Hundreds of govinda groups will be vying for the big prize money on offer at various dahi handis across the city on the occasion of Janmashtami today. While many claim the festival is not about competition, but about celebrating culture, the number of high-profile handis — most organised by politicians — that have come up in recent times show otherwise.
In Thane, after late Shiv Sena leader Anand Dighe’s dahi handi at Tembhi Naka, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Jitendra Awhad’s Sangharsh handi has become a name to reckon with.
The uniqueness of Awhad’s handi, which has a prize money of up to Rs1 crore, is the performance by a team of Spanish Castellers. “Mera Govinda hi mera Amitabh hai (My govinda is my Amitabh),” said Awhad, attributing the success of his handi to the television coverage he received in 2002, when the huge crowds were compared to those in Dwarka.
Awhad’s political rival Shiv Sena’s Pratap Sarnaik, who has been organising his Sanskruti Yuva Pratishthan handi in Thane for the last 14 years, has got Bollywood art director Nitin Desai to build a special stage for the festivities this year.
“Any women’s govinda group that reaches up to seven tiers will get a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh,” said Sarnaik, who has deployed around 250 private security guards, three ambulances at the venue of his handi.
At Worli, NCP legislator Sachin Ahir’s Sankalp Pratisthan handi is a glitz affair with film stars, singers and live performers entertaining the crowds. Ahir said, “It is about the celebration and not competition.”
One of the more recent big handis is that of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Ram Kadam at LBS Marg in Ghatkopar the prize money for which has now gone up to Rs1 crore.