Janmashtami – The Festival of Zeal and Enthusiasm
Janmashtami is one of the famous Hindu festivals celebrated across India. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and excitement. The festival is also known as “Krishnashtami”, “Saatam Aatham”, “Gokulashtami”, “Ashtami Rohini”, “Srikrishna Jayanti”, “Sree Jayanthi” or sometimes merely as “Krishna Janmashtami”. The festival is observed on the eighth day which is called Ashtami (according to Hindu calendar), of the dark half of the month (which is called the Krishna Paksha in Hindi) of Bhadra (a month in Hindu Calendar) month.
Krishna Janmashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was born on the eighth day, Ashtami tithi, of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadra. He was the eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva, who were imprisoned by Devki’s brother Kans. Krishna was immediately moved from the prison by his father Vasudeva to a foster-home to keep him safe and away from Kans.
Janmashtami in Maharashtra :
In Maharashtra, The festival is celebrated as Dahi Handi or Govinda where a Handi (clay pot), filled with butter milk or curd, is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event above the ground and a group of men makes a human pyramid to break the Handi with the help of a blunt object or coconut. The spilled buttermilk or curd over the group symbolizes their achievement and unity. This group of young and enthusiast men calls themselves Govinda. Nowadays it a sort of competition where various teams participate in this process and teams that win gets a lot of prizes. The biggest Dahi-Handi celebrations are seen in Mumbai. The winning teams win lakhs of rupees. Some of the most famous handis are at Dadar, Mazgaon, Lalbaug and some in Thane a neighboring district of Mumbai and Babu Genu, Mandai in Pune.
Cash and gifts are offered for Govinda troops to participate; for over 4000 Handis in Mumbai, 700 Govinda troops compete for the prizes.
Janmashtami in South India:
In South India, the festival is celebrated as Sri Krishnajanmashtami, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami. In Karnataka, some of the elaborate celebrations are seen. These celebrations are done by Madhavas & Vaishnavas (followers of Sri Madhwacharyaru) and Iyengars or the Srivaishnavas, (followers of their guru Ramanujacharya). The idol of Lord Krishna is placed in the decorated Mandap made of wood with a checkered wooden ceiling on which the Bhakshanam (snacks and sweets in Tamil) are suspended along with fruits considered the favorites of Lord Krishna. These sweets and snacks are specially prepared for the festival. The puja starts in the late evening, particularly when the moon rises.
The celebrations start one day before i.e. Saptami by fasting followed by night long vigil signifying the birth of Krishna at night. The deity of the infant Krishna is bathed, placed in a cradle and worshiped. The fast is completed after aarti, a special prayer. In the morning the ladies draws various kinds of rangolis outside the house. The most common patterns are baby’s feet with rice flour paste walking towards the house. It symbolizes the entry of the infant Lord Krishna in his Foster home. At some places, Rass leelas are also organized. Rass leela is actually a dramatic presentation of some episodes from Lord Krishna’s life.