Krishna is perhaps the most beloved Hindu God in India. Widely worshipped as a child, the stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being.
Traditional belief based on scriptural details and astrological calculations gives the date of Krishna's birth, known as Janmashtami, as either 18 or 21 July 3228 BCE. Krishna belonged to the royal family of Mathura, and was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki, and her husband Vasudeva.
Dahi Handi is a popular activity in Maharshtra, held during Janmashtami & commemorating the antics of a young Lord Krishna. This time around, due to health cautions regarding Swine Flu, the Handi festival in Mumbai was much muted.
Origin of this activity: Legend has it that as a child, Lord Krishna was very fond of curd and butter. He would gather his friends and they would steal butter from the houses of the milkmaids of Vrindavan. To protect their curd and butter from this gang of naughty children, the milkmaids kept it in a pot and hung it from the ceiling of their houses. Today's practice of Dahi Handi is the same challenge posed by the women of a locality to the young men of their neighbourhood.
The Beckoning Pot: The plan for Dahi Handi begins much before Janmashtami. Contribution is collected from every household in the locality. The day after Janmashtami, women buy large amounts of flattened rice (poha), curds, sugar and pickles. The poha, curds and sugar are mixed together to form dahi-poha, a dish that was said to be a favourite of Lord Krishna. A large earthen pot is then filled with dahi-poha . Tangy pickle is placed in the centre. The pot is decorated on the outside with flowers and leaves. As an added incentive, currency notes are tied to the pot. Now it is ready as the mouth-watering prize. You can see the pot on the top right.
Human Pyramid: This pot is hung high up in an open ground, 30 to 50 feet above ground level. It is a challenge to the youth of the locality to claim this pot. The youth too are ready for the challenge and have practiced their skills.
As soon as the pot was hung, they arrived at the ground. The group (called Govindas!)measure up the pot hanging high, gauged its height and began to form a human pyramid to reach it. But the task is not easy. Ignoring the slippery bodies the boys went on adding tier after tier to their pyramid. Finally, the smallest boy climbed like a cat over the bodies of his friends forming the pyramid. He reached the summit, carrying a stick in his hands.
The crowd watched with bated breath. One slip and he would fall down from a height of several feet onto the road, with no protection whatsoever. Or what would happen if one of guys down below in the pyramid twitched or shrugged? Everyone would tumble down like a pack of cards, with injuries to many of them...a frightening prospect as I stood quite numb! The boy took the aim and with great accuracy, broke the pot. Down poured the dahi-poha and there was a scramble to get the money and the prasad (offering).