JOHANESBURG, September 7 2004
Hindus in South Africa celebrated the Janmashtami festival with great
enthusiasm, with young men forming human pyramids to break clay pots
suspended in the air in a bid to recreate the pranks of lord Krishna.
The festival, which marks the birthday of Krishna, saw temples all
over the country launching celebrations from Sunday so that devotees
who fail to get time off on the festival day, on Tuesday, could participate.
At the Rameshwar Mandir at Lenasia, the huge Indian township south
of here, hundreds of mainly Gujarati devotees turned up to share in
the fun as two groups of young people competed to be the first to reach
a clay pot filled with buttermilk suspended six metres above ground.
Excited members of the Lenasia Yuvak Mandal and the Johannesburg Yuvak
Mandal undertook a short march on Sunday while chanting prayers before
beginning the 'matki phor' (breaking the clay pot) competition at the
The objective was to see which group could build the fastest human
pyramid to reach the clay pot and smash it so that the buttermilk it
contained would spill over them.
According to Hindu lore, Krishna was fond of buttermilk, and as a child
would stand on his friends' shoulders to reach for the butter and curd-filled
pots hanging from the ceiling.
The 'matki phor' competition was introduced to the temple in Lenasia
four years ago when Girishbhai Shukla of India took over as the resident
priest of Rameshwar Mandir.
At Sunday's competition, the Lenasia Yuvak Mandal failed to retain
their title as champions for three consecutive years when the Johannesburg
Yuvak Mandal team smashed the pot in less than two minutes.
"We used a strategy of unity and teamwork to do it!" said
an elated Premal Nagardas of Mayfair West, who was selected from among
the 11 members of the team to be at the top of the pyramid.
Earlier in the day, the Lenasia Yuvak Mandal hosted the Krishna Chalisa
at the Laxmi Narayan Temple with seven bhajan (religious hymn) groups
participating in a six-hour non-stop recital session.
The biggest celebration in the country took place at the Sri Radhanath
Temple of Understanding in Chatsworth, south of Durban, where South
African Indian singers and dancers performed for three days. Religious
leaders delivered discourses.
At midnight on Monday, the deity of Lord Krishna was ceremoniously
bathed, and 108 different vegetarian dishes were offered.