One day, two years ago, two of us decided to be on the road to be a part of dahi handi. I came from campus, she came from home, we met at Curry road station. This was my first time at Curry Road and my first time on the road for dahi handi! As the train entered the station it started to rain heavily.. I had everything except a raincoat and an umbrella in my backpack.
Dahi is curd, and handi is an earthen pot, dahi handi therefore is an earthem pot of curd which is hung at a height using ropes, sometimes from the end of a crane. The celebration of breaking the dahi handi falls on janmashtami, the birthday of Krishna when groups of people who call themselves Govindas form a pyramid to reach the pot and break it. This is a neighbourhood ritual/activity as well as a competition. Dahi handi is celebrated to commomerate little Lord Krishna’s prank of stealimg dahi/butter with his friends.
It looks like a very dangerous activity, people who call themselves Govinda, of different sizes and build, climb on each other, precariously balancing on the shoulders of the group standing below them, making different storeys of a pyramid..
the youngest or sometimes the smallest climbs to the top to break the pot. and all this is done without a safety net! However each person wears some kind of shoulder vest so they can easily support another and also prevent damage to their shoulders. Accidents happen! The govindas may lose balance and fall. However, an ideal pyramid breaks down when people from the top storeys fall into the pyramid than outside. Plus, even if somebody falls the fall is broken by the the number of people surrounding these Govindas who make the pyramid. The people form the safety net and with such a crowd nobody actually hits the ground. this year the instructions are to form not more than 7 storeys. And reports have come in that Bombay had a subdued dahi handi celebration.
I remember I lost my shoe that year to the slushy mud and rains. After walkimg through many streets and witnessing many local dahi handi breakings.. we walked towards the big stadium where the competition for parel was being held. In this big playground/stadium where many local teams gathered to make the highest human pyramid.. the winning team made 9 storeys. They won about a lakh or many lakhs of rupees that day. The prize money goes realky high to a crore or more!
The stadium was our last stop. We started with the streets across phoenix mall at lower parel. Every lane had a handi on a rope, and their neighbourhood team ready to break the earthen pot. .. we witnessed the crowd and the participants. The rains had dropped to a drizzle by then. And together with them, we joined in with the crowd to cheer the participants.