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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Swine flu fails to deter Janmashtami celebrations

IANS  Mumbai, August 14, 2009
First Published: 13:19 IST(14/8/2009) | Last Updated: 20:59 IST(14/8/2009)

Thumbing their noses at the H1N1 scare gripping the city, several groups in Mumbai celebrated Janmashtami the traditional, boisterous way with huge crowds gathering for the 'dahi-handi' ritual though major organisations, backed by political parties, kept a low profile.

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In Dadar, hundreds lined the streets and crowds jostled to catch a glimpse of the 'dahi handi' -- where human pyramids are formed to get to the earthen pot of curd and butter strung up high in a replay of the young Lord Krishna's efforts to get to his favourite food.

The day at Dadar had begun with youths singing and dancing to the tune of the popular "Govina aala re..." at the Om Sai Mandal event. Just below the 'dahi-handi' hung at a height of nearly 25 feet (three floors) between two buildings, a human pyramid formed in a few seconds and a young female 'Govinda', Aarti Sawant, was hoisted to break the pot... before they all came tumbling down.

With victorious shouts of "Jai Govinda, Jai Gopala", the 'Govindas' clad in bright yellow t-shirts and black shorts then sang and danced their way to the next 'dahi-handi'.

But the swine flu fear, which had shut all schools, colleges and multiplexes in the city, was apparent.

Many of the onlookers were seen sporting facemasks as a precaution and the organisers had arranged for an ambulance to follow the crowd of 'Govindas' out on their 'dahi-handi' quests.

By noon, reports of similar 'dahi-handi' celebrations, though low profile, were received from suburbs like Matunga, Girgaum, Lalbaug, Vile Parle and Ghatkopar.

As a precautionary measure, organisers kept volunteers at the entrance of the celebration venues to keep out people suffering from flu-related symptoms.

Specially appealing to people not to bring children to the venues, the mandals kept medical teams and ambulances at all venues.

While local organisations celebrated the day with gusto, the bigger groups who have mega budgets stayed away.

The state's main opposition party Shiv Sena, for instance, had announced that it would celebrate Janmashtami but minus the 'dahi-handi' ritual.

Party executive president Uddhav Thackeray, who had met Mayor Shubha Raul, had appealed to all people to only have the puja.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had issued a similar appeal and also asked celebrities, especially television and film stars, to stay away from the events.

Mumbai's 'dahi-handi' celebrations are massive crowd-pullers, with money and some fame too for the victorious 'Govinda' who breaks the earthen pot.

The festival usually has various sideshows, cultural events, and even fashion parades and talent contests, all attracting huge sponsorships, but all these are missing this year.

Maharashtra has been the worst hit by H1N1 with 16 of the 24 deaths reported in the country from the state -- of these, Pune counts for 15, Mumbai two and Nashik one.

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