Thursday, August 17, 2006

'Govinda Aala re,aaala"

on wednesday 16th, gokulashtami,the day of lord krishna's birth, was celebrated with great bhakthi.mumbaikars' spirits were not dampened by the incessant rain and the threat of terrorist attacks. mumbai celebrates this day in a unique organising competitions for breaking of the dahi handi(pot of curd). tied around it is a bunch of plantains,mango leaves and flowers or a flower garland. and there is a 300 year old tradition in panvel,where after the handi is broken using a silver stick volunteers are lashed by 'chabuk',ostensibly to appease the local goddess.

many years ago the practice of breaking dahi handis by govindas started in a small way in girgaum,lalbaug,parel,prabhadevi and dadar areas-workingclass and middleclass localities. forming a human pyramid to break the pot of curd hung above at a particular height.shiv sena sponsored many of these events and spread its popularity.seeing an opportunity to widen their political base,other political parties also joined in. more the merrier. with the municipal elections round the corner,how could the politicos not lap-up this god-sent chance?

shiv sena has been losing its clout what with its own dissensions and the formation of a new party by balasaheb thackeray's nephew. congress has taken maximum advantage of this situation and ncp too. while the traditional dahi handi mandals offer a cash prize of about Rs 11,000,the cash award in thane has gone up to rs 21 lakhs. djs and bollywood stars also have jumped into the fray .the dahi handi in the panch pakhadi area of thane has the enviable record of the dahi handi not being broken in the last 12 is the tallest handi in mumbai and thane at 52 feet and also offers the highest prize money in maharashtra,rs 21 lakh.this handi was broken only after the height was lowered to 32 feet. jitendra awhad the sponsor says that if you want to attract the best govindas of the city,you should also have an offer to match.and the best govindas are from tadwadi in mazgaon.two groups in tadwadi have the reputation of breaking the highest dahi handis between them.the score at the end of the day was that only three out of 5000 dahi handis strung up across amchi mumbai survived.govindas had done a grand job.

the formation of a human pyramid and reaching for something kept at the top is not a game restricted to india alone. there are other countries like spain,morocco and the czech republic where building human towers is a cultural sport.nine spaniards are in mumbai to enjoy the festivities.they closely observed the way we build the human pyramid.they hold the record for world's tallest human was a ten-tiered pyramid.jordina massaguerjoined one of the local gruoups to break dahi handis.she wanted to be on the top tier.back in spain where felix miret is part of a group which builds human pyramids or castellers,kids wear helmets.miret was dumbstruck by the daunting number of people who had turned up on the streets.

the spanish team is making a documentary on the four countries where this is a cultural sport.the rules in spain are different.more challenging.there the tiers go up to ten and the prize goes not only to the team that manages to build itself up but that stays in place.till the person on top climbs all the way down. the name of the documentary is likely to be "human towers around the world". agusti coromchras is the filmmaker who has more than 200 documentaries to his credit .incidentally, a short film titled pyramid of women was made several years ago by a mumbaiite cheryl kanehar

the spaniards are amazed by the fervour,colour and excitement.the castellers from catalonia had a blast of a time.the toi event at thane was finally broken by a team from jogeshwari and they pocketed a cash prize of rs 2,55,555. and jordina sadly couldn't make it. or break it. there are some unusual spectators though. the income tax sleuths.they are keeping a close tab on the guys who are offering big prize money. what with 21 lakhs,11 lakhs,5 lakhs and many 1 lakh prize money, they would like to find out the sources of these funds. a congress leader said that he saw nothing wrong in the prize money going up even up to crores as long as the money was "white".

more and more women's only team are participating and doing well.there is also an all women's dahi handi has 8 mandals across the city having more than 2000 members.the majority of them are working women and after a hectic routine they gather at 8pm for practice.they tie bandanas on their foreheads and form fivelevel pyramids without much difficulty.there is a women's group which even breaks handis in local trains. so much so that they scared the wits out of the men in the adjacent compartment with their loud singing and drumming of the compartment partitions.the men thought the women were screaming for help!

yesterday was a very rainy day. but that did not dampen the spirits of the mumbaikars.there were so many groups vying with each other to participate in these competitions. and mumbaikars turned out in mutitudes to watch these youngsters exhibiting thier skills. of course all do not reach the top. and when the top man falls the pyramid collapses like a house of cards.the celebrations took a sad turn when three people died. after about 150 govindas broke their bones, the government is talking of bringing in a code of conduct for revelry.the chief minister wanted the height of the handis to be lowered to reduce the accidents.many disagreeed and said that height has nothing to do with it. it is the technique our govindas can learn a few lessons from shirtless sallu of bollywood. he used a harness belt while shooting for the dahi handi scene in 'hell brother'.what we need for safer govindas are: safety net,helmet,the correct shape of the pyramid,harness belt and ambulance and paramedics.surely mumbai govindas can take all these precautions in the coming years. better safe than to be sorry.

and to sharpen their handi breaking skills mumbai govindas,ten in all, will be visiting spain this october.they will be trained in building a stronger base and taught climbing skills and concentration. our govindas may participate in the annual pyramid competition in spain on 1st november.

govinda ole re!,ollaaaa!


tilotamma said...

nice post

gs said...

thanks tilottamma for your kind words.

Lulu said...

i enjoyed reading the post as well. the women-only dandis sound very intriguing!! the documentary should be very interesting indeed.

Lotus Reads said...

This post is so informative. I thought, being an ex-Bombayite, I knew all there was to know about Gokulashtami and the rituals surrounding it, but turns out I know very little. I also loved reading about the pyramid competition in Spain.

I hope you won't mind if I boomark you- I love coming here and learning things.

Anonymous said...