Janmashtami or Gokulasthami or Dahi handi as popularly called is a festival celebrated to commemorate the birth of Krishna at night, and his immediate removal by his father to a foster-home for safe-keeping from his evil uncle.
Lately in Mumbai the once pious fest has so radically commercialized that it has become a slug fest between politicians of all parties including congress ncp and sena on one hand, putting up atrocious sums for nearly impossible handis raised to heights well over 40 feet and on the other between the Govinda Pathaks which go from one major prize winning handi to another.
While members of larger well organised groups are better trained, practiced and insured, some of the members of the smaller phataks indulge in heavy drinking just to kill their fear. Not only that – there are always reports of people in hospital with broken bones and a few deaths on the next day.
It is saddening to observe that it is no more about the festival but more about prize money. Somehow things have changed now as it is more like a matka or jackpot as the govindas first check what is in the pot (i mean the cash incentive) before even bothering to break it, a custom unheard of in my childhood.