Indian Festival – Janamashtami
Janmashtami – Janmashtami, or ‘Krishna Janmashtami’, celebrates the birth of Sri Krishna, regarded as the most venerated in the Hindu pantheon of deities. According to Hindu belief, baby Krishna was born at midnight in Bhado month. The sacred day of Janmashtami celebrates the beautiful moments of Shri Krishna depicted as a child. Sri Krishna is revered as a representation of joy and simplicity and this aspect is brought out very well throughout the episodes in Mahabharata. Lord Krishna represents the joyful spirit in all of us that we should invoke even when we face situations in life. The deeper message of Shri Krishna Janmashtami is that we should make efforts towards imbibing these aspects of Lord Krishna to wade easily through life.
How to Celebrate Janmashtami
To celebrate Krishna Janmashtami, devotees observe fasting early on and continue fasting till the auspicious time of baby Krishna’s birth arrives. Then they bathe the infant Krishna and adorn him with new clothes and jewellery, and rock him in a cradle. This is followed by ritualistic ‘puja’, ‘aarti’ and a whole repertoire of devotional songs and dance performances. Janmashtami ‘prasad’ is offered to the idol of baby Krishna and devotees break their fast after partaking of this holy food.
The celebration of Janmashtami still carries on with the same fervor, sticking to the traditions of enacting episodes from Lord Krishna’s life which are typically fun and playful moments. Deep devotion and elation and strong sense of solidarity is at the heart of Janmashtami celebration. In general, ‘Rasa Lila’ is performed everywhere, wherein the life and events of Lord Krishna’s youthful days and his romance with gopis or devotees is depicted to the rhythm of dance and music. ‘Dahi-handi’, wherein young boys climb up a human pyramid to break a pot filled with a concoction of milk, yoghurt, butter, honey and dry fruits, is the most popular of customs followed on Krishna Janmashtami. Competitions are held and prizes given as it tests one’s courage and perseverance on Janmashtami. Plays are organized around Lord Krishna and Radha, and traditional dances performed.
Janmashtami celebration in Vrindavan
Vrindavan and Mathura is the stronghold of Janmashtami celebration. In Vrindavan, which is home to Banke Bihari Temple housing Banke Bihari, another endearing name for Lord Krishna, huge elaborate preparations are made including lighting and decoration. ISKCON temple, dedicated to Krishna consciousness sees large-scale participation of devotees. Apart from the devotional songs and mantras, ‘Raasleela’ is performed by several professional artists for Vrindavan sees huge gatherings of devotees from all across the country. There is no limitation to the number of plays and skits being staged in Shri Krishna Janmashtami programmes.
Janmashtami in Mathura
Among Janmashtami celebration, Mathura is credited for its various unique ceremonies. After the infant Krishna is bathed and rocked, a prasad of ‘Chhappan Bhog’, a platter of fifty-six dishes is offered and is later given out for distribution. The whole city takes on a jewelled look as plenty of flower decoration and lighting is done in both temples and houses on Shri Krishna Janmashtami. ‘Jhanki’ is another traditional art form that focuses on bringing out pastoral and childhood scenes from the life of Krishna. On Janmashtami, several jhankis are put up, such as ‘janmlila’. ‘Ghattas’ is another unique feature wherein all the temples in Mathura are adorned with the same colour including the idol of Krishna for a month.
Janmashtami celebration in Dwarka
In Dwarka, the kingdom founded by Lord Krishna, the day starts on a zesty note, with ‘dahi-handi’ custom being followed with full vigour and participation as it is brought to a nail-biting finish. While an army of people join in to create the pyramid to break the earthen pot, the group forming the pyramid is challenged with a constant gush of water. Crowds wait with bated breath as to how the buttermilk pot will be broken.
Sumptuous meals are served as families and relations get together. Sweets made of milk, butter and ghee are prepared in bulk and offered to guests generously.