Every movie or story that is used in Mumbai as a character or setting, add a Dahi Handi sequence somewhere in between. There are songs that have legendary status in the playlist of many Bollywood enthusiasts.
When I started exploring this part of India, the festivals were in the top of my list. Colourful costumes, over-the-top energy and grand celebrations were the reasons why I was so keen on attending festivals like Gudi Padwa, Jyotiba Yatra and Dahi Handi. Soon I got a chance to see the festival up close. Someone who is very new to Mumbai and doesn’t know the best places to experience these events, Instagram was of a great help and many on the platform helped me connect with right people to go on a photowalk with. I finally found a very nice group of photography enthusiasts who go by the name of Mumbaiography. I connected with them on Facebook as they were having a photowalk and a event for the same was posted on their page.
Dahi Handi translates to pot of yoghurt. It is celebrated on the day of Lord Krishna’s birthday popularly known as Janmashtami. While rest of the country worships Lord Krishna in his child form on the occasion of janamshtami, the people of Mumbai add unique flavour to it and celebrate it by the name of Dahi Handi.
Since Krishna loved everything milk and would often resort to different kind of tricks, Dahi Handi Festival re-enacts these stories by hanging a pot of yoghurt several feet high in the air.
These pots are hung in various parts of Mumbai and the local groups of boys and girls attempt to bring it down by forming human pyramids. The whole activity is conducted with spectacle of crowd cheering for their teams. There is music, dance and lots of buckets of water thrown on the participants in order to stop them from bringing the pot down.
The Dahi Handi of Mumbai is a Cultural Celebration
The photowalk group had asked to assemble at Matunga Central. Since Mumbai is a confusing place and there are multiple places far away from each other but have the same name, I went to another Mataunga station and then had to catch taxi in order to reach my destination. Matunga Central area is famous for multiple Dahi Handi installations and hence it is the best place to click photos of the celebration. After asking around I found the group with their cameras and at a distance I could see a number of colourful stalls and a pot made of mud hanging few feet in the air.
While Matunga Central is a nice place if you want to introduce yourself with the festival, I would advise you to go visit a place that is smaller in number but you can see everything in detail.
However Matunga Central offered a sight of Maharashtrian culture in form of Lavani and other traditional dance and music. Typically Dahi Handi celebrations begin at afternoon and continuou till late in the night. So if you are at Matunga in the afternoon then make sure that you leave by evening and then find a nice spot to click photos in the night. It will also give you a nice break from continuous walking because the hot and humid weather of the city makes it difficult to explore for a longer period of time.
Human pyramids of Dahi Handi Festival
Human pyramids are the most interesting attraction of Dahi Handi Festival. These groups called Govinda Pathaks, and every locality of the city has one team for representation. One of the famous Govinda Pathak of Mumbai is an all girls group who are equally energetic about the entire celebration. The human pyramids go as high as 9 levels where one circle of humans stands above another forming a chain to reach the Handi.
The group spends entire day travelling across Mumbai showcasing their talent and winning some prices in the process. Some of the groups also have a coach who explains everything in advance as per the location and situation.
The group tries and falls multiple Times before finally reaching the top and breaking the pot in process. Falling down from the height often results in injuries but now the organisers have started to add safety measures. In the end it is all about the zeal and energy to be a part of this event that has represented Maharashtrian culture for such a long time.
Other than Matunga Central you can also visit Thane, Kharghar and Worli for some of the best Dahi Handi celebrations. Sangharsh Pratishthan Dahi Handi in Thane is one of the most popular setups. Sankalp Pratishthan Dahi Handi is in Worli and is really famous for photography. Thane also has Sanskriti Yuva Pratishthan and Anand charitable trusts that organize grand Dahi Handi celebration. If you are living somewhere close to Andheri then ISKCON temple Juhu and Ramakrishna Math in Khar will be the perfect place to attend the event.
I will still suggest you to experience the smaller Dahi Handis so that you find more authentic flavour and and extra space to click photos.
My whole experience with Dahi Handi and Mumbaiography photography walk was really cool. I have been waiting to visit another festival in the city maybe someday in future.