As the story goes, Lord Krishna was one of the naughtiest kid in Mathura (a small city in India) – breaking the clay water pots carried by the womenfolk, stealing their clothes from bating ponds and play pranks. But he had a heart of gold and the villagers loved him as their own child. He was very fond of butter and the villagers had a tough time keeping their handis (clay pots) safe as he would enter their houses and eat all the butter. To safeguard the butter from the little Krishna, they would hang it high from the ceiling in their house – thinking that the small kid won’t be able to get his hands on the same. But that was not enough to keep Krishna away … was it. He and his friends would go to these houses and form a human pyramid and break the handi’s … and eat up the butter dripping from the broken pot. So started the tradition in India to celebrate Krishna’s birthday by playing ‘Dahi Handi’ – an absolutely wonderful way to enjoy the day.
The festival is celebrated in Mumbai with much pomp, with competitions across thousand’s of venues for breaking the handis. The prizes range from a few thousand rupees to sometimes even crore (~$200,000), with amateurs and professionals all in the fray.
This year too, the road was choc-a-block with Govindas (participants) hopping from one venue to the other trying their luck to break as many handis as possible. Almost every area has a local team – some with more than 100 members to form a 9-10 level human pyramid. Spectacular, in one word. And a must-see if you are in Mumbai. But note that it is extremely dangerous as well. Fatalities and serious injuries are common too. Remember, there are no nets or safety equipment for the Govindas.
One in the streets on a Dahi Handi evening, you will find Govindas by the hundreds sporting their local club colors & logos, travelling every possible way they can across the city. In bikes, buses, tempos and trucks too; but it’s common to see them walking too, managing traffic, filled with amusing enthusiasm as they go from one Handi to another.
Prizes are given for participation and the levels reached by the teams, with every successful level earning the members a bounty. This event in Mumbai has sadly turned into a showcase of political muscle power, as almost every large venue is sponsored by the local politicians. Bollywood stars and singers are invited to enthrall & attract the crowd, some of which draw more than hundreds of thousands of visitors. This time teams from Spain and other countries have turned up in these events to try their luck against local talents!
And, it’s the start of the celebrations for the Mumbaikars. In 2 weeks time, will come the most loved Lord — Ganesha. That will be another story. For now, leaving you with some not-so-great pictures of Dahi Handi taken with my mobile phone. Time to get armed with the camera now for the next blogs 🙂