Celebrated in the months of August/September, this festival marks the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna – Janmashtami. The Dahi Handi ritual is based on the legend of the child-god Krishna stealing butter along with his friends; hence the festival derived its name – dahi: curd, handi: earthen pot. The tradition involves making a human pyramid and breaking an earthen pot filled with curd tied at a height. Later Dahikala (ingredients in the pot) is distributed among everyone. Dahi Handi celebration encourages working in a team, thus signifies the importance of team work. This festival is a way of reliving the mischief and pranks played by Lord Krishna.
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A very popular festival in Mumbai, the city is filled with a joyous ambience for this festival as it is a wondrous and amusing event enjoyed by everyone – children to adults. In schools, it is a lovely sight to see little boys and girls dressed up as Lord Krishna and Radha to mark the celebration of this festive time. People play games and people perform dances depicting the various events in Lord Krishna’s life. Also known as Gokulashtami, this is the best time of the year to visit and marvel the festivities in the versatile city of Mumbai. Celebrations take place at hundreds of locations across the city with a huge number of people gathered to make the human pyramid and break the clay pots. Several others join in for encouragement and hurrah.
Religious rituals include people observing a fast on the first day of the festival until midnight, as it is believed to be the time when Lord Krishna was born. People offer prayers, singing, and reciting his deeds. At midnight, a traditional prayer is offered and the birth of Krishna is celebrated. Special baby cradles are installed in temples and a small statue placed in them. The most elaborate rituals are performed at Mathura, where Lord Krishna was born and spent his childhood. The huge ISKCON temple complex, in the beach side suburb of Juhu, also has a special festival program.
Handis are set up around the city, and groups of youngsters, called Govinda Pathaks, travel around in trucks trying to break as many handis as possible during the day. Janmashthami celebrations in Mumbai have become an annual big business affair with prizes running into crores of rupees, mega-sponsors, intense competition among various groups, mostly backed by politicians and political parties, attracting millions of locals, domestic and foreign tourists. One of the biggest Dahi Handi competitions (Sankalp Pratishthan Dahi Handi) takes place at the Jamboree Maidan on G M Bhosle Marg in Worli. Bollywood celebrities often make appearances and perform there. The Maharashtra government has decided to accord the status of ‘adventure sport’ to the centuries old traditional ‘Dahi-handi’ celebrations that mark Janmashthami every year.
Absorb this exhilarating experience at Mumbai’s Dahi Handi celebrations. Plan your next trip to Mumbai for this pompous festival of frolic with its unique sacredness and divinity!