Mumbai: Making taller pyramids, conveying social messages, and aiming to succeed in as many marked places characterized the Dahi Handi festival on Thursday. Jai Jawan, which aimed to break its own record of a nine-tier pyramid, had not succeeded by the time of this report after it repeated a nine-tier feat in Thane. Intermittent heavy rains deterred several onlookers from coming to cheer those forming pyramids, but that only added to the thrill and excitement of the Govindas (those forming human pyramids).
Dahi Handi stories from around city
"We managed to create a five-tier pyramid after two unsuccessful attempts," said an elated Shweta Kondvilkar of Vikhroli Kreda Kendra Mahila Govinda Pathak. Though a group of 40 women, most members in Kondvilkar's group are married and had little time to practice. "We practiced for hardly 10 days or so. But we are happy that we could make a five-tier," said Kondvilkar, whose group also takes pride in having the "maan" (respect) of being the first women's group allowed to make a pyramid at the 50-year-old Shree Sai Dutt Mitra Mandal Dahi Handi in Dadar. The mandal was the first to have a Mahila Dahi Handi.
Women's empowerment and security were at the forefront when it came to celebrating Dahi Handi with a social message. Shiv Sagar Govinda Pathak, Malad, dedicated its pyramid to salute the work of the police, women's security, stating that women cannot be hassled in the land of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the state's culture. Its women members dressed in police wardrobes, men dressed as Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and some others sporting Peshwa caps enacted women's safety atop a four-tier pyramid as onlookers cheered.
Large crowds could be seen wherever Dahi Handis were being formed, with people also standing in balconies throwing water on Govindas when the rain stopped. Several people could be heard complaining that umbrellas blocked a clear view of their mobile phone cameras when taking pictures. To ensure that five-year-old Rajvi got a better view of the celebrations, her father Rajesh Chalke carried her on his shoulders.
"They have always heard about it, and I wanted them to see it," said Chalke, who brought his 12-year-old son Vighnesh. Swaraj Parwadi was another youngster brought by his mother, who planned to take her to Thane after visiting Shivaji Park Dahi Handi. Among those who came to enjoy the festive atmosphere was also the Consul General of the US. At Jamboree Maidan, Worli, Mike Hankey, Consul General of the US, came with a number of his members.
"I didn't make it last year, so I wanted to see the festival this time. I loved the performances. It is such an exciting city, and events like these show the energy of the city. I hope to see even the girls make a pyramid too," said Hankey, who could be seen taking pictures and even gave an award to some of the winners who managed to make a seven-tier pyramid.
"We have distributed a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakh until now," said Santosh Pandey, who looked after the festivities at Jamboree Maidan that was organized by the BJP. Although political parties set up their own pandals in political one-upmanship, Govindas, unconcerned and carefree about political divides, enjoyed and made pyramids at all. "We plan to visit at least 10 Pandals and make a successful pyramid in each," said Deepal Gupta of Jolly Govinda Pathak, Jogeshwari.