Janmashtami is one of the most vibrant and spectacular festivals in India. The occasion is celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. There is exuberance, festive and jubilant energy which truly makes the festival worth witnessing.
At the midnight of Janmashtami, one can see the excited devotes bee-lining into temples chanting ‘Jai Shree Krishna’. Apart from devotees chanting mantras, songs and bhajans, several kinds of ritualistic worship for the lord goes on throughout the day. The nerve centre of the festival is the dahi handi celebrations.
Teams of ‘govindas’ compete against each other by making multi-tier human pyramids, trying to break the sky high earthen pot filled with curd, buttermilk, sugar and other delicacies. This act is particularly symbolic of the childhood story of lord Krishna who used to steal butter in a similar fashion.
The govindas forming a human pyramid is indeed a sight to behold. However, it is equally dangerous. The vibrancy of this festival is often accompanied by the risks of going overboard with the celebration. In the course of light-hearted merrymaking and festivity, over the years numerous govindas have been injured and multitudes of them have succumbed to the injuries.
This celebration is risky by its inherent nature. It is primarily a game of balance. The participants use no safety gears or harnesses as they casually climb heights up to 50 ft. or more. Moreover, once the handi is broken and they are drenched in curd, butter, milk and other sticky contents, there is high chance of slipping. This activity is generally done on concrete streets which increase the intensity of injury in case of a fall because of lack of cushion on the lower level.
It is a common trend that the youngest child is made to climb up to the top tier of the pyramid and play the role of Krishna. Often, they are of ages 7-12. This being a titular role is quite accredited. Parents often force their little ones to participate, with the intention of gaining recognition. Children in their innocence, give in without considering the risks.
All festivals and sports have a certain level of risks involved. However, the rules can help bind the loose ends and prevent the happy atmosphere from turning into a gloomy one. Keeping the perils and prospective danger in mind, several attempts have been made to set rules and regulations.
This year in Mumbai itself, 149 people were injured. The scores also include a 9 year boy with a bleeding forehead, despite HC regulations banning participation of minors in the said festivities.
Major mishaps take place because of the blatant violations of the rules prescribed. The government had specifically prescribed for a maximum cap limit on height of handi’s as 20 feet, debarred children below the age of 14 from participating and made the use of safety gears and equipment compulsory. The realities regarding rule implementation this year too painted a different picture. A widespread violation by both the organizers and participants was seen at all fronts.
If we look from the wider perspective, all over the world there are various dangerous festivals locals engage in. During the infamous running of the bulls, in Spain, we have seen people running a tryst against their lives. There have been similar debates regarding this festival too, but what makes this festival legal is that rules are properly followed. We too must follow suit.
Numerous petitions have been filed in the court, demanding the festive celebration to be completely banned. In reality, this is clearly not possible. It is the culture and traditions by which we live and it is our duty to pass on these treasures to the coming generation. However as wise citizens, making minor modifications to make it safer will do no harm.
Absolute freedom or extreme of anything is dangerous. Rules should be considered as a safety measure and not restriction. The old sayings strongly support the importance of rules:
Prevention is Better than Cure.
Better be Safe than Sorry.
It is for the people to realize that a prize earned at the price of someone’s life is not worth it. There is an urgent need for development of scientific thinking amongst the citizens. Rules are anyways just a piece of paper; it is the implementation and acceptance that is of fundamental importance. For any organic change to happen, social change is a necessity. It is our duty to work towards and be the torch-bearers of change.
Picture Credits: gettyimages