DatesStart Date: 11-08-2020 End Date: 11-08-2020
LocationAll over India
Janmashtami, is a major festival in the Hindu culture. The festival is a celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who is believed to be one of the greatest God in Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita, a holy book for the Hindus is a preaching given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, one of the Pandavas who was in a state of distress and confusion at the time of the Mahabharata. Janmashtami literally means the birth on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the Krishna Paksha of the Hindu Calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar this day falls in the month of August or September. The number eight plays a big role, not only because of the Ashtami, but also because Lord Krishna was the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, he was also the eighth child of Devaki.
The birthday of Krishna has quite a story behind it, Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudev, while they were kept imprisoned by Devaki’s brother Kansa. Kansa was a rude and unjust ruler, he was told by Narada, that one of Devaki’s child would be the cause of his death. After Devaki’s marriage to Vasudev, both of them were kept in the prison. Every child they gave birth to was eaten by Kansa, he didn’t let them have the privilege of a having a child. Their eighth child was born at midnight on the Ashtami, Vasudev sneaked out of the jail, and crossed the river Yamuna to reach Gokul. There was a crazy storm that night, Vasudev had the Shesh Nag (a seven headed snake) protect him and the baby from the storm and wind. When he reached Gokul, he went to Nanda and Yashoda’s house, the couple had given birth to a girl child. Vasudev, kept his own son in place of the girl child and took the girl child back with him. When he finally reached, Kansa thought the girl was their eighth offspring and killed her too.
Then on Krishna lived in the town of Gokul and went on to help the Pandavas, his cousins in the time of war and sorrow. In the course of his life, he did kill Kansa and end his tyrant rule too. Lord Krishna is famous for ending the bad and giving way to good, he also guided people on the right track and had a big hand in contributing to the Indian history. He is kept at a very high pedestal in the minds of many Hindus. Janmashtami is the time to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna who contributed greatly to the Hindu ideology and ways of life.
One day before Janmashtami, many people keep a fast for the whole day, which they end at midnight once it is officially Krishna’s birthday. At midnight they worship the idol of Krishna by giving it a bath in milk and cleansing the idol by dressing him in new clothes and then keeping him in a cradle. Some people stay up the whole night rocking the cradle in order to keep baby Krishna at peace. There are prayers said and the next day people celebrate by making a meal which consists of 56 items, also known as the “chappanbhog”, this meal consists of items like multiple types of vegetables and curries, most of which are believed to be Krishna’s favourites. The meal is filled with a lot of sweets most of them made out of dairy products as Krishna loved dairy products, especially butter. This chappanbhog is not really made by families, but a lot of temples and organizations prepare this meal and serve it to the ones in need and poor, while many devotees of Krishna who go to the temples also break their fast after eating this chappanbhog.
There are prayers offered and blessings received at the temples, many people try to do one good deed on this day in order to follow the path of Krishna, who worked for the good of the society. Many temples and societies have bhajan and kirtan sessions, where everyone sits together and sings songs and hymns to praise Lord Krishna. While this is what most old people do, Janmashtami is celebrated completely differently by the youth, there are Dahihandi competitions held over all the country.
Krishna was known to be a naughty and fun-loving kid, for his love of butter (maakhan), he used to steal this butter while women prepared it in his house, at the same time he used to break the pots (matkas) women and girls carried on their heads with milk, yogurt and water filled in them. He would break these Matkas by throwing a stone towards it. This habit of Krishna was picked up and turned into an adventure activity for the young people where they placed a DahiHandi (a pot filled with yogurt) at a height with threads holding it in the middle of the air. The people then create a human pyramid to reach the top and one person breaks the handi. This event is looked forward to by many young kids, initially it was only men who took part in the human pyramid, while recently women have also started participating. This activity started as something people of a society would do but recently there are organisations and competitions that are organised by many political parties and brands to encourage the sport of DahiHandi. This commercialization of DahiHandi gave rise to clubs and mandals, who practice for two to three months before Janmashtami in order to win the DahiHandi competition, since there are huge prizes given to the winning team.
Mathura is the place where Krishna was born, while Vrindavan is the place where he spent most of his childhood and adult years. Both these places are a home to Krishna and are believed to be pure and holy. These places are beautifully lit on the days of Janmashtami, the celebration of Janmashtami exceeds one day and there is a joyous atmosphere for the whole week. The temple in Mathura, Krishna JanmaBhoomiMandir, which is believed to be the spot where Krishna was born, has some big prayer offerings throughout the day. There are Rasleelas and dances done by the devotees in the temple grounds in Vrindavan and Mathura. These cities light up on the days of Janmashtami, there are small makeshift shops opened which sell Krishna’s idol and statues, along with Basuris (flute) being sold, which was known to be Krishna’s musical instrument. People from all over India and outside the country come to these two places to see and experience the devotion of people in Lord Krishna. Overall, the festival has great significance among Hindus because of their great belief in Lord Krishna and his contributions to humankind. The festival is time to do good and give way for good to happen not just to you but to others as well. It is a festival which makes you think about your wrong doings by the thoughts and work of Krishna being reiterated to you and helps you make some changes in you for your own betterment. The festival is about music, dancing and some fun activities like DahiHandi.
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