Dahi handi in Mumbai: Fall in prize money leaves govindas directionless

Like the Maharashtra govt, organisers give festival an adventure sport status and do away with competition; several cancel the celebration or turn it into low-key events

mumbai Updated: Aug 15, 2017 08:55 IST
Yesha Kotak
Yesha Kotak
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Dahi Handi,Bombay high court
A kid gets a taste of the festival at Kopar Khairane on Monday. (Bachchan Kumar)

While Govinda pathaks (groups) were happy after the Bombay high court refused to curb dahi handi revelry, till Monday night most of them didn’t have a clue about places they will visit as organisers had not declared the prize money.

On August 7, the HC had refused to issue directions regulating the age of participants and the height limit for the human pyramids formed during dahi handi celebrations.Children below 14 won’t be allowed to participate.

“Our preparations are on, but we do not know where we will be heading tomorrow because most of the organisers haven’t declared the prize money. Also amidst all the chaos, we haven’t been able to prepare well and will just do a seven-tier human pyramid,” said Sandeep Mhatre, head of Sai Chaya Govinda Pathak.

However, Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti, the umbrella body of mandals, believes that demonetisation and implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST) has dampened the spirit of the festival as the organisers are worried that the Income Tax department is keeping a tab on them. “The organisers are not willing to take the risk to declare big prize money and the groups couldn’t approach corporate companies for sponsorship at the last moment, as a result of which most of them are making all the expenses from their pocket,” said Kamlesh Bhoir, secretary.

Read: Krishna janmashtami, dahi handi celebrations: From govindas to temples in Mumbai, 10 things you must know

Except Ram Kadam, BJP MLA from Ghatkopar (West), famous for his grand celebrations, who will be hosting a celebration worth Rs25 lakh, other big revelries have either been cancelled or converted into alternate low key plans.

Jitendra Awhad, NCP MLA from Kalwa-Mumbra constituency, who has invited foreigners to participate in the festivity, will not host any celebration. On the other hand, Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik has decided to do away with the competition and celebrate the festival as a sport, in line with the state government’s assertion of classifying the festival asan adventure sport.

“This year we will host pro-Govinda, wherein there will be no competition between the groups on the basis of height, they will be judged on their timings. The first prize winner will receive Rs1 lakh, and the height will vary depending on the capacity of the mandals,” said Puvesh Sarnaik, secretary, Sanskruti Yuva Pratishthan.

Sankalp Pratishthan from Thane plans to go the cultural way. They will organise a pandal but will refrain from keeping prize money and will be felicitating every participant. The organisers believe that they didn’t have enough time after the HC order to put up a grand show.

Some of the participating mandals think that a lot of organisers had reduced the grandeur of the festivities owing to restrictions on height and age put in place two years ago, as a result of which most of them didn’t expect that they would get a levy this year.

“Most of the govindas were quite disheartened when the case was dragged to Supreme Court. Nevertheless, we have been practising for the last two months, so the HC order came as a breather for us. But, we need a platform to perform and keep our culture alive for which organisers should host the festival,” said Akash Kasare, spokesperson, Jai Jawan Govinda Pathak.

Read: You won’t suffer a noisy dahi handi in Mumbai, as speakers will fall silent

First Published: Aug 15, 2017 08:53 IST