A year's hiatus due to the outbreak of swine flu last year seems to have added vigour to the dahi handi festival this year. With the stakes getting higher, the levels of pyramids are inching further upwards and the political fanfare is going overboard.
Almost every political party has two-three leaders organising dahi handi competitions, offering generous amounts of prize money to the govindas.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Jitendra Awhad has announced the highest cash prize of Rs 65 lakh.
Awhad's arch-rival, Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik's Sanskruti Yuva Prathishtan will give away Rs 55 lakh, of which Rs 25 lakh will be handed over to govindas forming the 10-tier pyramid.
Congress leader Ravi Phatak's Sankalp Prathishthan has also announced a total cash prize of Rs 25 lakh. NCP leader Devram Bhoir has announced a cash prize worth Rs 10 lakh.
Sena leader Anand Dighe's nearly 80-year-old handi at Tembi Naka has a golden rim worth Rs 3 lakh this year. On the other hand, Awhad's NGO Sangharsh has three gold-plated handis up for grabs.
Politicians have also roped in film stars to add to the glamour quotient. While Awhad has roped in Akshay Kumar, Sarnaik has invited Prachi Desai and Aftab Shivdasani to break the handis.
Organisers will ensure the safety of govindas by keeping ambulances on standby. Shiv
Sena legislator Rajan Vichare will provide free insurance policies to govindas participating in Anand Charitable Trust's celebration. Sarnaik has promised to provide employment opportunities to the govindas.