Updated: May 1, 2022
Gondhal is a Maharashtrian ritualistic folk dance form from India and comprises drama and music that has devotional and entertaining purposes. Gondhal in the local language Marathi means noise. The practice of Gondhal is to awaken the goddesses with noise and protect the worshippers by destroying negative energies. The performance starts with a Gana, verbal prayers offered to Ganesha. Followed by this, devotional songs will be sung in the praise of Goddesses Renuka or Tulaja Bhavani. The theme of songs is not just devotional but they span social, economical, political, and heroic war songs too. The performers of Gondhal are called Waghya Murali. Percussion instrument Sambhal and one-stringed tuntuna are the musical instruments used.
The songs are of prose style. The performers keep it interactive by making some songs of a question-answer pattern. They also add humour by composing and performing impromptu songs on the members of the audience. The songs also comprise stories of dairy maids, Gaulani. Some of the famous songs are ‘Ude Ga Ambe Ude..’, ‘Gondhala la ye ga Bhavani ..’.
Parshuram is said to have performed the first Gondhal for his mother.
The Gondhal is performed on the streets generally in front of the house of the hosts. Neighbors are all invited for Jagran Gondhal. A lamp is lit and the hosts keep on pouring fuel to keep it burning throughout the night. Gondhal is carried out until the daybreak. A few practices of Gondhal are establishing a goddess entity on a cloth in a pot covered with mango/betel leaf and coconut. This setup has a canopy of sugarcane stakes tied together at the top.
Gondhal was not attached to any caste or tribe. Even the Maratha King Shivaji Maharaj has performed Gondhal. Gondhalis were highly respected during his rule. Historically, the groups comprised 32,16,8 members respectively. The one with 32 being the highest rung in stature and the one with 8 members being the lowest.
Gondhal has been used in current times to convey social messages to the masses in the villages. As recent as the pandemic, artists created Gondhal songs to educate people on the covid precautionary measures.
Late Sri. Radhakrishna Rajarambapu Kadam Ji, was a Gondhal artist internationally recognized and awarded by ex-President and ex-Prime Minister of India, Vyankatraman and Rajeev Gandhi, respectively.
On the occasion of Maharashtra Day 2022, we spoke with his great-grandson Ramdas Digambar Kadam who continues the work in this field today and is heir to the immense knowledge passed down in the lineage.