Krishna Janmashtami 2020: History and significance of Dahi Handi
Dahi Handi is a major part of the celebration of Janmashtami and on this occasion, a ‘handi’ or earthen pot, filled with ‘dahi’ and ‘makkhan’ is hung at a height. A group of young boys make a huge human pyramid and attempt to break the ‘handi’ to get to the ‘makkhan’ inside.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 13:10 IST
Krishna Janmashtami marks the auspicious day when Lord Krishna, an avatar of the Lord Vishnu, was born to Devaki and Vasudev to rid the people of Mathura from the tyranny of King Kansa. It is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu religion. This year the celebration for Janmashtami is taking place on August 11, followed by the celebration of Dahi Handi on August 12.
The 8th avatar of Lord Vishnu was prophesied to be the one to rid Mathura from evil and cause the downfall of King Kansa. However, once Kind Kansa became aware that the one to cause his defeat would be his own nephew, he vowed to kill all the children born to his sister Devaki. To prevent Lord Krishna’s death, Vasudev took Him to Yashoda and Nanda in Vrindavan.
Lord Krishna was very spirited and naughty as a child. His love for ‘makkhan’ and ‘dahi’ and all other dairy products drove him to steal them from the residents of Vrindavan. His foster mother would have to tie him up in an attempt to stop him from stealing from their neighbours. But the little ‘makkhan chor’ had the power of God on his side.
Desperate for a solution, Vrindavan women started tying their freshly churned butter at heights that Lord Krishna would not be able to reach. However, Lord Krishna was just as creative as he was naughty and He, along with his friends formed a human pyramid to take the liquid treasure that was kept from them.
Dahi Handi is a major part of the celebration that represents the life and deeds of a young Lord Krishna. It is primarily celebrated in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. On this occasion, a ‘handi’ or earthen pot, filled with ‘dahi’ (curd), Makkhan (white butter), etc is hung at a height of 30 ft. A group of young boys back together to make a huge human pyramid in order to get to the ‘handi’.
These groups are called ‘mandals’ and the lowest layer has the most number of people. The boy right on top of the human pyramid is referred to as ‘Govinda’ and once he breaks the handi to reveal all the milk-based delicacies, all the young boys partake in it. Often there is prize money added to the pot as well. The entire ritual serves as an imitation of Lord Krishna’s own actions in the pursuit of ‘makkhan’.
The celebration of Dahi Handi is meant to be a sweet reminder of the endearing deeds of Lord Krishna. Each year, the celebration of Gokulashtami and Dahi Handi warrants large gatherings of people, singing in praise of Lord Krishna, re-enacting his stories and feasting.
In India, participants in the Dahi Handi celebration form a pyramid with up to 9 tiers. They are given three attempts to break the ‘handi’. The winners are awarded with prize money, and as of 2011, prizes range from ₹1 lakh to ₹12 lakh, depending on sponsors and organisers. But due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, there might not be such huge gatherings organised as people are encouraged to celebrate from the safety of their homes.