With barely 24 hours to go before the much-awaited dahi handi festival dawns, preparations are on to cover last minute details before the Govindas can reach for the sky.
This year however, dahi handi mandals across the city have vowed not to allow their Govindas to risk their lives and will only attempt forming pyramids that they have practiced for, regardless of the alluringly high stakes.
With prize money of Rs 25 lakh being offered by political honchos for a 10-tiered pyramid and the competition promising to be nail-bitingly tense, the mandals have a daunting task at hand.
The decision comes on the back of reduced practice time this year, in some cases merely a few hours each day for 15 days, and the Govinda pathaks would be under much pressure to try for the top prize.
Prashant Surve, a member of one of the city’s oldest mandals, Mazgaon Tadwadi Ganeshotsav, said, “Along with encouraging the festival, we should not forget the human lives at stake.
The persons on top of the pyramids are most at risk and hence, we want to see fewer participants getting injured. This year we are vouching for a safer handi festival.”
He added that participants should understand that without enough practice, there is no point in thinking of forming a nine-tier pyramid.
“Rather than falling down and getting injured, it is better not to even try. This year, we would not try to go beyond our reach and will settle at eight if we are not confident of nine on D-Day,” Surve said.
Dinesh Parab, secretary of Currey Road Chhatrapati Shivaji Vyayam Mandal said that sensible decisions have been taken to ensure a safe dahi handi festival this year.
“We are practicing hard, but the well-being of our mandal’s people is our main concern. We cannot afford to lose any of our Govindas and hence, we will only be forming those many layers as we have practiced for. Till now, we have been practicing a seven-tiered pyramid at our ground,” Parab said.
Bala Paldekar of Tadwadi Datta Krida Mandal, said, “I have requested all mandals in our area and Byculla to have a safe handi this year. To do that, we need to first think about not risking the lives of our Govindas, and think later about being the number one or number two Govinda troupe.”
Purvesh Sarnaik, secretary of Yuva Pratishthan, said, “Safety is most important and we don’t mind if there are eight or nine tiers this year as long as it is safe.
This is a festival and not some competition we are engaging in. We have invited around 14 mandals, which would be forming eight-layered pyramids this year. Invitations were sent only after viewing their practice sessions.”
Jitendra Avhad, president of Sangharsh, which hosts a famous handi in Thane, said, “Whatever the mandals decide would be the rule of the day. Even for us their safety is important and less number of trials means less injuries.”
Cash prizes at handis this year
>> Rs 25 lakh for 10 layers
>> Rs11 lakh for nine layers
>> Rs 1.5 lakh for eight layers
>> Rs 5 lakh for women Govindas forming seven layers