Happy Krishna Janmashtami
Shree Krishna, Govind, Kanha, Kanhaiya, Nandlal, Balgopal, Murli Manohar, Brijesh, Makhanchor, and there are hundreds of names of Lord Krishna, which his devotees use to refer him. He is known to spread harmony and love even in the amid situations of chaos and conflict. In almost every home, elders recite numerous stories to the youngers of MakhanChor aka little Lord Krishna’s naughtiness, bravery, and kindness. Even many TV shows have depicted it well. Some even got turned into blockbusters.
Hindus, especially the followers of Vaishnavas sect worship this god at every morning by performing some rituals and enchanting mantras. But the worshipping and celebrations are grand during the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami.
The day is observed as the birth of Lord Krishna. He is also known as the eighth incarnation of the supreme Hindu god, Vishnu. Also mentioned in the epic Bhagavata Purana, Janmashtami has a great significance in Hinduism. According to the epic, there are various rituals a follower should perform during Janmashtami that not just includes fasting and praying, but also night vigil and dramatization of Krishna legends.
There is another festival Nandotsav celebrated right after Krishna Janmashtami. According to the mythology, the father of Lord Krishna, Nanda Baba distributed sweets and gifts among people to commemorate the birth of Krishna.
When is it celebrated?
According to the mythology, Devaki and Vasudeva were the parents of Lord Krishna. On the day of Janmashtami, they give birth to him. According to the Hindu calendar, it falls on midnight of the eighth day of Bhadrapada month. This month comes in between August and September as per the Gregorian Calendar.
Legends behind this festival
His birth took place in an era of persecution, chaos, and evil dominance. Even his own life was under the threat of his maternal uncle King Kansa. After the atrocities of King Kansa, there was a celestial announcement that he will die at the hands of his sister’s son. He imprisoned his sister as well as her husband and pledged to kill their all babies. In fact, he was successful in doing so with many babies. Therefore, Vasudeva somehow escorted the baby Krishna away to save him from the barbarous king Kansa. Vasudeva escapes from the imprisonment with the infant and crossed the river Yamuna in the midnight. Even the river calmed down and assisted Vasudeva to travel easily through it.
He escorted infant Krishna to his good friends Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul. They become foster parents to baby Krishna. The couple becomes very happy to adopt him. For security prospect, they presented him as their baby to the world. The mythology says that day to be celebrated as Janmashtami.
How is it celebrated?
As Lord Krishna was born at midnight, thus, the main celebration of Janmashtami take place during midnight. The devotees fast and sing religious songs to show their devotion to Lord Krishna. They remain awake and keep a vigil throughout all night. The idol of Krishna in the form of MakhanChor is kept in a well-decorated cradle. After midnight, devotees wash the idol as well as its clothes. Finally, they break their fast by sharing fruits and sweets. They also decorate their homes with the tiny footprints of a baby that resemble Krishna’s journey in the home.
In areas like Mathura and Brindavan, it is celebrated like a carnival. It is also celebrated in states where Vaishnava communities are vastly present like West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and others.
The celebrations are loud in main Lord Krishna temples. The priests recite Bhagvat Gita and Bhagavata Purana on this occasion. There are also dance-drama events resembling Krishna’s life is organized by different communities. These plays are known as Krishna Lila or Rasa Lila. It is very popular in the Northern parts of Indian, especially in the Mathura region. One can also see this tradition in some other states like Rajasthan, Gujrat, Manipur, and Assam. Usually, the local teens, children and amateur actors of local communities take part in such plays and dances. They start preparing for this event from days before the Janmashtami.
Celebrations across various Indian states
The main way of celebration is almost same in every state with some minor differences. Each state has its specialty when it comes to celebrating this festival.
Here are the different ways of celebration in various states of India.
DahiHandi and other celebrations in Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, it is commonly known as Gokulashtami. In different cities of Maharashtra such as Pune and Mumbai, people organize DahiHandi. Basically, it means an earthen pot of yogurt. It resembles the love of Krishna for yogurt and butter during his early days. According to the mythologies, he often breaks the pots for stealing the yogurt and butter. In the initiative to do such mischiefs, he performed a lot of creative ideas that include making human pyramids to steals pots hanging on high altitudes. The DahiHandi tries to imitate this mischief of him.
In DahiHandi, young guys team up to make a human pyramid to break hanging pots. The young guys are known as Govinda. In fact, it has become a kind of sport on this occasion where various teams try to reach and break the earthen hanging pot. The placement of earthen pot is usually at the height of third or fourth story building. The girls surround these guys for cheering and teasing them. The content inside the Handi is considered as a Prasada or the blessing of God.
The team succeeded in doing so in minimum time gets rewarded with serious prize money. They practice it a lot before DahiHandi. Nowadays, it has become a stiff competition between various teams of Govindas, especially for the prize money. The team of Govindas visits various localities for breaking several pots. The celebrities, especially from the Bollywood and politics, often sponsor various parts of this event. Besides DahiHandi, people also worship and fast on this day.
MakhanHandi and other celebrations in Gujarat
People have a grand celebration of Janmashtami in Gujarat, especially in Dwarka city. According to the mythology, they believe that Lord Krishna established his kingdom in the city of Dwarka. People also enchant holy hymns, bhajans, and perform folk dances on this day. Many of them visit major Krishna temples like the Dwarkadhish Temple or Nathdwara. There is a special celebration in the region of Kutch. The bullock carts get decorated by the farmers. They took out parades of carts while singing and dancing bhajans. The poetry and works of Dayaram are specifically famous. The poetry of this scholar of the Pushtimarg of Vaishnavism is usually playful and carnival-style.
Grand Nathdwara Celebrations in Rajasthan
The celebrations in Rajasthan are a bit similar to that of Gujarat. The folk dance, bhajans, and holy hymns are also enchanted on this occasion. However, there is no tradition of MakhanHandi or any tradition similar to that. People pay a visit to Shree Krishna temples here. The celebration in Nathdwara town near Udaipur is magnificent. There is a seraphic festival dedicated to Lord Krishna here. People from different parts of India visit this place to witness this festival. On this occasion, Krishna’s temple gets decorated with appealing lights and flowers. The whole city echoes the melodious sound of trumpet, drum, and clarinet. People start greeting their relatives and acquittances a week ahead of this festival.
The masses of Nathdwaratown in Rajasthan observe the anniversary of Lord Vishnu’s reincarnation in a grand way at the famous Shri Nathdwara temple. The celebration here includes the salute from cannons and guns. The Lord Krishna birth is not celebrated here as the public demonstration on the night of Krishna Janmotsav. On the next day of Janmashtami, it is celebrated as Nandhamahotsav by the masses of this region affirming the birth of Kanha. The echo of songs like ‘NandGhar Anand Bhoyo, Jai Kanhaiya Lal Ki’ in the entire surrounding of this region starts coming as soon the celebration begins. The localities sing, dances, splashes milk, curd, and butter on account of the celebration. The entire celebration takes place in the presence of Tilakayat Shree Maharaj, his family, Lord Shrinath Ji, Mukhiya Ji and BrajwasiSevak.
Shri Krishna Jayanti in Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha
People around these regions perform fasting on the entire day of Janmashtami. People decorate Balgopal figurine with flower and swing him in a small cradle. They offer prayer to Lord Krishna, chant Bhajan and shlokas at their home. People perform recitation of the Bhagwat Purana section which encloses Lord Krishna childhood. At midnight people distribute sweets within their family members and in neighbors because Lord Krishna was born at midnight. The following day marks the celebration of Krishna foster parents Nanda and Yashoda, and is known as “Nanda Utsav”. In some parts of West Bengal and in Puri, Janmashtami is also known as Shri Krishna Jayanti.
Dance, drama and other forms of celebration in North eastern states
Janmashtami celebration is also quite popular in the north-eastern part of the country. It was all due to the effort and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sankardev in the 15th and 16th century which made this festival so popular here. People developed faith in their philosophical ideas so much that every part of this region has the Krishna-Radhika temple. The Vaishnava community residing in these regions especially in the Manipur state indulge in its commemoration in a unique style.
The celebration of this day includes bhajan, dance and drama performances on the life of Lord Krishna. Regional dance performances took place on the various theme related to Lord Krishna like the Manipuri traditional dance is performed in Manipur. Different art performances comprise Borgeet, Bhakti yoga, Anika Naat and Sattriya are a common part of its celebration. Rasleela showing love drama between Shri Krishna, Radhika and Gopis are the central attraction among these art performances. This art holds their contextual link with the traditional literature accounting the life of Lord Krishna.
The other observance on this day is similar to the rest of the country. The temples are beautifully decorated with flowers and colorful lightings. A large number of people enchants Bhagavata Gita shlokas and Shri Krishna Janam chapter from Bhagavata Purana. Prayers are offered by the devotees in front of Shri Krishna and Radhika figurine in the temple. The two notable temples located in this region, the Shree Govindajee temple and the ISKCON temple holds an impressive Janmashtami celebration.
Small children dressed as Shri Krishna and Radha participate in the dance and drama being organized in their community. There is a tradition of playing LikolSannaba game by the children of Meetei Vaishnava community. In the Assam state, the devotees go to temple or community center, also known as Namghar, to worship lord Krishna and distribute Prasada after their prayers.
Recitation of Bhagavata Purana Katha in Andhra Pradesh
Just like the northern part of India, the southern part of the country also rejoices the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. The Vaishnava community in the state of Andhra Pradesh celebrates this occasion through prayers and recitation of Bhagavata Purana Katha. A grand puja, bhajan and other performances take place in every lord Krishna temple and community center. People offer sweets, fruits, and butter to Lord Krishna during prayers which later is distributed among all the devotees. Parents dressed up their little one as Lord Krishna and pay visits to their near and dear ones. At home, the worshipers prepare different sweet dishes such as pudding, kheer as an offering to their loved God. Due to less number of such temples devoted to Lord Krishna present in the state, people prefer worshipping at home.
Kolams, GettaGovindam and much more in Tamil Nadu
In the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu, the female member starts her day by making decorative patterns on their floor with rice batter, known as Kolams. They also design little foot prints of Lord Krishna entering the house until their Puja place. The bhakti songs, Geetha Govindam are sung by the devotees throughout the day which makes the whole surrounding pure and religious. The devotees generally keep fast for the whole day which the end after the midnight puja. Several dishes cooked by the devotees at their home include Verkadalai, Urundai, Seedai and sweet Seedai. The young children within the family are the first one to receive the Prasad. These children are treated as Lord Krishna and perform the ceremony of swinging lord Krishna idol.
Celebration in Kerala with temple visits and by offering special dishes
This southern state of India celebrates Lord Krishna birth with much devoutness and enthusiasm. The famous temple of Kerala, Shri Krishna temple in Guruvayoor town indulges in a high-level celebration of this holy occasion. This temple is known as ‘BulokaVaikuntha’ and is recognized as the ‘Dwarka of the South India’. The household celebration includes preparation of special dishes Palpaysam and Appam on his day.
Celebration in Karnataka with Udupi visits and rituals
Established in the 13th century, Udupi’s well-known lord Krishna temple ‘Shri Krishna Matha’ performs worship and rituals in a different way. At first, Lord Krishna is bathed with milk and then decorated beautifully. Recitation of prayer is done and Prasada is offered to him. There are nine windows craved, known as Navagraha Kitiki, through which the devotees perform puja. Other performances are Krishna Leelotsav and tiger dance.
Janmashtami celebration in the rest of the world
- Besides India, Hindus located in other parts of the world don’t miss celebrating this festival.
- As Nepal is a Hindu country, so Krishna Janmashtami has a special significance there. Just like other devotees, they too fast and sing bhajans and Kirtans on this occasion.
- In Bangladesh, people visit the popular Dhakeshwari Temple in Dhaka. It is a national holiday as well.
- Fiji has a significant population of Hindus who immigrated from India during the British Era. They celebrate it as Krishna Ashtami. On this day, they recite Bhagavata Purana and devotional songs.
- The Pakistani Hindus celebrate it by visiting Shri Swaminarayan Mandir located in Karachi.
- Hindu community in the Caribbean in the countries of Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica celebrate it as well.
- ISKCON temples that have a global presence celebrate this festival in a grand style.
How can you celebrate Janmashtami at your home?
Are you an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna but there is no temple near your home? If yes, then you don’t need to get upset because you can celebrate it with same passion at your home. Here is how you can do it.
- Gather all your family and friends by inviting them.
- On this day, decorate your home as well as Krishna’s idols and cradle or crib with flowers and garlands. You can encourage people to take part in decoration. Get some new attires for Lord Krishna’s idol. You can also get some accessories for him like peacock feathers, turban pieces, flutes, etc.
- Download some devotional songs from Vaishnava Songbook and play it on speakers to make the environment spiritual.
- You can get Jaap Mala and enchant Hare Krishna mantra for specific counts like 108, 1008, etc. Besides, you can narrate the legends of Krishna or Bhagwat Gita.
- You can bath Krishna’s idol while enchanting his mantra. Afterward, offer him honey, ghee, yogurt, and fruits. Perform the midnight aarti with kirtan.
Janmashtami is the time to show your devotion to Lord Krishna. There are many ways to worship him on this day. You can choose anyway, but ultimately, your devoutness towards him matters the most. According to it, he will reciprocate with you. Perhaps, it will be the most rewarding spiritual experience.