Dahi Handi, a joyous but risky celebration

The Dahi Handi celebrationwww.123rf.com

The Dahi Handi celebration,Mumbai www.dnaindia.com
 A human pyramid to get the Dahi Handi (earthen pot) en.wikipedia.org
Sri Krishna quotes. www.india.com

India is a land of many cultures and so are the Hindu  religious festivals. Diwali, Navaratri, Rama Navami and Gokulastami festivals are celebrated with great joy across the country. Methods of celebration may vary from state to state. For example, the Durga pooja which is celebrated on a grand scale in West Bengal is quietly celebrated in other states. In Tamil Nadu Diwali and Pongal (Shangaranti) are major festivals. So are  Oonam  and Diwali in Kerala. The former is a great colorful event in that state. In Maharastra and in Mumbai, Dahi Handi is a major event associated with Janmastami,  the birth day of Lord Krishna. This Dahi Handi event is either absent or held on a low key in states like Tamil Nadu.

Dahi Handi (dahi means curd and  handi means  earthen pot in local parlance), a Hindu festival is celebrated every August/September, that reenacts a playful episode in the childhood  of Sri Krishna.  The legend has it that god-child  Sri Krishna was mischievous and  fond of butter and curd available in plenty in Vridhavan in UP where  he was brought up  in a Shepard  community.  Nothing could stop  Krishna and his friends from stuffing their mouth with  butter or  curd. So, the women  used to  hang the earthen pots with butter, milk and curd  way up from the ceiling. Krishna, being naughty and waggish, along with his friends, would form a  human pyramid, to steal curd/ butter  and distribute them among his other friends. As all the dairy products produced there in Vrindhavan were meant for the ruthless King Kamsa (Krishna's maternal uncle), the children had to forgo milk, etc This is one of Sri Krishna's  childhood escapades to please his friends.  

The Dahi Handi is simply  a depiction of Krishna's childhood pranks.The participant in the human pyramid is called  by various names, Govinda, Pathak or Krishna.

The human pyramid consists of many tiers / layers normally nine from the bottom to the top. Players in the bottom most tier are strong  and sturdy and form the wide base with many players. In the succeeding tiers, the  number of participants will get reduced  gradually and light weight people  will form the higher layers.  Finally a participant - a child will get to the top by standing on the top tier and break the earthen  pot and spill the content - mostly butter milk  that will fall on the players.While the participants  climb, spectators around them may throw water to distract their  attention. 

death vault and Dahi Handi!! twitter.com
This is not an easy sport and requires concentration, coordination and balance. Players in the middle tiers have to  carefully watch out for the players above and below them  while standing on the player's shoulder at the lower level. Since the prize money is in several lakhs depending on the organizers the participating groups undergo vigorous training for at least two weeks before the main event to get the covetous prize.

 The Supreme court of India in a ruling on the 17th of August, 2016 banned those under 18 years of age and reduced the height of the human pyramid to 20 feet. The Child right commission in February, 2014 framed guide lines because of frequent fatal accidents. Young children are allowed to go to the top of the pyramid without any safety device to  arrest the fall. In 2012 more than 200 Govindas were injured with one casualty. Frequently,  Govindas  sponsored by big organizers form human pyramids  as tall as nine story building to break the pot tied with a rope. The main concern is participants take risk going to the top without  safety harnesses.

Annual Dahi-Handi the birthday of Lord Krishna. 
Since it is a dangerous performance, the supreme court has put restrictions on the age of the performer and the height of human pyramid in order to avoid any mishap that will mar the joyous celebration. Further, such celebrations cause a lot of noise pollution and heavy traffic jam. Further, too much littering is a problem.

 This recent court ruling will not affect the Dahi Handi Mandal that conduct small celebration, but will affect the commercialized mandals sponsored by political leaders or parties because their celebrations  and prize money are big and the players tend to form a tall human pyramid that are prone to fatal accident.