The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena defied the Supreme Court on Thursday, building a 40-ft high pyramid - twice the limit set by the court - and allowing minors to participate.
The violations come despite the top court setting a maximum height of 20 feet -- about the height of a two-storey building -- for the human pyramids formed during Janmashtami celebrations and restricted minors from participating.
In Maharashtra – where thousands of people participate in the tradition to reach and smash a pot of curd hung on a rope as high as 40-50 feet - the order was met with resistance.
“If I need to break the law to safeguard Maharashtrian festivals, I am ready to do so. The restriction on tiers is not a law but an order of the court. We have asked govindas to make as many tiers as they want,” said Avinash Jadhav, MNS Thane city chief.
The MNS also announced a cash prize of Rs11 lakh for anyone who made nine or more tiers.
The MNS’ celebrations in west Thane saw seven tiers and a minor climbing the highest one. Another celebration by the MNS in the area saw six tiers.
Party leaders said MNS chief Raj Thackeray has asked people to enjoy the festival in a “traditional way”. “If there is a contempt of court order, it is for the police to take action. We are only celebrating our festival,” party legislator Nitin Sardesai told reporters.
The festival is politically significant as major parties use the festivities to organise campaigns and reach out to the youth.
The Jaijawan mandal participating at an event in Thane made nine tiers. “We did not violate any court orders. The handi was broken by making six tiers under 20 feet. The nine tiers we made were part of adventure sports, and has no relation to dahi handi or the court order,” said a Jaijawan member.
This isn’t the first time a major festival has become the site of a battle between local sentiment and the judiciary.
Earlier this year, the top court banned the popular bull-taming sport, Jallikattu, in Tamil Nadu, triggering a fierce backlash in the southern state. Local residents and political leaders said the court had ignored religious sensitivities while upholding the concerns of animal-rights activists.