Janmashtami Festival (aka: Krishna’s 5,243rd birthday)

Well, we’ve already had our first festival — and it was a really fun one. August 25 was the 5,243rd birthday of a very naughty little boy who grew up to be a god. His name is Lord Krishna, and Hindus believe he is the 16th incarnation of Lord Vishnu (and a very powerful incarnation at that). It is believed that he was sent by Vishnu to defend the powerless against corrupt and abusive kings and rulers. (Interestingly, Krishna wasn’t always considered a god, but over the years he has become accepted as one.)

Now, onto the naughty part.

Legend has it that as a child, Krishna loved yogurt (called curd in India). In fact, he loved it SO much that he would go digging into his neighbors’ supply to eat theirs — sometimes breaking their clay pots in the process. FYI: Lord Krishna was also very naughty as an adult, loving women almost as much as dairy. He is rumored to have juggled more than 16,000 girlfriends…Talk about Mischief.  Anyway

August 25th was his birthday, and it is marked by a festival of great partying and a little mischief over…you guessed it…yogurt!  Since Krishna loved curd so much, the people of India have created a fun competition called “Matki.”  This festival serves as a reminder to always keep your inner child alive and joyful. I love the concept of that. And I am absolutely certain that Krishna would have loved it as well.

To begin the competition, small, clay pots of curd are suspended from cranes, strung very high up in tree branches, or even stretched between two windows of a high-rise apartment building. Then, teams of men from all over the world try to create human pyramids so tall that the “Top Man” of the pyramid will be able to break the clay pot filled with yogurt, covering themselves in the process.

The reward for all this effort and mess? Apart from the sheer joy of it, the winning teams split money — sometimes, big money.  All the neighbors in each area gather up a collection. Then, all sorts of teams (some even coming in from other countries) scout the entire city, searching for the many clay pots hanging at different heights throughout Mumbai, deciding which will be their target.

The higher the clay pot is suspended, the bigger the jackpot! There are hundreds of these pots hanging all over Mumbai. The teams can win anywhere from one to two Lakh (around $1,650-$3,300) for pots at a height of 20-25 feet. But, for the highest pots around 40-50 feet in the air, the teams can win up to 25 Lakh (roughly $37,000). To give you an idea of how big a deal that is…India’s average net income is less than $1,400 per year.

For the human pyramids to reach the tallest pots, they must balance 9-10 tiers of people, with each tier standing on the others’ shoulders. Those teams can win up to 25 Lakh, (roughly $37,000). But remember, since they would have to split it amongst the entire team (sometimes as many as 200 people) that translates to roughly $185 per competitor.

As I said, some of these pyramids get up to 9 or 10 tiers high or higher, so this is a fairly dangerous game. And, just to make it more interesting…They turn a firehose on the teams once they get close to their goal (or pour buckets on them from the upper floors, or spray water from an irrigation truck). All of this is designed to make the competitors lose their balance, slip and fall. This only adds to the chaos (and the amusement of all the spectators).

One “not so fun” bit of information: In days past, the “Top Man” was always a boy of around 6-8 years old, used for his light weight, but they kept breaking their arms and legs (and other things) when they fell. So this year, officials put a requirement into place that all competitors had to be 18-years or older. However, I personally watched a five-year-old “Top Man” compete today, so I’m guessing that’s more of a suggestion than a rule.

Back to the fun stuff…If the Top Man breaks the pot with a stick, the team gets covered in the yogurt. Whichever team does this, gets the money and are declared the victors! The entire competition is a day-long affair filled with drums, cheering, chanting…And, of course, car horns. Everywhere, car horns…all the time. Car horns are a very big deal here.

One of the blessings for Janmashtami that I found is something I would love to give to all of you. “May Lord Krishna bless you abundantly, and lead you to a prosperous life, with all of its delights.”

I love watching the pure joy and limitless excitement of this scary, crazy, LOUD celebration. It makes me so look forward to participating all of the festivals that are observed here. What a joyful place. Wishing all of you all of the warm wishes of Krishna Janmashtami 2016, and…

Thank you, God, for the craziness of this amazing city. If Paris is “the City of Light,” Mumbai must be “the City of Energy!”

#FestivalofKrishna #Breakingthepot #Energyofindia

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