Janamashtmi – the festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna on Earth, is often observed with numerous rituals of which ‘Dahi-Handi’ is one of the most prominent.Also known as the ‘Gopalakala,’ ‘Dahi-Handi’ is a ritual in which devotees of Lord Krishna recreate the famous act of ‘Maakhan Chori’ or butter stealing which is one of the many mischievous acts from the Lord’s childhood stories. It is observed on the next day of Janamashtmi.
The event is celebrated in the coastal state of Maharashtra through a competition wherein a pot full of curd or butter is hung at a height of over 25 feet and groups of Gopalas participate by trying to break the pot by forming huge human pyramids.The group that breaks the pot wins the competition, while the person who breaks it, is often called ‘Govinda,’ which is one of the many names of Lord Krishna.
According to the Hindu Mythology, the mischievous Krishna loved butter and buttermilk to such an extent that he used to steal it from the homes of his neighbours who used to hang butter in earthen pots quite high above ground level. Lord Krishna is thus, also addressed as the ‘Maakhan Chor’ (butter thief).
As the festival of Janamashtmi has arrived this year in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the organising bodies of the playful event in Maharashtra have decided to scrap ‘Dahi-Handi’ this year as forming human pyramids involves close gathering of people and disrupts social-distancing norms.
Kamlesh Bhoir, the Vice President of Dahi Handi Samnvay Samiti says that the organisers this year have decided to celebrate ‘Dahi-Handi’ in a unique way with the festival of health – ‘Aarogya Utsav’ – as a part of which they have organised health and blood donation camps.
“Social distancing is very necessary protocol for fighting coronavirus and in Dahi-Handi it cannot be followed because of the practise of forming the huge human pyramid that needs close association of people participating,” he said.”Dahi Handi Samnvay Samiti had recently requested all ‘Govinda Patak’ that the Dahi-Handi must not be celebrated this year and we decided to replace the celebration with health and blood donation camps,” he added.
The 45-year-old Vice President of the organisation gave further details and said that a lot of Krishna Mandals have decided to set up the 16-day-long health camp starting from August “We have organised this 16-day-long health camp from August 1 to August 16. We had put this idea in front of all mandals and many of them have adopted it. Yesterday itself, blood donation camps were organised in at least 15 places in Maharashtra and we have collected at least 1800 bottles of blood till now,” he said.
“Many more blood donation camps are yet to be organised on the day of Govinda’s Dahi Handi which is on August 12. We are aiming at collecting at least 3500-4000 bottles of blood from across Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra through this,” he added.
Besides blood donation camps, the organisations have also arranged plasma donation camps where people who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate blood plasma.
“We have organised these camps where healthy people are donating their blood. We have also organised blood plasma donation camps wherein people who have recovered from Covid can donate plasma,” the 45-year-old said.
Also Read:Delhi: ISKCON temple to celebrate Janmashtami on Aug 12, entry based on limited invitation due to COVID
“In addition to that vitamin supplements are also being distributed to the elderly through our ‘Aarogya Shivir’. So, this year we are celebrating ‘Aarogya Utsav’ instead of Dahi-Handi,” he added.
The organisers of the playful ritual have travelled a long road by winning the case in the Supreme Court after Maharashtra Government’s plea to regulate the celebrations of the festival by imposing several restrictions, including that of the age of the participants and the height of the ‘Dahi-Handi’ pot.As the coronavirus cases skyrocket in the country each day, Bhoir hopes that India will defeat it soon and the ‘Dahi-Handi’ festival will be observed with great fervour on Janamashtmi next year.