The Bombay high court banning govindas under 18 from being part of the human pyramids, a quintessential tradition of Dahi Handi celebrations, has put up a question mark of how the festival will be celebrated from August 18.
The festival is celebrated to commemorate the mischievous acts of a young Lord Krishna. According to legend, he and his friends would form human pyramids to steal butter from pots. However, it is also known for the way politicians splurge on the celebrations, making it a grand affair attracting large crowds.
The height limit of 20 feet set on the pyramids has also put a question mark on the lavish prize money offered to the tallest one, a trend popular among politicians across party lines. Prize money at times doubles when the tiers go up from eight to nine. Jitendra Awhad's organisation had offered Rs 25 lakh to a 10-tier pyramid. Prominent organisers offer more than Rs 1 crore as prize money.
"We have always been taking adequate precaution. Now we will have to look at the rules and regulations and then decide whether to do it or not," said Sachin Ahir, a minister whose organisation holds the city's biggest and popular Dahi Handi at Jambori Maidan, Worli. His NCP colleague and minister Jitendra Awhad allegedly told media persons that he was considering approaching the Supreme Court.
Already unwilling to bow to the recent order of the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights of banning children under 12 years, most mandals said that they while "respected" the order, they "do not agree with it". "They should not have restricted the height. If we are playing in a maidan, I do not understand why there is any need for cushioning," said Bala Padelkar, president of the Dahikala Samanvaya Samiti (DUSS), an umbrella organisation of city mandals/pataks across the city.
"We have doctors and ambulances are not needed all the time. Why should we have them all the time. There are mats on which we practice," he added.
"If they came and saw how we practice, they would understand. We do not even allow kids to participate unless we see they are good enough," said Swapnil Sheramkar, secretary of the Tadwadi Sridutta Krida Mandal and Tadwadi Ashtavinayak Govinda Patak.