Saturday, 3 September 2011

Dahi Handi

On the 22nd August it was Janmashtami , commonly known in Maharashtra as Dahi Handi, which is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of the Hindu God Krishna.

The festival is celebrated with an event where large groups of people, usually young men and boys called Govindas climb up each other to create a human pyramid in order to reach and break the Handi (clay pot) which is full of buttermilk and is hung up high above the ground. There is usually a huge amount of prize money to be won and practically every year someone dies or is seriously hurt when falling from the pyramid.

All over the city, many Handi’s were hung and lots of groups of Govinda’s travelled around as many as they could in order to win lots of money.

We went to one that had been set up in an area of scrub land in Kalyani Nagar, just round the corner from my house.

We arrived at 9pm and there were hundreds of people waiting around and dancing to the really loud 
Bollywood music.

The Handi was hung up high on a length of rope between two massive cranes and there was a huge stage set up at the back of the field that was full of people making speeches in Marathi.

Handi, crowd and stage in the background.
We waited for over an hour and nothing happened. It was quite boring and it began to rain which made a few people decide to leave.

Me, Susannah and Annie.

Susannah, Annie, Anurag, Joe, Josephine and Liam in the back!

Finally at about 10.30pm a large group of young men all in matching orange and white t-shirts marched through the crowd. Everyone started to get excited and cheer at them.


Apparently the reason we waited so long for something to happen was because the Govindas had been held up at another Dahi Handi celebration in the city.

The Govindas started to climb up each other. They climbed up a few layers of men high then climbed back down again. It seemed like they were just warming up and they did this a few times and each time they got a bit taller. However the cranes lowered the pot also, which to me seemed a bit of a cheat.

Climbing up to the pot!

Climbing again!

Eventually they climbed up high enough and the guy at the top broke the pot with a coconut and all the buttermilk spilled out on top of them.

Broken Handi.

Just for completing this one, they were all then invited on stage where they were presented with a huge cheque for 11 Lakhs (about £18,000)!

So after waiting over an hour for something to happen, it was over in about 15 minutes. It was great to see but it did seem a bit of an anti climax because they didn’t seem to climb up as high as we expected and they kept lowering the pot.

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