Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, is a significant Hindu festival celebrated with great fervor and devotion across India. It marks the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, one of the most revered deities in Hinduism. This auspicious day falls on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, which usually corresponds to August or September in the Gregorian calendar.
The Legend of Krishna’s Birth:
The story of Lord Krishna’s birth is deeply ingrained in Hindu mythology. He is believed to be the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe. Krishna was born in the town of Mathura to King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki. However, the wicked King Kansa, Devaki’s brother, was told by a divine prophecy that the eighth child of his sister would be his undoing. To prevent this, he imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva and mercilessly killed their first six children.
When Lord Krishna was born, a series of divine interventions occurred. The prison doors miraculously opened, and Vasudeva, guided by a celestial voice, carried baby Krishna across the raging Yamuna River to safety in Gokul, where he was raised by foster parents, Nanda and Yashoda.
Krishna Janmashtami Celebrations:
Janmashtami is observed with immense enthusiasm and rituals. Devotees fast throughout the day and break their fast at midnight, the time when Lord Krishna is believed to have been born. Temples and homes are beautifully decorated with flowers, rangoli (colorful patterns), and miniature footprints, symbolizing Krishna’s arrival.
The main attraction of Janmashtami is the ‘Dahi Handi’ or ‘Govinda’ celebrations. Young boys, often forming human pyramids, attempt to break a clay pot filled with butter or curd hung at a considerable height. This tradition emulates the mischievous nature of a young Krishna, who was fond of stealing butter.
Devotional Singing and Dancing:
Throughout the day and night, devotional songs, bhajans, and kirtans dedicated to Lord Krishna fill the air. People gather at temples to sing and dance, expressing their love and devotion to the divine child. The Raas Leela, a traditional dance depicting Krishna’s playful interactions with the gopis (milkmaids), is performed in many regions.
Janmashtami is not just a celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth but also an opportunity for devotees to reflect on the spiritual teachings and wisdom imparted by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. His teachings on duty, righteousness, devotion, and the path to salvation continue to inspire and guide people in their lives.
No festival in India is complete without a sumptuous spread of traditional dishes. Various sweets and savories, especially Lord Krishna’s favorite, makhan (butter), are prepared as prasadam (offering to the deity) and distributed among devotees. Some popular dishes include makhan mishri, kheer, panjiri, and dhaniya panjiri.