In wake of deaths, India sets age limit for Krishna birthday pyramids
New Delhi • India's top court said Thursday that children as young as 12 can climb atop towering human pyramids in a popular Hindu celebration that has seen deaths and injuries in past years.
Devotees celebrate the birthday of the child-god Krishna each August by forming a pyramid with the last climber, usually a child, clambering to the top to break the "dahi handi," an earthen pot filled with curd. It honors Krishna's effort to steal butter.
Hundreds of thousands of cheering people join the ceremony every year, but several children are killed, injured or disabled in falls from pyramids that can reach 40 feet (12 meters) high.
A court in Mumbai last week set the country's first age limit for participants at 18 after two young males, aged 14 and 19, died in falls. The Mumbai court also said the pyramids must not exceed 20 feet (8 meters) in response to a petition filed by rights activists seeking restrictions on the children's participation in the ritual.
But opponents of the age restriction brought the case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold Thursday and said children who've reached their 12th birthday can participate. It will give its final verdict in the case after hearing arguments of the petitioners, rights activists and the government.
The ceremony is most popular in the western state of Maharashtra, where rich devotees offer millions of rupees as rewards to the groups breaking the pots during the celebrations.
The Krishna celebrations are on Monday this year.