Happy Birthday Krishna – Janmashtami celebrations in Mumbai

“Dahi Handi” translates to a pot of yogurt! Dahi: yogurt. Handi: pot. This day, the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated as Janmashtami.

Janmashtami has a unique tradition and flavour in Mumbai. This festival is locally more popular as Dahi Handi.

It is a celebration of Krishna’s endearing love for all things milk, and the tricks the naughty baby Krishna would resort to—just to get his hands on that creamy yoghurt his mother would try to hide in vain!

Neighbourhood communities shower water and water balloons on the Govinda Pathaks as they attempt breaking the coveted yogurt bowl on the occasion of Dahi Handi, the festival of Janmashtami, a celebration of Lord Krishna's birthday in Mumbai, India.

When Krishna was a little boy, Yashoda his foster mother, would hide her pot of yoghurt and cream high up in the house, hoping that it would be out of reach of her mischievous baby.During the celebration of Dahi Handi, a similar pot is strung high up, and teetering, precarious human pyramids form as high-spirited groups attempt to reach and smash the coveted pot!Neighbours and their guests gather in large numbers. In the midst of their cheers, coupled with showering water balloons and buckets full of water, the action begins.

What’s a festival without dance and music?

What was once just a community celebration has now been scaled up to an extravaganza. Live dance and music tries to keep pace with the frenzied action on the ground.

Folk dances like Lavani are arranged on the occasion of Dahi Handi, the festival of Janmashtami, a celebration of Lord Krishna's birthday in Mumbai, India.

Folk dances, like this one, known as lavani, are organised to keep the crowds entertained and spice up the already action-packed evening.

Govinda PathaksDahi Handi and human pyramids

Govinda pathaks is the name given to the groups of daredevils who take on the challenge of breaking the Dahi Handi. (Lord Krishna was often referred to as Govinda in his younger mischief filled days).

The dahi handi group, govinda pathak rise up in the sky, forming a eight layered human pyramid on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna at an event in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai.

They form human pyramids, precariously balancing themselves, each level on top of the other. Nine levels is the record so far in Mumbai!

“They are a labour of love, these pyramids!”

The govindas spend the day of Dahi Handi travelling across Mumbai, to locations where these pots have been set up. At each venue, they try to break the coveted pot.

Venues can be varying; some dahi handis are set up in large open grounds, some in the middle of the road. The most common venues are narrow bylanes between buildings. The only constant being the crowds that swarm to each venue.

The dahi handi group, govinda pathak listens in rapt attention to their coach before forming the human pyramid on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna at an event in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai.

Naturally, the space available at each venue to form the pyramid differs. As does the group strategy. The Govinda pathaks these days travel with an in-house coach. Some last minute plans are chalked out before the climb begins.

 

The dahi handi group, govinda pathak prays before forming the human pyramid on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna at an event in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai.

The whole group then assembles at the centre. They take a quiet moment to pray. Then begins the transformation of this human whirlpool into a human pyramid.

Aerial view of the dahi handi group, govinda pathak as they rise up to form the human pyramid with the others in the group surround them with their hands raised to form a sort of shield, on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna at an event in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai.

This is what a pyramid formation looks like from up above. A sea of their comrades stands at the bottom with raised arms. This is their only safety net on the ground.

Organisers have now started paying attention to the safety measures. The top most govinda is now secured with ropes and helmets.

Govindas tumble at a Dahi Handi in Thane, India

Not all attempts are successful for every group. Tumbling down not just hurts, it can also prove to be extremely dangerous. Towards the end of the day, these groups are riding on sheer adrenaline.

Red colour splashes as a pot filled with yogurt is victoriously broken by a human pyramid formed by daredevil groups called Govinda Pathaks for the festival of Dahi Handi or Janmashtami which marks Lord Krishna's birthday.

But all the risks are forgotten when the coveted pot is in sight. Concentration and agility are at their peak, as the pyramid rises one human level at a time.

The last man standing takes his time to stand up, balance himself and finally—strike gold!

The biceps that bore the entire pyramid, at Dahi Handi in Thane, India

The joyous dances are a sight in themselves. Money is, of course, an important reward.

But the sweet smell of victory for these “govindas” is laced more than anything with a huge sense of pride!

See more of our Dahi Handi photos.

You might also like to read stories on these festivals:

Ganesh festival visarjan day in Mumbai, India

Kite festival Gujarat makar sankranti festival kites India

Monastery festivals of Ladakh and Zanskar

Rural Indian bazzar and cattle fair

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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Comments

13 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Krishna – Janmashtami celebrations in Mumbai

  1. Deepak Khale

    Very interesting post. I could visualize the atmosphere of the Dahi handi celebration. The photos are stunning.

  2. Kit Decker

    Thanks for posting these! I’ve been scrolling through your articles and loving them, there are many things I didn’t know before.

  3. Kim

    Your words are as vibrant and colourful as your pictures. They bring the occasion to life. Thank you. I hope you publish books on your travels soon. Your insight deserves a far larger audience.

  4. Veronique

    Fantastic pictures as usual, plus I’ve learnt new words in Hindi and a new story about Krishna that I ignored until now. You made my day. Thanx

    1. sandeepachetan

      Hey Veronique, that is such a nice feedback to our story! We added some new photos to the story after we published it, hope you like them too! This local flavour of celebrating Janmashtami, is a unique way of celebrating the young mischievous Krishna. You can just feel the energy in the air at these Dahi Handi venues.