Also lovingly called the Govinda Festival or Gopalakala, Dahi Handi is a grand Hindu festival that is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor, especially by the young men in Maharashtra, Mathura, Goa, and Gujarat. This festival is considered to be one of the oldest festivals in India.
The festival is inspired by the childhood stories of adorable, albeit naughty, Lord Krishna, who is considered to be the eighth Avatar of Lord Vishnu. We have in Sri Krishna, a deity who is followed not only by the Hindus worldwide but also by people from all religions from different countries. This is because His dialogue of immortality in the Bhagwad Gita made spirituality accessible to ordinary people as it did not require renunciation from the world, instead of encouraging world acceptance.
Celebrated a day after Lord Krishna’s birth (Janmashtami), Dahi Handi will be celebrated on 25 August 2019.
Lord Krishna, as a child, is worshipped by many as the ideal child of innocence. He was very mischievous and enjoyed troubling the women in the community. Since he was very fond of butter and curd, he would encourage his friends to help him steal and eat it. Just so it was not easily accessible for him, the women would hang it up at a ‘safe’ height. But the little Krishna would make a human pyramid with his friends to reach the handi, filled with butter, to eat it.
‘Maakhanchor’, as Krishna was lovingly called, celebrates the fun spirit of Sri Krishna. This festival signifies unity and success through a collective effort.
Today, politicians have taken advantage of the large gatherings at this event and many use this platform to bring awareness and educate people on some important issues.
The popularity of this festival can be gauged by the fact that many films have peppy songs based on Dahi Handi.
After Janmashtami, devotees look forward to this exciting next day, which over the years, has become more sporty and competitive.
Before the start of the ceremony, a pandit usually performs a small puja.
An earthen handi filled with butter, curd, milk, ghee, and honey is suspended from a height of approximately 20-40 feet, or more, and young men and boys form human pyramids with the support of each other and try to reach the handi. The boy who is right at the top of the pyramid is called Govinda (Another name for Sri Krishna) while the group is called Handi or Mandal. Onlookers try and stop the boys from making the pyramid, by throwing colored water on them. The crowds rejoice when ‘Govinda’ manages to break the handi.
What earlier was celebrated as fun has now become competitive and sporty with hundreds of team participants, involving a huge amount of cash prize.
Slogans like, ‘Govinda Aala Re’ and ‘Aala re Aala, Govinda Aala’, is commonly heard everywhere on this day.
Devotees make an attempt to collect the pieces of the broken earthen pot, as it is believed to keep negativity away from homes.
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