Mumbai: With just a day left for the highly awaited festival of Janmashtmi, Maharashtrians can sense a palpable excitement in the air as Govindas above the age 12 can now participate in the popular Dahi Handi contest.
According to an earlier Bombay High Court order, children below the age of 18 were barred from participating in the popular but dangerous contest of Dahi Handi, where people have been severely injured after falling from the human pyramid.
Keeping in mind the recent accidents during the Dahi Handi festival, the Bombay HC has banned the Dahi Handi festivals from being held at concrete roads and also necessitated the placing of cushion or mattresses to minimise the injuries.
Also, the maximum height at which the handis can be strung has been reduced to 20 feet.
The significant ruling by the Bombay HC came after the death of a 14-year old boy, who fell from the fifth tier of a human pyramid, hit headlines, raising safety concerns for the youngsters taking part in “Dahi Handi” festival.
However, the Supreme Court last week kept on hold the Bombay HC order, restoring the minimum age of Govindas' to 12.
The SC however warned the organisations to keep in place all the safety measures as recommended by Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, to minimise injuries.
SC's order that came just days ahead of the Krishna Janmashtmi festival that falls on August 18 this year, might have come as a breather for the Govindas' groups, which were disappointed by Bombay HC 's order.
Dahikala Utsav Samanvaya Samiti (DUSS), an umbrella body of Govinda groups had called the Bombay High Court's order banning participation of those below 18 years of age as "unjust", and warned that it would approach the Supreme Court and continue the "age-old tradition" regardless of the directive. "We have been playing this sport from ages and it is unjust on the part of the High Court to disallow children from participating. We will continue our tradition no matter what," Bala Padelkar, president of Dahikala Utsav Samanvaya Samiti (DUSS), had told reporters.
In Dahi Handi competition, participants - that include boys as young as 10 year old – form a human pyramid and try to break the pitcher carrying buttermilk. The festival is quiet popular due to lucrative prize money running into crores.