Dahi Handi festival highlights Lord Krishna childhood memories of stealing butter from a pot hanging from the ceiling. Dahi handi will be celebrated on Sept 7 in 2023.
Dahi Handi - Janmashtami festival in India which commemorates Lord Krishna's birth, has several interesting aspects to its celebration. Apart from the traditional Raslila, Dahi Handi brings out the playful side of Lord Krishna's childhood as 'Bal Gopal'. Dahi Handi is held on the second day of Janmashtami. It has an element of drama and suspense which makes it even more special. The festival is also called ‘Gopal Kala’ or ‘Dahikala’. It is a perfect time to enact the episode from Lord Krishna’s childhood when he would mischievously steal butter and curd butter from a pot hanging from the ceiling, as he was very fond of butter.
Dahi Handi 2023 Date
When: September 7, 2023 (Thursday)
Dahi Handi in India
DahiHandi celebration is held mostly in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat. Some of the most famous locations in Mumbai are Dadar, Worli, Prabhadevi, Mazgaon, Lalbaug, Borivali and Thane. Apart from localities, several institutions also organize Dahi Handi programme with lower cash prizes. In Mumbai, close to 2000 Govindas compete for 4000 handis. It is also held in Shirdi and in Nashik. Even other states have caught on to the practice. In some states, it is also called ‘MatkaPhod’.
Dahi Handi tradition
Dahi Handi is a sporting event that mimics Lord Krishna's winsome moments as a child. An earthen pot full of butter/dahi is hung from a great height and a group of people clamber on a human tableau to reach the top to break it. The participants called ‘Govindas’ form this tableau and one ‘govinda’ at the topmost tier breaks the pot hanging at a good height (generally 20 feet above the ground) with a slingshot. The catch is that the Govindas must persist in their effort as people keep throwing coloured water to put resistance on them. Another challenge is to break the pyramid in a way that none of the participants are hurt. In some states, the pot is moved with ropes till the participants break the earthen pot. The symbolic significance is unity and triumph through collective effort. It also brings out the sporting spirit of the participants.
Dahi Handi celebration in Mumbai
In Mumbai the popularity of DahiHandi celebrations has acquired huge proportions. From a local event to a major celebration that sees participation of Bollywood stars, Dahi Handi has caught media attention and gets live coverage on TV channels. In Mumbai, groups of Govindas shuttle from locality to locality to break the earthen pots in as many places as possible. ‘Govinda a la re’ is an uplifting chant that keeps people’s spirit elevated and the general mood upbeat. It is the most catchy refrain in several songs on Janmashtami. A ‘pandit’usually performs the rituals before the event. The earthen pot is also filled with çurd, butter or ghee, dry fruits and sweets. A sweet preparation of yoghurt, rice and jaggery is offered to Krishna on this day.
DahiHandi has become competitive as several cash prizes are given away to the winners. Cash prizes depend upon how many tiers are displayed in the human pyramid, how professionally it is carried out and the celebrity attraction. Generally ‘mandals’ commence practice much in advance. Some localities offer prizes to the tune of Rs. 1 crore. Film personalities attending the program are often a highlight. Banners announcing the cash prize for DahiHandi are displayed almost everywhere cross the city. Celebrities performing in the event are a major draw as is a Bollywood actor showing a film trailer of a soon-to-be-released movie. Foreign troupes such as the one that came to Mumbai to perform in 2012 and train the ‘Govindas’ in acrobatics to make the pyramid professionally has also been welcomed.
Since Mandals or groups for DahiHandi are organized by political parties, some of the localities even have topical themes to make people aware and educate them on important issues. The representative of the political parties sponsor the prize according to their locality they patronize. A recent Court ruling has mandated that persons of 18 years of age or above can participate.