Krishna Janmashtami is one of the most important religious festivals celebrated in India.
As the name suggests, Krishna Janmashtami celebrates the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, one of the most cherished and worshipped Gods amongst Hindu devotees. This auspicious festival is also known by various other names such as Sree Jayanti, Srikrishna Jayanti, Krishnashtami, etc.
This festival is celebrated on the ashtami of the krishna paksha of the Bhadrapada month as per traditional Hindu calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar, this falls on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the month of August September. In the year 2016, Krishna Janmashtami will be observed on August 25th, Thursday.
Dates of Janmashtami in the next five years according to the modern day calendar:
- In 2014, the Janmashtami date is Sunday, August 17.
- In 2015, the Janmashtami date is on Saturday, September 5.
- In 2016, the Janmashtami date is on Thursday, August 25.
- In 2017, the Janmashtami date is on Monday, August 14.
- In 2018, the Janmashtami date is Sunday, September 2.
Who is Lord Krishna?
Lord Krishna is the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and perhaps the most powerful human incarnations. He was born around 5200 years ago in order to rid the world of the evils. Legend has it that he was the 8th son of Vasudeva and Devaki who were imprisoned by Devaki’s brother Kansa. Based on scriptures, Krishna’s birth can be ascertained to 3228 BCE. He belonged to the Vrishni clan of people from Mathura.
King Kansa had imprisoned Devaki and her husband due to a prophecy that he will be killed for all his evils by the 8 th son of Devaki; Kansa killed the first 6 children of Devaki. Devaki had a miscarriage of the 7th child, which was actually transferred to Rohini’s womb, Krishna was finally born. Lord Vishnu ordered Vasudeva to immediately on the night of his birth take Krishna to Gokul to Yashoda and Nanda for his safety. Vasudeva, in a stormy night crossed the river Yamuna and kept Krishna beside Yashoda and picked up their daughter and returned home. Kansa, the next day to kill the infant threw it at a stone, when the infant rose up in the sky taking the form of Yogamaya and informed Kansa that he will be killed in the hands of Krishna, who was growing up in Gokul. Krishna then grew up in Gokul along with his brother Balaram, had many an adventures and returned to kill Kansa later on to punish him.
Krishna went on to play a major role in the epic of Mahabharata and catapulted into an iconic figure.
Celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami
The celebration of Janmashtami actually happens in mid night as Lord Krishna was born on a dark windy and turbulent midnight. Krishna’s childhood pictures and other various pictures are used to adorn the homes of the devotees. At midnight the devout devotees gather around to sing songs, loris and worship the auspicious moment of the birth of Krishna.
In Maharashtra and Pune region, this festivity is celebrated as Dahi Handi, where devotees make a human pyramid and the top most person breaks an earthen pot containing dahi or buttermilk. This is remiscent and recreation of Krishna’s childhood escapades of stealing butter. The person at the top of the pyramid breaks the handi or the pot with the help of a blunt object. The participants of these Dahi Handi are called Govinda or Govinda Pathaks and often form groups in taking part in such activities. These in recent times have become competitive and people stand to win lakhs of rupees in prize money for these. The best Dahi Handi and Krishna Janmashtami celebration in Mumbai are in Lower Parel, Dadar, Lalbaug, Mazgaon etc. in Pune the best places for this celebration is in Babu Genu and Mandai and in Goa this celebration is done with a lot of devotion. The temple of Devaki Krishna, which is perhaps the only temple in India commemorating Devaki, is decked up beautifully with flowers and celebrations happen in the town of Naroa.
At the birthplace of Krishna, Mathura the celebrations take a grand scale. Several rituals are carried out at midnight as Krishna was born at that time. The grandest celebration takes place in the Dwarkadhish Temple, where the idol of Lord Krishna is given a ritual bath in curd and milk. The temples and all the ghats of Mathura are beautifully decorated in a show of complete splendor. Panchamrit, which is a mixture of honey or madhu, curd or dahi, ghee or purified butter and Ganga jal is distributed amongst devotees. Kheer, Laddoo, butter etc are offered to the Lord as prasads, as these were his childhood favorites.
Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna is said to have spent most of his formative years adopt a joyous air during this time. Thousands of devotees throng this place for viewing these festivities. The Banke Bihari Temple, The Krishna Balaram Temple and the Iskcon Temple draw the greatest of crowds. Apart from the other rituals, the Abhishek or the ritual bath and putting on of new clothes of Lord Krishna is the biggest attraction.
In Puri , Odisha and Nabadwip in West Bengal the celebrations are grand. In West Bengal devotees fast till midnight and prepare delicacies for the Lord Krishna. Fast is broken on the next day and various sweets are offered as Prasad to all the devotees.
In Manipur, this is known as Krishna Janma and the Vaishnava devotees celebrate it in 2 of the major temples, ISKCON and the Govindaji Temple.
This auspicious occasion is known as Gokulashtami or Gokula Ashtami in the southern part of India. In Tamil Nadu, people decorate their houses with Kolams or decorations using rice batter. Small imprints of Krishna’s feet are created till the puja rooms. Chanting and reading of Bhagwad Gita is done on this auspicious occasion. Favorite food items of Lord Krishna are prepared such as, Verkadalai Urundai, Sweet Seeda, seedai etc. there is also a custom of dressing up the youngest male child being dressed up as Krishna and put up in a swing, which is called Oonjal. The Prasad after the puja is also offered to them first.
In Andhra Pradesh, apart from the customary rituals, young boys dressed as Lord Krishna keep visiting neighbors. Numerous types of sweets are prepared on this day to mark the occasion. Some prominent Krishna temples in the southern part of India are the Bala Krishna temple at Udupi, the Rajagopalaswami Temple in Mannargudi in the Tiruvarur district, Pandavadhoothar temple in Kanchivaram ans the Krishna Temple in Guruvayur which is believed to have been the one which was submerged in the sea and had been brought from Dwarka.
Rituals of Krishna Janmashtami
Since this is a major festival amongst the Hindus, devotees observe this auspicious day with a lot of devotion. Fast is kept from morning till midnight, when special puja is done, since Lord Krishna was born in the midnight. At midnight, the idol of the Bal Gopal or the Child Gopal is bathed in milk and his name is chanted 108 times. Aartis are performed and puja offerings are made. Swings are decorated with flowers and the Krishna idol made to sit there.
A number of sweets are prepared which are believed to be favorite of the small Krishna. Butter is definitely amongst those that are offered as Prasad on this auspicious occasion.
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