Mumbai Ka Krishna Janmashtami: A Motorcycle Roadtrip from Juhu to South Mumbai by Kedar Kulkarni in August 2013 India
Krishna Janmashtami (Wikipedia)
(Devanagari कृष्ण जन्माष्टमी kṛṣṇa janmāṣṭamī), also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham,Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti or sometimes simply as Janmashtami, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
The festival is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shravana (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathuraand Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa lila re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna's youthful days, the Dahi Handi celebrate God's playful and mischievous side, where teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. This tradition, also known as uriadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami. Krishna Janmashtami is followed by the festival Nandotsav, which celebrates the occasion when Nanda Baba distributed gifts to the community in honour of the birth.
Krishna was the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva. Based on scriptural details and astrological calculations, the date of Krishna's birth, known as Janmashtami, is 19 July 3228 BCE and he lived until 3102 BCE. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavasfrom Mathura, and was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
Mathura (in present day Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh) was the capital of the Yadavas, to which Krishna's parents Vasudeva and Devaki belonged. King Kansa, Devaki's brother, had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father, King Ugrasena. Afraid of aprophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki's eighth son, Kansa had the couple locked in a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki's apparent miscarriage of the seventh (which was actually a secret transfer of the infant to Rohini as Balarama), Krishna was born.
Following the birth, Vishnu ordered Vasudeva to take Krishna to Gokul to Nanda and Yashoda, where he could live safely, away from his Uncle Kansa. Vasudeva took Krishna with him and crossed the Yamuna to reach Gokul. There, everyone was asleep; so he quietly kept him there and returned with Yashoda's daughter. Kansa, thinking her to be Devki's eight child, threw her on a stone. But she rose into the air and transformed into Yogmaya (who is Vishnu's helper) and warned Kansa about his death. Then, she disappeared. Krishna grew up in Gokul with his brother, Balram. He then returned to Mathura and killed Kansa with the help of Balram.
Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna's infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct readings of the Hindu religious scripture Bhagavad Gita.
Maharashtra[Mumbai & Pune)
Janmaashtami or Gokulashtami, popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as Dahi Handi, is celebrated as an event which involves making ahuman pyramid and breaking an earthen pot (handi) filled with buttermilk (dahi), which is tied at a convenient height. The topmost person tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object. When the handi breaks, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group. This event is based on the legend of the child-god Krishna stealing butter. A participant in this festival is called a Govinda or Govinda pathak.
Many such Govinda pathaks compete with each other, especially for the prize money. These groups are called mandals or handis and they go around the local areas, attempting to break as many pots as possible every August. The event, since the 2000s, has gathered a political flavour, and it is common for political parties and rich community groups to offer prizes amounting to lakhs of rupees. Local celebrities and Bollywood actors also participate. Some of the popular handis are at Dadar, Lower Parel, Worli, Mazgaon, Lalbaug, Thanein Mumbai and Babu Genu, Mandai in Pune. Cash and gifts are offered for Govinda troops to participate; for over 4,000 handis in Mumbai, 2,000 Govinda troops compete for the prizes.
The coastal state of Goa(see:Gomanta Kingdom) has been associated with the Yadavas.Known as Ahstam in Goa,celebrated with great zeal on family level as well as community levels,especially in the temples of Devaki Krishna(perhaps the only temple dedicated to Devakiin India) and Naroa,the ancient town of Kadambas.
Dahi Handi (Detailed)
Dahi Handi (dahi: curd, handi: earthen pot) is an Indian festival, celebrated every August, that involves making a human pyramid and breaking an earthen pot filled with curd tied at a convenient height. This event is based on the legend of the child-god Krishna stealing butter. A participant in this festival is called agovinda or govinda pathak. It is mostly popular in the state of Maharashtra and Mumbai. It is part of the main festival Gokulashtami, which is known as Krishna Janmashtami in the rest of the country, and celebrates the birth of Krishna.
Significance and description
The Dahi Handi (dahi: curd, handi: earthen pot) festival is popular in the Maharashtra state of India and in Mumbai. It is organized roughly every August. The festival Gokulashtami, known as Krishna Janmashtami in the rest of the country, is the celebration of Krishna's birth and Dahi Handi is part of it. The event involves making a human pyramid and breaking an earthen pot filled with milk, curd, butter, fruits and water which is hung at a convenient height, thus imitating the actions of child Krishna. Sometimes the prize money is added to the pot instead.
The terms govinda (also another name of Krishna) or govinda pathak are used to refer to the people who participate in forming this human pyramid. They practise in groups weeks before the actual event. These groups are called mandals and they go around the local areas, attempting to break as many pots as possible during the event. Pyramid formation needs coordination and focus; the lowest layers consist of the most number of people, preferably sturdy, while the middle layer players need to pay attention to those below as well as the others standing on their shoulders. The outer layer individuals need to focus on maintaining balance. As lighter people are needed higher up, the topmost layer usually has a single child. Breaking the pot usually ends up with the contents spilling over the participants.Traditionally, spectators threw water on the participants to deter them and people chant in Marathi "Ala re ala, Govinda ala" (govindas have arrived). The pyramid formation is often accompanied by crowds, music and dancing.
Celebration and economics
The participants form a pyramid consisting usually below 9-tiers, and are given three attempts to break the earthen pot. Every year thousands of people and hundreds of govinda teams gather at Mumbai and Thane's Dahi Handi events. As of 2011, the prize money for the events usually range between 1 lakh (US$1,600)–12 lakh (US$19,000) depending on the organizers and its sponsors. Each year, the prizes and scale of the celebrations increase due to the participation of political parties and commercialisation.
Local and state political parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), are active during this event, with each offering their own prize money. Each party sponsors its own set of mandals. Their involvement has increased in the 2000s, thereby increasing competition and prize money. Thus, numerous teams compete against each other in successive events for the prizes throughout the city. Actors from Bollywood, Marathi actors and singers take part in this event. Some mandals even incorporated social messages like female foeticide or about the environment into their act; the Shiv Sena and MNS focus on Marathi culture. In some years, Castellers from Spain also take part in the competition.
In 2012, a mandal called Jai Jawan Govinda Pathak from Jogeshwari, Mumbai, made an entry into the Guinness World Record by forming a human pyramid of 9-tiers 43.79 feet (13.35 m) at the Dahi Handi event held in Thane; the previous record was held by Spain since 1981. A lobby pushed for the possibility of making it an official sport in the same year, which critics said that it should remain just a street celebration.
The presence of these mass celebrations and mandals cause traffic congestion and problems like excessive littering. It also causes the issue of sound pollution, with theSupreme Court of India's prescribed guidelines being 55–65 decibels. Participation carries a high risk of mortality. The number of injuries increased due to higher competition since 2000. A report in 2012 from the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, concluded that "There is a considerable risk of serious, life-threatening injuries inherent to human pyramid formation and descent in the Dahihandi festival". It recommended safety guidelines like reducing the height of the pot, preventing children from participating and using safety gear.
In 2012, over 225 govindas were injured with one casualty; this was higher than the previous year's 205. The government of Maharashtra banned children below 12 years from participating in 2014. The Bombay High Court later ruled in August that the minimum age should be raised to 18 years and height of the pyramid should be no more than 20 feet due to safety reasons. This was challenged by the organisers to the Supreme Court, which kept it on hold—allowing children above 12 years to participate.