Dahi Handi, also known as ‘Gopal kala’ is the popular ceremony celebrated on the second day during Krishna Janmashtami. The name Gopal Kala comes from a dish made of yoghurt, pounded rice and jaggery, which is offered to Krishna on the day. Dahi Handi is mostly celebrated in Northern Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. But now Dahi Handi has become a major ceremony in all most all states in India. Janmashtami is also referred to as Dahi Handi in Mumbai and Pune. Dahi Handi is actually one of the rituals for which individuals especially the youngsters look forward to the festival of Janmashtami. It is said to be a perfect blend of spirituality and sports and is observed by the Hindus with great zeal and enthusiasms.
In Hindi ‘Dahi’ means curd and ‘Handi’ means pot. The tem Dahi Handi means a clay pot filled with curd or buttermilk has to be broken during the ceremony as a part of ritual. The pot may also be filled with milk, butter, butter milk, fruit juices or some other sweet recipes. The pot is positioned at a convenient height usually of more than 20 feet prior to the event.
After suspending the pot on the height a group of young boys forms a human pyramid by climbing on each other. The topmost person on the human pyramid tries to reach the pot and break it by hitting with a blunt object. The blunt object is mostly a coconut as it preferred being a symbol of purity and divine terms in Hindu religion. Onlookers throw colored water on the human pyramid in order to resist them from reaching the pot. As the pot breaks its content spills over the entire group which symbolizes their victory through unity. The group which breaks the Dahi Handi is declared as winner. In some regions Dahi Handi is moved with ropes tied to the pot. Two persons move the ropes to lift the pot up and then again maker it down. They keep doing it until the person breaks the pot or is tired. Several handis are set up at various parts of the city.
A group of youngsters called ‘govindas’ travel around in trucks and tries to break as many handis as possible during the day. Many such groups compete with each other as handis dole out hefty awards. In recent time, this age old ritual has gained a political flavor. Now a day the political parties and the rich community groups are offering heavy amount counting in lakhs as prizes to the groups that win the Dahi Handi competition.