Durga Puja evenings are incomplete if men and women, boys and girls don’t take the floor to dance to the rhythmic beats of dhaak and bells, holding earthen pots billowing a fragrant smoke. The impromptu dance is called Dhunuchi Naach, a prominent custom and one of the most awaited activities during the evening Durga aarti every day.
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What is Dhunuchi Naach?
This devotional dance is performed holding a dhunuchi, which contains the burning coconut husk with dhuno sprinkled on it. Dhuno, the Indian equivalent of frankincense, is a plant resin of sal tree, and dhunuchi is essentially an incense burner that holds the fire. Dhunuchi is a flared shape earthen receptacle held by a stem. Dhunuchis are traditionally made of clay that has natural insulation properties. It is usually lit by setting fire to the dry coconut husk on which dhuno and camphor are sprinkled. Some people also place a layer of burning coal at the bottom that ignites the coconut husk, on which dhuno and camphor are sprinkled for the fragrant smoke.
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Dhunuchi Naach or Dhunuchi dance is performed to thank the Goddess. While traditionally it used to be a men-only affair, women are increasingly taking part in the activity. Dancers can be seen holding one burning dhunuchi in each hand while performing to the beats of dhak amid ululation. Many Durga Puja organisers hold Dhunuchi Naach competitions for participants, and visitors too, at the pandals, which see enthusiastic participations and prove to be big draw every year.
Household use of dhunuchi
Dhuno is considered a purifier, a reason it’s offered to gods. However, it had a traditional use in daily life too. Dhuno purifies the air and hence was used as a traditional mosquito repellent. Many households still use this. All you need is this earthen pot, some dried coconut husk and dhuno, which you can source from shops selling puja items. Dhuno is available online too. Try Ebay, Amazon or other online stores.