LIKE every year, several thousand people gathered to watch teams of Govindas form human pyramids to smash the Dahi Handis in Mumbai’s annual Janmashtami tradition Thursday. But this time, the mood was charged with disappointment and anger over the Supreme Court’s order upholding a Bombay High Court-imposed restriction on the height of these human pyramids up to 20 feet and disallowing the participation of Govindas aged below 18 years.
Amid the spray from water sprinklers, dhol-tasha beats and electronic music blaring from loudspeakers at the organisers’ pandals and on board the trucks carrying groups of Govindas, the festivities witnessed black flags, sloganeering and deliberate violation of the rules.
The protests, many tinged with humour, took place mainly in the Shiv Sena and MNS-dominated central Mumbai areas of Dadar and Parel, as well as in Mulund and Thane.
In a first, policemen video-recorded proceedings at all major mandals. By the end of the day, the Thane Police had registered 19 cases for violations, while the Mumbai Police too had registered several FIRs.
In Dadar, where several organisers strung up their pots at the permitted height of 20 feet, some groups tried to send a message by using only a step-ladder to climb up and smash the pot. One group of Govindas waved black flags to protest the court’s order, which they felt interfered in a decades-old tradition.
Members of a Govinda group lay on the road to form a flat pyramid of nine levels. “Three groups, Akhil Pathak, Hindu Ekta and Konkannagar Govinda, came together to protest against the courts’ rules. They also refused to accept any trophy,” said Shailesh Sardar, organiser of the Jeevandoshi Mitra Mandal Dahi Handi in Dadar, one of the city’s oldest Dahi Handi organisers.