Mumbai’s Dahi Handi stakes run high, pyramids higher

August 22nd, 2011 - 4:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Govinda Mumbai, Aug 22 (IANS) Mumbai woke up to the beating of drums on the festival of Janmashtami Monday. With prize money worth lakhs dangled for them, many young men and women got together to form human pyramids to reach a pot of curd hung high and break it, a competition that’s part of the annual celebration of Lord Krishna’s birthday.

The young men who take part in this hugely popular and colourful spectacle called Dahi Handi are known as Govindas. In the adjoining city of Thane, some of them aimed to break the world record of a nine-layer pyramid by striving to make a 10-layered one.

At big venues like those in Thane and Ghatkopar in central Mumbai and Worli in south Mumbai, the prize money ranges from Rs.25 lakh to Rs.1 crore for those who break a seven-to-10-layered pyramid.

A slew of cultural events like Lavni or Marathi folk dance performances, music, skits and one act plays added to the already charged up atmosphere at these venues.

The celebrity quotient is also expected to be high at these venues.

While Thane’s Sangharsh Govinda Mandal will be joined by Spanish nationals, actors like John Abraham, Isha Koppikar, Malaika Arora Khan, Salman Khan and singers like Mika and Sukhvinder Singh will cheer the crowds at Ghatkopar’s Ram Kadam Dahi Handi and Worli’s Sankalp Pratishthan.

“Mera Govinda hi mera Amitabh hai (My Govinda is my Amitabh),” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Jitendra Awhad, who organised the event at Thane.

Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik, who has been organising his Sanskruti Yuva Pratishthan handi in Thane for 14 years, has got Bollywood art director Nitin Desai to build a special stage this year.

Sarnaik who has invited several women’s Govinda groups to break the handi said these groups will be rewarded well for their grit.

“Any women’s group that reaches up to seven tiers will get a cash prize of Rs.5 lakh,” said Sarnaik.

State housing minister Sachin Ahir, who organises the Sankalp Pratishthan dahi handi at Worli’s Jamboree maidan, plans to honour every team that makes seven- and eight-tier pyramids with a gift, besides awarding prize money to the top three winners.

Dahi Handi generally takes place on the second day of Janmashtami. An earthen pot containing a mixture of milk, dry fruits, ghee is hung around 20-30 feet high in the air with the help of a rope.

Enthusiastic young men form a human pyramid by standing one on top of the other, trying to break the pot. Onlookers throw water on the young men in order to prevent them from doing so.

Breaking of the pot is followed by prize distribution. Devotees believe the broken pieces of earthen pot will keep away mice and negative powers from their homes.

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