Eight-tier pyramids, professional trainers and insurance cover for accidents have become commonplace for govindas. But, with less than a week left before the govindas climb record-breaking heights to reach dahi handis, there are a handful of mandals and organisers who feel there is a need to regulate height of handis across Mumbai.
Over the past couple of years, certain big dahi handis from the city have been tied at levels that force govinda groups to form eight to nine tier pyramids.
“Putting lives at risk just for the sake of competition is not worth it,” said Shashikala Kamle, president of Worli’s Shri Sankalp Pratishthan women’s govinda group. She firmly believes that the height of pyramids needs to be capped at seven tiers.
Every year, several govindas have to be admitted to hospitals with injuries they suffer during the festivities. “We get many cases of broken spines, crush injuries and even paralysis,” said Dr AK Gvalani, head of KEM’s surgery department. He added that making tall pyramids is dangerous not only for those falling from a height, but also for those carrying the weight at the bottom of a pyramid.
Dahi handi organisers, however, believe that govindas are aware of their capacities and must not be restrained by regulating pyramid heights. “Nobody believed nine tier pyramids were possible till two groups achieved it in 2008,” said Jitendra Ahwad, organiser of Thane’s Sangharsh dahi handi. “Why should govindas be prevented from aiming higher in a competition?”
In the last 26 years, since he began organising the competition, Ahwad claims only a handful of serious accidents, and no deaths, have occurred at his handi. But thousands of govindas have been seeking insurance cover from Oriental Insurance Company Limited for the past eight years. Last year for instance, more than 10,000 govindas from 400 govinda groups signed up for a special insurance scheme, which covered medical expenses in case any accidents during the festival. Most govinda group coaches feel that injuries and accidents can be avoided with lots of practice. “Only one of our govindas has suffered a serious injury in the past 8 years,” said Arun Patil, coach of the Mazgaon Tadwadi govinda group, one of two mandals that has successfully formed a record nine-tier pyramid in 2008.
Tourism minister Chhagan Bhujbal said the state has not yet considered regulating the height of dahi handis.