[caption id="attachment_1745" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="ISKCON - Sri Sri Radha Govind Temple, Hare Krishna Movement in Nipaniya Village, MR 10, Devas Bypass Road."][/caption]
The festival of Janmashtami marks the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the eighth and the most incandescent incarnation of Lord Vishnu among all incarnations and is being celebrated all over the country with lot of vigor, splendor and vitality. The festival occurs on the 'Rohini' nakshatram (star) on eight or Ashtami day of the dark half (Krishna Paksha) in the Bhadrapada month according to the Hindu calendar mostly coinciding with the rainy season. In the English or Christian calendar, this festival comes between August and September. Popularly known as Sri Krishna Jayanthi, it is one of the most important Hindu festivals and the god, Sri Krishna is worshipped in all Hindu homes. In different parts of the country, the festival is also known as Ashtami Rohini, Gokulashtami, Krishnashtami and Janmashtami.
The Birth of Lord Krishna
Lord Krishna was born to King Vasudeva and Devaki Devi more than 5000 years ago in the 28th year of ‘Dwapar Yug’. The Lord was born on a rainy and stormy night and every year some rain falls around the midnight on the day of Janamashtmi signifying the birth of Lord Krishna. Most of the Hindu festivals revolve around the theory of “the good always wins over the evil”. Krishna’s ‘mama’ or maternal uncle was a cruel king and known as “Kansa” who troubled the whole of the village. Sri Krishna came to give an end to the troublesome and evil Kansa. Kansa was destined to be killed by Lord Krishna and therefore he captured his sister, ‘Devaki’ and brother in law, ‘Vasudeva’ in many locks. At the time of the birth of Sri Krishna or the eight child, every guarding person slept in great sleep and all the door locks automatically got opened. His father, Vasudeva took Sri Krishna into a cradle and over his head and left the child in the home of his friend Nand and Yashoda in Gokula for his safety.
An idol or a picture of Lord Krishna can be seen having a flute in hand. In South India, women draw patterns of little children's feet outside the homes to symbolize Little Krishna coming inside the homes to bless. Sweets like the laddoos and milk products like payasam or kheer and butter are made and offered to Sri Krishna during this occasion. North Indian people worship the leaves of Ashoka tree and the lord is offered puri and halwa to eat in the morning.
Fasting and prayers
Many men and women observe fast on the previous day (Saptami, seventh day) and broken only at midnight, the time when Sri Krishna is believed to have been born. Prayers and songs are recited in praise of Lord Krishna during this festival. The major attractions can be seen at the birth place of Lord Krishna, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, and Dwarka, in Gujarat, the kingdom founded by Lord Krishna, where people celebrate Janamashtmi with great pomp and gaiety, special spiritual gatherings are organized at this time of the year, devotees can be seen singing and dancing in praise of Lord Krishna and pilgrims from not only India but the whole world come to attend these festive spiritual gatherings.
Bathing of Sri Krishna’s idol
[caption id="attachment_1746" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Photograph of Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple (Spanish Fork)."][/caption]
At midnight, the infant Krishna’s idol is bathed with milk, curd, butter, honey, tulsi leaves, and water from the holy and sacred river Ganga. The idol is placed in a cradle and worshipped by the people. They religiously chant “Radhe Krishna, Hare Krishna, Radhe Radhe”. Long queues can be seen outside the temples across India as people visit the temples with their families on this day. The famous Sri Krishna temples in South India are Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayur, Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi and ISKON temples and the famous ones in the North India are the temples of Mathura and Brindavan or Vrindavan.
Breaking of Dahi-Handis
The "Dahi-Handi" custom also celebrated at some places. Many people participate in the custom and large crowds can be seen coming and witnessing. Various Handis or clay pots are set high up by means of a rope and groups of young people often called as Govindas climb up forming human pyramids for breaking the Handis consisting of milk and dahi. Different groups of Govindas compete with each other in breaking the handis carrying heavy rewards and as they climb up to break the handis, women from houses around, throw water on them. This event is observed and celebrated in Mumbai and other cities of Maharashtra.
Sri Krishna and Sri Radha
In Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna is the only god that has been associated with so many romantic tales or the ‘ras leelas’. ‘Ras lilas’ and the various incidents in the life of the god are shown to the people through jhankis or different faces of Lord Krishna with other people through public participation. Children are dressed in traditional costumes as Sri Krishna, Sudama( fast friend of the god), Radha etc. and give a performance for the audience around the temples. Lord Krishna loved a girl from ‘Barsana village in Uttar Pradesh known as “Radha” who is also worshipped with the Lord. He is also called fondly with love by names such as sawanla(black complexion), kanha, kanhaiya, kishen, krishna, nandalal, shyam, mohan, madan, gopinath, gopal or gopala, giridhar, muralidhar etc. Since childhood, butter, was Sri Krishna's favorite food item and he used to steal the butter from different homes with all his friendmates. Lord Krishna used to play on the banks of the river Yamuna during his childhood and make pranks and tricks with his friends.
Sri Krishna on Bhagavad Gita
Lord Krishna gave to the world the truthful verses in the form of “Bhagavad Gita”, the divine discourse of Lord Krishna given to Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra which consists of the highly acclaimed morals of the human beings. Bhagvad Gita is the sacred and holy book of the Hindus.
In the Gita, the Lord has ordained:
"Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharat;
Dharma sansthaapanaarthaaya sambhaavami yuge yuge."
i.e. the god incarnate whenever Dharma declines and evil dominates, to establish Dharma and destroy the evil.
Chanting of Hare Krishna
People in day to day life chant “Hare Krishna” or “Hare Krsna” with great devotion to remember the god. The Janmashtmi festival is also celebrated outside of India because of the strong efforts of the devotees and different organizations.