Janmashtami: The Festival of Lord Krishna
Janmashtami is the joyful celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. Major celebrations takes place at midnight as Lord Krishna is said to have taken birth during midnight. Fasting, bhajans, pujas and many other rituals mark Janmashtami celebrations in India. According to Hindu calendar, this religious festival is celebrated all over India in the month of August/September on the ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the eighth day in the month of Bhadon. Janmashtami is also known by several other names such as Gokulashtami, Krishnasthami, Srijayanti.
Legends behind Janmashtami
A sloke from Bhagvat Gita states “Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O! Bharata and a rise of unrighteousness, then I will manifest myself” – this was addressed by Shri Krishna to Arjuna and is believed that Krishna made his appearance for the welfare of human kind and Janmashtami commemorates the auspicious birth ceremony of Lord Krishna. According to the legends, the birth of Lord Krishna took place under extraordinary circumstances. He was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who comes to free the world from all evils. He was born at midnight stroke on a dark, rainy night to ‘Devaki’ and ‘Vasudev’ who had been imprisoned by Devaki’s brother Kansa. Kansa killed Devaki’s eight children one by one and when Krishna was borne there wasa divine intervention to save the life of baby Krishna. When Krishna was born, the guards in the prison fell into deep slumber and Vasudev safely transported the child to King Nanda in Mathura.
As a part of puja the idol of the deity is bathed and cradled in the midnight time. Conch shell is blown and the devotees celebrate the birth of the Lord Krishna by singing devotional songs and by dancing with great joy. After that sweets and dishes are served to the devotees. Special puja is organized at Lord Krishna temples on Janmasthami.
Janmashtami Rituals and Celebrations
The festival of Janmashtami is celebrated with great zeal by Hindus all over India. People enjoy in the merrymaking at the midnight of ashtami, by singing devotional songs and dancing to the tune of bhajans. Janmashtami is usually a two-day celebration in many parts of India. The first two days are celebrated colorfully and merrymaking reaches the top level at midnight of the first day that marks the birth of Lord Krishna. A form of Dance drama, known as Raslila, is also performed. On the second day of the festival, a popular ceremony known as ‘Dahi Handi’ takes place wherein the pot containing curd or butter or milk is broken by the youth. The ritual of Dahi Handi is carried with great religious observance in northern parts of India. This ritual is especially popular in Maharashtra. Here a pyramid of human is created that tries to break the Handi (earthen pot filled with milk or card, suspended from top with the help of a rope). Onlookers throw water on the pyramid in order to stop them from breaking the pot. Every street organizes Dahi Handi as it involves a lot of fun and excitement.
Many people during the festival observe fast as a part of celebrations. Also known as Upavasa, fasting is considered to be a part of offering to Lord Krishna on his birthday. One can observe Nirjal fast where they would not consume even a drop of water through out the day. Phalahar vrat is another type of fast where one can consume fruits and milk during the day. As Lord Krishna is believed to have sweet tooth so the main food of Janmashtami comprises of mainly sweet items.