Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dahi Handi: The feast of Janmashtami

India is a country of great contrasts and popular devotions. Janmashtami, popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as Dahi Handi is celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm. The festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, the word Dahi means curd, and Handi, is pot, these words refer to the pot of cottage cheese, which is claimed as a prize in this special ceremony.

The act is from childhood antics of Lord Krishna, who had a special affinity for milk and butter. Food is hanged in the rafters of houses to keep them out of reach of children and animals. Krishna, along with his friends formed human pyramids to steal milk and butter from the houses of the village.

The ceremony consists of a pot full of milk, cottage cheese, butter, honey and fruits. Suspended on a rope at a height of about 12 meters, a group of young men and children form a human pyramid, climbing over each other's shoulders, to be able to break the Handi. Beside the Handi, it is usually placed some money as a reward.

Several of these are established locally in various parts of the city, and youth groups, called Govinda, make trips in trucks, trying to break as many handis as possible during the day. In recent times, the event has acquired a political flavor, and it is not uncommon for political parties, wealthy and community groups, offer attractive prizes accompanying this amazing festival of Dahi Handi in Maharashtra.

Every year on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, hundreds of teams participate in human pyramid competitions across Mumbai and Maharashtra. The goal is to form a human pyramid high enough to go break a pot containing milk, yogurt, butter, fruit and water, hung in the air.

The tradition of dahi handi is taken from an episode of the Mahabharata, one of the two great epics of Hindu mythology with the Ramayana. According to legend, Krishna used to steal pots of yogurt and butter. The Dahi Handi, now is something of a national sport and is the most popular game.

The game is to form a human pyramid to enable the youngest team to reach an earthenware container containing butter or curd, suspended from air at a predetermined height. The young athlete is instructed to reach the top of the pyramid, who must break the pot with the help of a stick or any blunt object and making sure that the liquid spills on the entire team in order to consecrate the union in the enterprise.

Many young and old, men and women fast since morning, who will remain awake past midnight, the time when they gather to recite devotional songs addressed to the supreme and divine Lord.
A mischievous child, fond of butter and curds and therefore accustomed to steal them, he spent his childhood in the countryside of Vrindavan.

During the day of his birthday the entire India and particularly the inhabitants of the Mathura region and the state of Maharashtra, gather to celebrate the birth, organizing dances (rasa lila) from his frivolous teenage years, remembering the joyful side of his childhood.