With Janamashtami just round the corner, people are gearing up for the dahi handi competition in almost every locality of the country. With hours of practise and precision in balance and coordination, this team sport builds needs lot of trust and coordination. Right from the people at the base to the one person who is at the pinnacle.
Though, there is some unrest because of the recent Supreme Court decision to restrict the height of the dahi handi formation to 2oft and freeze the minimum participant age to 12, there is no denying the plans and strategies that would currently be occupying the minds of dahi handi enthusiasts.
Well, if you think that this extraordinary sport is restricted to celebrations in India only, you are highly mistaken. The human multi-tier pyramid is part of the ancient tradition in the Catalan region of Spain. The Catalan tradition of building multilevel human towers is known as castells. This derives its origin from the Catalan word for ‘castle’, which originated in Valls, near the city of Tarragona in Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain with its own distinct culture and language. It is believed that since the 1980s, the tradition became extremely popular and colles or clubs have been established throughout Catalonia and even in the Balearic Islands.
Interestingly, in 2010, the UNESCO classified the castells as one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.’ And, in fact, it was in 2012 that a Mumbai group managed to break the Spanish record for the highest castell in the world with a height of 43.79ft.
How this works is that the castellers start climbing a human tower to the beats and sounds of traditional Catalan music. A traditional Catalan reed instruments is played during the formation. People forming the base of the human tower is known as the ‘pinya’. As opposed to the Indian culture, a child, known as ‘enxaneta’ climbs at the top of the tower and there is no handi to break, instead the child just raises his one hand with four fingers – regarded as a salute to their flag.
Recently, one such video of castell building has gone viral. A video posted by CCTV of China on their Facebook page of a nine-storey castell, built during a reality show show called “Challenge the Impossible” went viral. The video posted on their page on August 5, has been viewed over 4,796,600 times, and shared over 100,000 times at the time of writing.
Though, understanding the language may be a problem, the video beautifully captures the fear, excitement and perseverance of all. The judges of the show is seen praying at one point, while members in the audience held their breath as level by level they proceeded. When, finally, a little girl starts to mount on the tower, the band’s music grows louder and the beats pace up in tandem; everyone in the show is pumped with excitement as they wait with bated breath. Finally, when the little one raises her hand, the castellers receive a standing ovation not only from the audience but also from the judges, the presenters of the show were equally excited.
Deconstruction of the tower occurs layer by layer, starting with the highest tiers, and is often the most difficult and dangerous part of the display. The video also shows how they dismount and break into tears of finally what they have achieved.