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No Human Pyramids during Janmashtami This Time, Maharashtra Dahi-handi Groups Decide

File photo: Devotees form a human pyramid to break a clay pot containing curd during the Hindu festival of Janmashtami, marking the birth anniversary of Hindu Lord Krishna, in Mumbai. (Reuters)

File photo: Devotees form a human pyramid to break a clay pot containing curd during the Hindu festival of Janmashtami, marking the birth anniversary of Hindu Lord Krishna, in Mumbai. (Reuters)

Dahi-handi -- earthen pitchers of curd or buttermilk-- will be broken only symbolically, said Bala Padalkar, chief of the Dahi-handi Utsav Samnavay Samiti, an umbrella body of over 950 'mandals' (groups) in the state.

With coronavirus casting its grim shadow, several 'Dahi-handi' groups in Maharashtra have decided to celebrate the Janmashtami festival on Wednesday ina low-key manner and without human pyramids.

Dahi-handi — earthen pitchers of curd or buttermilk– will be broken only symbolically, said Bala Padalkar, chief of the Dahi-handi Utsav Samnavay Samiti, an umbrella body of over 950 'mandals' (groups) in the state.

In normal times, the highlight of the festival ismulti-level human pyramids of 'Govindas' reaching for the Dahi handi, strung high up on a rope. Padalkar said that members of the Samiti decided that no human pyramids will be formed this year, in keepingwith the social distancing norms.

The handi will be broken in a symbolic manner, takingall precautions with participants wearing face masks, he said.

"The enthusiasm won't be the same this year," he told PTI.

"But all of us have agreed not to celebrate the festival in the usual manner. Considering the brave fight the Covid-19 warriors are putting up, we will be helping them in every way possible. We will avoid big gatherings," he said.

Troupes of Govindas will not move from one spot to another to build pyramids, but will perform puja in their own areas, he said. As few people as possible will take part in the celebrations, he added. Mandals will also organise blood donation camps and other activities considering the health crisis, Padalkar said.

Sandeep Dhawale, coach of the city-based Jai Jawan Govinda Pathak (troupe), echoed him. "Youngsters are disappointed. But it is in the interest of our collective health to observe social distancing," Dhawale said.

His mandal will organise a plastic waste collection drive on Wednesday, he said.

"We will collect plastic and recycle it. The fund raised through it will be used for the education of the needy. We will follow the government's norms," Dhawale added.

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