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“Dahi Handi” translates to a pot of yogurt! Dahi: yogurt. Handi: pot. This day, the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated as Janmashtami.
Janmashtami has a unique tradition and flavour in Mumbai. This festival is locally more popular as Dahi Handi.
It is a celebration of Krishna’s endearing love for all things milk, and the tricks the naughty baby Krishna would resort to—just to get his hands on that creamy yoghurt his mother would try to hide in vain!
What’s a festival without dance and music?
What was once just a community celebration has now been scaled up to an extravaganza. Live dance and music tries to keep pace with the frenzied action on the ground.
Folk dances, like this one, known as lavani, are organised to keep the crowds entertained and spice up the already action-packed evening.
Govinda Pathaks – Dahi Handi and human pyramids
Govinda pathaks is the name given to the groups of daredevils who take on the challenge of breaking the Dahi Handi. (Lord Krishna was often referred to as Govinda in his younger mischief filled days).
“They are a labour of love, these pyramids!”
The govindas spend the day of Dahi Handi travelling across Mumbai, to locations where these pots have been set up. At each venue, they try to break the coveted pot.
Venues can be varying; some dahi handis are set up in large open grounds, some in the middle of the road. The most common venues are narrow bylanes between buildings. The only constant being the crowds that swarm to each venue.
This is what a pyramid formation looks like from up above. A sea of their comrades stands at the bottom with raised arms. This is their only safety net on the ground.
Organisers have now started paying attention to the safety measures. The top most govinda is now secured with ropes and helmets.
But all the risks are forgotten when the coveted pot is in sight. Concentration and agility are at their peak, as the pyramid rises one human level at a time.
The last man standing takes his time to stand up, balance himself and finally—strike gold!
The joyous dances are a sight in themselves. Money is, of course, an important reward.
But the sweet smell of victory for these “govindas” is laced more than anything with a huge sense of pride!