Dahi Handi, a festival synonymous with Mumbai – the people, high-voltage energy and Bollywood – is not being celebrated this year. The need to maintain safety amid the coronavirus pandemic means that not only will the mood in the Maharashtra capital remain somber for one of its biggest festivals, a range of small businesses that depend on revelry for a chunk of their profit will also be hit hard.
Every year, until this year, young men and women across age groups have formed human pyramids to break earthen pots for a chance to win fat cash prizes on Dahi Handi after Janamashtami. The spectacle draws thousands, including film stars, out of their homes.
Today, however, approximately 1,200 Dahi Handi organisers across Mumbai have decided to not celebrate the festival. The government has also appealed to people to avoid any activity that may result in crowding.
“Due to coronavirus, this is the first time that there is a restriction on Dahi Handi. So, a month back, our coach decided to not celebrate the festival because of social distancing,” Akash Kasrekar of the Jai Jawan Govinda Pathak – the group which won the won the Dahi Handi competition last year, told NDTV.
No celebration also means no shopping, and this has hit businesses hard.
In Dharavi’s Kumbharwada, a settlement of potters, the main business of nearly 550 families is making and selling earthen pots. For them, Dahi Handi is usually the best time of the year for business, but this year they are suffering heavy losses.
Most families have suffered losses upwards of Rs 30,000. They say business from other avenues is also slim.
The families here are now pinning their hopes on Diwali, hoping the festival of lights would bring them some cheer.
Besides potters, other even smaller businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the safety measures taken to contain it.
With none other than essential service providers allowed to travel in the local trains, the crowd of shoppers at the Dadar market is gone. Cancellation of festivities also kept people away, leaving the small shopkeepers with no business, and money.
They said that their business has gone down by at least 80% this year.