Saturday, September 4, 2010


I can only say with maybe 80% confidence that I correctly spelled the name of the latest Indian festival. But I can say with 100% confidence that it was awesome.

It definitely seems to be festival season, and it doesn't seem to show any signs of stopping. There's another one next Thursday in which giant statues of the Lord Ganesha are going to be delivered to every society. More on that when I get to it.

Anyways, Janmastami comes to me only a week and two days after the last highly enjoyable festival, Rakshabandhan. Janmastami celebrates the birthday of Lord Krishna, who is a very important God in Hindu culture. I believe that the story goes that Krishna was born in jail, where his maternal uncle was keeping his mother captive. At the moment of his birth, midnight, his father rescued him and put him into a foster home for safe-keeping. I'm pretty sure the entirety of the story is much more exciting than that, but my brother is asleep right now so I have nothing but Wikipedia to explain it to me.

So the way that they celebrate Krishna's birthday is by smashing pots. What they do exactly is tie a string between two buildings, which is easy on the narrow streets where most societies are located. Then they dangle a pot from the middle of the string. It can be any amount of height off the ground. In my society they were about two stories off the ground. Then people build human pyramids from the ground to try getting someone high enough at the top so that they can smash the pot.

Mostly trained pot-smashing squads do this. At about noon on Thursday the main one in our society was smashed by a team that was traveling around in a truck. All of the team members look hugely happy at all times during this ceremony, dancing and clapping, with thunderous drums accompanying their every action. I saw two pot smashes - one in my society and another one that Pratik and I spotted while we were on the way to his friends house.

In big cities, Mumbai especially, they dangle pots from ridiculous heights, at least 8 or 9 stories. Only the best pot-smashing squads get to attempt to scale these heights. I saw some teams on TV attempting to climb and break some of the pots, and it was just ridiculously high. The situation was ludicrously precarious. I saw one team fall when they were probably five stories off the ground, and the results were cataclysmic. Gigantic crowds come out to watch these events, and the dozens of men kind of basically fell into the crowd. Apparently no one was killed, which is good news that I kind of have difficulty believing. There was one team that traveled all the way from Spain to participate. Also they pay the equivalent of about $200,000 to the squads that successfully break the pots.

So I went to watch 3 Idiots at Pratik's friend's house and we got back at about 9 o clock to discover that there were three new pots strung in the houses right next to mine. I was informed that at midnight, the exact birth time of Lord Krishna, all of the neighborhood kids would get together and smash the pots themselves. At 11:55 the drums, right outside my house, announced the beginning of the event. They were deafeningly loud. Akshay and I went outside and all of the neighborhood boys started to have a psycho, drum-accompanied dance party. I had not met most of these folks yet, and I still don't know most of them by name, but they were extremely welcoming and they seemed plenty excited to have a foreigner in attendance. It was a hugely festive occasion. I was not allowed to be involved in the pyramid by my family for safety-related reasons (disappointing but understandable) but I was still very much a part of the party.

It was very very fun.

1 comment:

  1. yes! I was hoping you'd post again soon! Your life sounds like a hilarious party over there and something that should be made into a movie. OR a comic book. I love it:)