The festival of Sri Krishna Janmashtami or Sri Krishna Jayanti is noted for the Dahi Handi breaking ceremony in
Maharashtra. In 2014, date of Dahi Handi is August 18. Dahi Handi is a perfect amalgamation of sport and spirituality and provides youngsters an opportunity to be adventurous and to show team spirit and unity. Young boys and girls make human pyramids to break the earthen pot hanging high above and the attempt to break the pot is accompanied by the chanting of ‘Govinda ala re’ and by loud sounds of cymbals and drums.
Dahi Handi is observed a day after Gokulashtami or Janmashtami. The festival is also known as ‘Gopal kala’. The name comes from a dish or a mixture of yoghurt, pounded rice and jaggery, which is offered to
Krishna on the day. The same mixture is placed in the Dahi Handi pot.
Legend has it that Sri Krishna was very fond of curd and butter. He and his friends used steal butter from the houses in Vrindavan. To save their curd and butter from Sri Krishna and his friends, women used to keep it in a pot and hung it from the ceiling of their houses so that it could not be easily reached. But
Krishna and his friends used to form human pyramid and easily steal the milk products. Taking inspiration from this ‘leela’ divine play of Lord Krishna, today the same challenge is posed before youngsters in the form of Dahi Handi by women.
The Dahi Handi pot which is hung at a considerable height is an open challenge to the young boys in the area. The pot contains Dahi poha – a mixture of beaten rice (poha), curd, sugar and pickle. The pot is also decorated with flowers and currency notes. The young boys in the region form human pyramids, sometimes reaching up to eleven stories, to reach the pot.
Women and girls won’t allow the young boys to get the Dahi Handi pot easily; they splash water on the boys and try to break the pyramids.
Today, Dahi Handi is a major event in major cities and towns in
Maharashtra and involves lot of money and large crowds. Prize for breaking the Dahi Handi pot ranges from 1000 Rupees to 2 million rupees.