Krishna Janmashtami

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Krishna Janmashtami

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History of Janmashtami

Eight days after the full moon of Shravan, falls the festival of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. Krishna Janmashtami is an important festival in the Hindu calendar. The first day is Krishnashtami or Gokulashtami. The second day is called Kalastami or more popularly Janmashtami. It is celebrated with great devotion through out the country. Vrindhavan, Mathura, Dwaraka are the most popular Krishna temples as it is beleived that Lord Krishna lived here.

In all these locations, janmashtami is celebrated with lot of splendour. The image of the infant Bala Krishna is bathed and is cradled in the midnight time. The conch shell is blown and the devotees celebrate the birth of the Protector of the world by singing devotional songs and by dancing with great joy. In these places Janmashtami celebration has a special significance as these places has an association with Lord Krishna. So the rituals associated with the festival are followed. In some part of the North India, Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated for three days.

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The first two days are celebrated in a colorful manner. On the second day of the festival a popular ceremony known as ‘Dahi Handi’ takes place where the pot containing curd or butter or milk is broken by the youths. Dahikala or Govinda, as the festival of tying pots of yogurt and milk, and breaking them is called, is a special event in Mumbai and other cities of Maharashtra.

In Braja Mandala, especially Gokula and Mathura, this festival is celebrated with great possible religious fervor and enthusiasm and the chanting mantras are echoed in the air. People from distant places congregate to Mathura and Vrindavan on this day to participate in the festival. The piety and fast observed on this day ensure birth of many good sons, and salvation after the death. Reading and recitation of the Bhagvatam and Geet Govindam are most recommended on this day.

The number of temples dedicated to Sri Krishna is few. The reason being that people have taken to worship him through paintings and not through temple images. The Rajagopalaswami temple in Mannargudi in the Tiruvarur district, BalaKrishna temple at Udupi, Krishna temple at Guruvayur and Pandavadhoothar temple in Kanchivaram are dedicated to the memory of Vishnu’s incarnation as Sri Krishna. In these places this day is celebrated with great grandeur and devotion.

Birth of Lord Krishna

The birth of Lord Krishna signifies the victory of good over evil. Though exact dates cannot be stated but Indian as well as Western scholars have now accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on earth. As the legend says it was the eighth day of the dark half of Shravan. It was raining heavily. At midnight a bright light appeared in the room of Devki. Vasudev woke up. In that light the idol of Vishnu with four hands appeared.

Then the child was born, Devki’s eighth son. Vishnu himself took avatar to kill Kansa (the demon). Vasudev heard a divine voice in his mind, to take the child to Gokul. The gates of the prison were suddenly opened and the guards were fast asleep. Vasudev put the child in a basket and went out. Due to heavy rain Yamuna was flooded. But as he stepped out of the prison the rain stopped and the dim light of the moon showed the way. A huge snake taking the shape of an umbrella protected the child.

As he reached the river the waters were divided leaving a dry path for Vasudev to cross. Vasudev reached Nanda’s house when everybody was sleeping. He went into the room of Yashoda, Nanda’s wife. He saw a small girl playing near Yashoda. He took the girl and left his son, Krishna, in her place, and immediately returned to Mathura.

On the following day Kansa came to know about the birth of Devki’s eighth child. In a hurry he went to snatch the child. Devki began to plead with her brother not to kill the girl. But he ignored her. Kansa lifted the child by the legs and began to turn her around to smash her on a washing stone. But suddenly the girl slipped from his hand and disappeared. In her place the image of the goddess appeared in the sky. In her four hands she held weapons, and her splendor spread on all sides. She told to Kansa that the person who will kill you has already taken birth and is growing elsewhere. Meanwhile a great commotion was going on at Gokul, because of the boy’s birth and he grew up to be Krishna who later killed his uncle Kansa.

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Janmashtami in Vrindavan & Mathura

Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great devotion in the August and September months, on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon, in the whole of north India. Temples and homes are beautifully decorated and lit. An attractive feature of the celebrations is cribs & other decorations depicting stories of Lord Krishna’s birth childhood. There are five main “jhankis” of Janmashtami, which depict the entire sequence of events from Lord Krishna’s birth to his being discovered in Gokul.

The “jhankis” are decorated and include the birth of Krishna in jail, Vasudev carrying Krishna to safety across the river Yamuna amidst thunder and lightning, Vasudev’s return to the jail, Kansa killing Yashoda’s daughter and finally the little Krishna in the cradle in Gokul. “Jhankis” are created out of dolls dressed up as kids, men and women with lehangas, chunnis, dhotis & kurtas. Raslila of every type are also performed – Janmlila, Shankarlila, Putnalila and Naglila. In the evening bhajans are sung which end at midnight, the auspicious moment when Lord Krishna was born. Thereafter arti is done, prasad distributed and flowers showered on the idol.

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Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, celebrates the festival with great grandeur and devotion. The main celebrations are performed at the Dwarkadhish temple, Mathura in the form of Jhulanotsava and the Ghatas during the entire month of Shravan. The ghatas are a unique feature of the month long celebrations. During the ghatas of a particular color the whole temple is covered with decoration in the same color. Even the Lord dresses up in the same color. The twin cities of Mathura-Vrindavan take on a festive look and spirit of devotion runs high among the people. It was on the banks of the Yamuna river where Lord Krishna played during his childhood and indulged in pranks and tricks with his friends and the gopies.

There are about four temples dedicated to Lord Krishna in this sacred city and the major festivities are held at the Banke Bihari, Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram temple and Gopinath temple. The Raslila of Braj is thematically the basis of many performing arts. The Rangaji temple, Vrindavan, is also the venue for the annual Rath Mela. The chariot of Lord Rangaji is taken out from the temple with great enthusiam by thousands of devotees. The temples of Vrindavan witness an extravagant and colorful celebration on this occasion. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over Northern India.

Janmashtami Rituals

Krishna janmashtami marks the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the eight divine incarnation. It is regarded as one of the most important festivals of the Hindus. It is believed that Lord Krishna was born at midnight. People observe fast without water on this day, which is broken at midnight. At Mathura the birth place of lord Krishna special spiritual gatherings are organized, which is attained by Krishna devotees around the country and abroad.

They spend the day immersed in Shri Krishna’s glory by reading, reciting and singing his divine leela especially in the evening in temples. At midnight, the Lord’s birth hour, there is a grand worship of lord Krishna. The lord is bathed with milk while His Name is chanted 108 times. Arti is performed and offerings of flowers are made. He is also installed in the form of ‘Lalji’ (child form) in a swing and devotionally offered many sumptuous food dishes.

Various kinds of sweets are made to offer Gokunandan on this day. Murukku and Seeddai are prepared in TamilNadu. Eatables made of Milk and curd are prepared to make offerings to Lord Krishna ‘Makhan’ (butter) is especially included since Shri Krishna loved this in childhood. The traditional prasad is ‘Panchajiri’ made of five ingredients: powdered ginger, ‘suva’, coriander, sugar and ghee. Other ingredients include poppy seeds (khaskhas) and dessicated coconut shavings.

Grand havens are performed in various temples on this day. After all the rituals are over holy prasad are distributed among the devotees and they are blessed by the divine grace of Lord Krishna. Whole day the devotees jubilantly sing and hail kirtans in the name of the holy Lord. Devotion is the only means of attaining lord Krishna. Dedication and love for the lord. When love is directed towards Krishna, man is freed from the bondage of the world.

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