Castellers from Spain raise the bar for local govindas

A strong contingent of 200 is here to participate in the festivities

Written by AMRUTA LAKHE | Mumbai | Published: August 29, 2013 2:52 am

Over the past three years,Pau Camprovin has,with fascination,watched videos on the internet of Indian govindas during dahi handi. Having grown up building human pyramids back in Spain,Camprovin says it was exciting to observe that thousands of kilometres away were people with nothing in common with his culture,but who were celebrating their own festivals in a manner he did.

This year,31-year-old Camprovin is one of the 200 castellers — members of the group Castellers de Sants from Catalonia,Spain — who have arrived in India to compete with their Indian counterparts. “Last year,a group of five from Castellers de Sants came to India to watch the dahi handi festival. They were amazed at the speed and efficiency with which the govindas raised human pyramids. This year,we want to try our hand at it,too,” says Esther Oriol,the president of the group.

On Wednesday,an eight-tier human pyramid is being built in the lobby of United 21 Hotel at Gokulnagar,Thane,where the group is residing. The Spanish castellers,with black bands around their waists and red scarves around their wrists,are preparing for an event in the evening where they will build a human pyramid at the Gateway of India. On Thursday evening,the castellers will attempt to build an eight- or nine-tier pyramid at the celebrations in Thane,organised by NCP leader Jitendra Awhad. Castellers from the group Castellers de Vilafranca in Catalonia participated in similar celebrations in 2011. Oriol says while the govindas practise only once a year,castellers build castells (towers) throughout the year as part of a local tradition. “In Catalonia,castellers build human pyramids at local festivals and events almost every week,” she says,adding that they practise twice a week for 10 months.

Though the human pyramids in India and Spain may appear similar,Oriol is quick to point out important differences. “Castellers build the layers through compression,while the govindas use the tension in the lower layers. Our lower layers are like mattresses,meant to cause minimum harm if a player falls.” The coach of the team,Camprovin adds,“For us,it is not about how tall a structure we can build,but how many people carry each layer. The lesser the people in each tier,the tougher it is to raise.”

Last year,the castellers managed to build a nine-tier pyramid with only three people per tier. “We also make sure the pyramid is deconstructed layer by layer,without falling apart.” After the human pyramid is built,the casteller at the top is required to perform an atela,a waving gesture made to signify the completion of the pyramid. Even though breaking the handi is not a part of the Spanish tradition,Camprovin says his castellers are looking forward to attempting it this year.

Even though the Spaniards perform almost every week back home,the excitement of doing so in India is palpable. “For us,everything is unfamiliar territory,right from the climate,music and audience,so it should be quite a thrill,” says Oriol.

For Camprov,in interacting with local govindas has been the most satisfying part of the trip.

amruta.lakhe@expressindia.com

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