) more justified .


This may be worth mentioning here that , all these Bols  can be and played in marginally different ways. The general and most common ways are mentioned in here. Even the Bols are named differently in different places. The Dhulias are found to rename the Bols as per their convenience.


Ragar of Dhol                 : Apart from those Basic Bols, The Dhuliyas introduce  some  half bols in between, to break the monotony as well as filling the gap between bols, keeping the rhythm same, so as  to create a better effect, like Alankars in Indian Classical Music. The Alankars of Dhol are called Ragar


Sösani                             : Some expert Dhuliyas prolong the sound of a Bol by pressing longer and rubbing the fingers or the Stick on the playing surfaces. This technique is called  Sösani .


Sëo or Sapor : Musical pieces with combination of Bols are called Sapor . They are equivalent to Tukra of ‘ Tabla’ , In Bihu ,Sapors are played in prelude, interlude and postlude of Bihu Naam ( Songs) . The Sapors which have been played traditionally are often used, however some innovative Sapors are also not uncommon. 




Since the time beyond records, the land of Assam has been  blessed with several gifted musicians playing Dhol, who with their genius and dedication developed Dhol to the level now it is at. A few of them are mentioned below

Late Moghai Oja

Late Ratna Oja

Late Bogai Oja

Late Holiram Oja

Late Naraam Oja

Karuna Oja

Xarupai Oja

Tulaxi Oja

Somnath Bora Oja

Prasen Bora Oja

                                          Mahendra Chetia Oja

 ঢোলৰ মাৰি (The bamboo stick used to play Dhol)

A  Dhulia Oja Performance

Tali & Katoni Saal being attached to the Khola

Log  being prepared for turning

Manual Lathe for Making Dhol, Khol ,  etc.

A   Dhol makers Tools

Cow Skin for making  Taali

A Khola made of Bamboo, innovation of Sri Ananda Gogoi of Nitai Pukhuri

Late Nabin Saikia alias  Gilasee,  one of the Dhol Makers, his family is traditionally making Dhols since the time of Ahom king Rudra Singha; at Phulpanisiga—Jamuguri—Sibsagar