Janmashtami 2020: The grim shadow of COVID-19 was visible on Dahi Handi festivities in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Wednesday as organisers opted for low-key celebrations unlike past years.
Adhering to the social distancing guidelines, Dahi Handi mandals or groups did not form human pyramids this year to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. Instead, they carried out health and social welfare drives, like blood donation camps and removal of plastic.
In previous years, Dahi Handi used to be celebrated with great fervour in parts of Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, where religious institutions, political leaders and Govinda mandals, comprising youngsters dressed in colourful attire and took part in the festivities.
Organisers of Dahi Handi earlier announced huge cash rewards to groups, which succeeded in making the multi-tier human pyramids and breaking the Dahi Handis or earthen pitchers containing curd or buttermilk. This year, Dahi Handis were broken in a symbolic manner with those involved maintaining social distance and wearing masks.
Janmashtami 2020 image: Dahi Handi celebrations cancelled in Mumbai. Small shopkeepers suffer losses
Ram Kadam, BJP MLA from Ghatkopar said, in normal times, his mandal's Dahi Handi celebration saw five to six lakh footfalls. "Ours was the biggest Dahi Handi celebration in India. But this year, we celebrated in a very simple manner, observing social distance amid the COVID-19 crisis. No human pyramid was formed. A child climbed atop a table and broke Dahi Handi just as a ritual," the BJP leader said, adding that, "this year, we gave a message of boycotting Chinese products and working towards an aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) India."
Bala Padalkar, chief of Dahi Handi Utsav Samanvay Samiti, an umbrella body of over 950 groups in the state, told news agency PTI that the enthusiasm was not the same this year and members of various mandals agreed not to travel in the city to break Dahi Handis. Instead, they performed puja in their own areas without forming human pyramids, he said.
Sandeep Dhawale, coach of the city-based Jai Jawan Govinda Pathak (squad), known for forming high human pyramids, said maintaining social distance was the need of the hour and celebrating the festival in a simple way was in the interest of everyone's health. His mandal has undertaken plastic-free and clean Mumbai drive, to mark the festival, while following the social distancing rules. We are collecting plastic and recycling it. The fund raised through the activity will be used for the education of the needy, Mr Dhawale said.