For Arun Patil, 43, and 200 other boys from one of the city’s oldest govinda groups, the chawl playground in Mazgaon’s Tadwadi area has become hallowed. With a four-hour rigorous practice session every day during the week and multiple sessions on Sundays, govindas from the Mazgaon Dakshin Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal are spending most of their free time at the ground, practicing for the Janmashtami festivities.
Most govinda groups start their practice sessions at least a couple of weeks before the dahi handi day to fine-tune their coordination. “Majority of us are working professionals, but despite strenuous days at work, we all assemble on the ground at 8.30pm daily,” said Patil, who works for the Mumbai Port Trust.
Govindas from the group unanimously acknowledge that the practice sessions helped them create the world record of forming a nine-tier pyramid in Thane in 2008. “Such a high pyramid can be formed only after lots of group practice,” said Sandip Bhoir, 28, who has been with the group for the last 12 years. “On the festival day, we break at least 15 dahi handis across the city. To form a pyramid smoothly, we need lots of practice,” he said.
However, while most govinda groups are pushing themselves to the limit, Daya Pawar, president of Worli’s Bharat Mandal govinda group is dejected. A fortnight before the festival, Pawar had to be hospitalised after falling sick due to due top exertion. “For the first time in many years, Pawar will not be part in the festivities,” said a relative.
Govindas also undergo fitness sessions, comprising warm-up exercises and motivational talks. “Apart from strengthening our limbs, it is also important to toughen the mind. We are not just risking our lives but also the lives of people who climb on top,” said Sandeep Mhatre, 27, from the Bal Mitra Mandal govinda group of Sewri.