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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Janmashtami 2018: The significance and history behind dahi handi

One form of celebrating Krishna’s birth is the deity’s birth is dahi handi which is mostly celebrated in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

more-lifestyle Updated: Sep 02, 2018 09:09 IST
Kabir Bhandari
Kabir Bhandari
Hindustan Times, Delhi
A dahi handi celebration at Navi Mumbai.
A dahi handi celebration at Navi Mumbai. (HT File)
         

One of the most important festivals for Hindus, Janmashtami marks the birth of Lord Krishna. He is said to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who was born to Devaki and Vasudeva to rid the people of Mathura from the wrath of King Kansa, who was Devaki’s brother Later on, he also played a significant role in helping the Pandavas winning the battle of Kurukshetra.

One form of celebrating the deity’s birth is dahi handi which is mostly celebrated in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Boys get together to form human pyramids to break an earthen pot which is fixed at a height of about 30 ft from the ground.

A child dressed as Lord Krishna as part of the festivities.
A child dressed as Lord Krishna as part of the festivities. ( HT File )

The history of dahi handi

The eighth child of Devaki and Vasudev, Lord Krishna had been prophesied to cause the downfall of Kansa and had to be protected against his evil uncle. He was thus taken to Yashoda and Nanda in Vrindavan for his safety.

At Vrindavan, Krishna was a very naughty child, and he loved having makhan (white butter), curds and milk. Many times, he would steal butter from people’s homes, and his foster mother would have to tie him up on various occasions to stop him from doing so. Due to these habits, he came to be known as ‘Maakhan Chor’.

Vrindavan’s women also started tying their freshly-churned butter at a greater height so that Krishna would not be able to reach the pot. However, Krishna and his friends would form human pyramids and be able to take the butter which was hidden from them.

The dahi handi ritual is an imitation of Lord Krishna’s actions. The boy who is at the top of the pyramid is referred to as Govinda and the groups are handis or mandals.

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