Human pyramids will not dot Thane’s streets on Gokulashtami (September 5), as the 250-odd mandals in Thane have decided won't participate in contests this year. Mumbai may follow suit.
“The government’s rules stand to spoil the festival, so we have decided not to participate in dahi handis. To preserve the sanctity of the festival, mandals will play individually at the small grounds where they usually practice,” said Sameer Pendhare, secretary of the Dahi handi Samanvay Samiti (DUSS) and head of the Thane mandals. The DUSS’ move comes after the government did not acknowledge its three-day ultimatum to clear the air about rules and regulations.
“Now that mandals in Thane have opted out, there is pressure on Mumbai mandals to follow suit. It’s a difficult decision,” said Geeta Zagade, secretary of DUSS and head of the women govinda teams.
Dahi handis are mega affairs across Mumbai and Thane, with events offering prize money of up to Rs1 crore. NCP MLA from Mumbra-Kalwa, Jitendra Awhad, who organises one of the city’s costliest dahi handis, has already pulled out.
“There is no excitement this year, as organisers have to follow the rules for dahi handi as an adventure sport. The festival will be dull if we follow the 20-feet cap on pyramid height (up to five tiers) and the restriction on age of children participating (there is no clarity if minimum age is 12 years or 18),” said member of a well-known mandal in Thane.
Pendhare also claimed “discrimination” against mandals in Thane, compared to those in Mumbai. “In Thane, most mandals haven’t got permissions, with the restriction of 25% road space. But the administration is granting permissions in Mumbai.”
Zagade agreed the civic body was lenient with permissions in Mumbai. “Govindas have been practicing for months, and the decision will affect thousands of people,” she said.