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Friday, September 19, 2008

India Celebrates Janmashtami With Dahi Handi Ceremony

India is celebrating the Hindu festival Janmashtami today (24th August '08). This is the day that Lord Krishna was born and is marked as one of the important festivals of India. Lord Krishna was born as the 8th child and was adopted by Yashoda and Nandrai so that he could escape the wrath of King Kansa who was after his blood.

The day is celebrated all over India with the famous Dahi Handi ceremony in which a human pyramid is formed in order to break the pot that contains Dahi (Butter Curd). According to the Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna was very fond of milk and milk products, especially the butter that used to be churned by his mother, and he would do anything to steal the pot that his mother would take great pains to hide from him. She would try and tie the pot as high as possible so that he would not be able to reach it. But, clever kid that he was, he would collect all the kids from the neighborhood and form a human pyramid and climb on top of them all to reach he pot, break it and eat the butter, much to the amazement of his mother.

Following this tradition, the breaking of the Dahi Handi is considered very auspicious even today. Places like Maharashtra and Pune specifically are well known for the exact performance of traditional Dahi Handi ceremony.

The Celebrations

Dahi Handi is generally celebrated on the second day of Janmashtami, in which an earthen pot containing a mixture of milk, dry fruits, ghee is hung around 20-30 feet high in the air with the help of a rope.

At times even money is put in the pot or on the rope,which is later distributed as prize to the winners. Young devotees of Lord Krishna called "Govinda" come in groups and try to break the "Dahi Handi" by making human pyramids by standing one on top of the other, trying to break the pot.

The onlookers make it more interesting and difficult by throwing water on the young men in order to prevent them from breaking the pot. Breaking of the pot is followed by prize distribution. Devotees believe that the broken pieces of earthen pot will keep away mice and negative powers from their homes.

In the city of Mumbai the slogans of "Govinda Ala Re" are heard reverberating the streets all over where there is a Dahi Handi. It is an event worth seeing.

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