Janmashtami or Krishna Ashtami is a Hindu festival celebrated in India with great fervour. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Krishna. He 9th reincarnation of Lord Vishnu (The Preserver). In South India, this festival is called as Gokulashtami. Other names of the festival are Saatam Aatham, Krishnashtami, Srikrishna Jayanti, and Ashtama Rohini. Janamashtami is the most popular name of the above.
The festival comes in the month of Shravan i.e. August – September in the Hindu Calendar. The festival is celebrated on the 8th day (Ashtami) of Krishna Paksha. It is dark fortnight period of the lunar month. Many celebratory and Dramatic enactments of events from the life of Lord Krishna take place. The most famous celebrations occur in the regions of Mathura and Vrindavan in state of Uttar Pradesh and in some areas of Manipur where Vaishnavism is Popular.
- Dahi Handi – It is most popular in state of Maharashtra. This celebration is based on depictions of Child god Krishna’s playful and Mischievous side. According to legend, Krishna used to make Human Pyramid with his friends to reach the ceilings of the neighbourhood houses in order to break the earthen pot and steal curd and butter. Similar enactment is done in the Dahi Handi event where participants called Govindas Make a human Tower to reach a Earthen Pot set a Difficult height and Break it to get the curd flowing.
- Rasa Lila (Raas Leela )- this is celebration most famous in Mathura and Vrindavan. It is a sort of dance and play combinations and described in various Hindu texts and Dance of divine love. It is said that during the night Lord Krishna used to play the Flute which sort of enchanted the Cowherd girls to wake up and sneak out of their houses and dance with young Lord Krishna during the night. Enactments of such Music and dance events take place on the Janmashtami.
- Fast unto Midnight– The birthday of Krishna is celebrated by fasting and offering prayers. Devotees visit various temples. Temples are beautifully lit and devotional songs and prayers are offered to Lord Continuously during the day and well into the Night. Midnight is considered as the time that marks the birth of Krishna. Hindus offer Prayers, and Finally break the fast by eating together sweets and fruits. Infant Krishna Idols are setup in cradles and even little infants are dressed up as Krishna and revered. Food, sweets distribution and Gifts are being given well into the night.
Janmashtami’s Cultural Significance
It is not a just like another festival. It was prophesized that when evil will increase in the world, then Lord Vishnu will come on the earth as incarnation and rid us of evil. According to Hindu mythology, he was exchanged with the baby girl child of Yashoda and Nanda. This was done to save him from the clutches of his maternal uncle Kansa who was determined to kill the Lord at the time of his birth. Hence, Kansa had also imprisoned his sister and brother-in-law. After Growing up, Lord Krishna killed Kansa and saved Mathura.
From that time onwards, people celebrate every year birthday of the Krishna. It is said that when the God was born, there was turmoil in the nature to symbolize the fury and turmoil in the city of Mathura as well as in every heart. This also signifies that Divine power had come on earth to relieve everyone.
The City itself comes alive on the eve of Janmashtami. Tall towering structures of the temples are amazingly lit. Colourful patterns of lights and soothing devotional music is an experience like no other. Huge groups of people dancing in unison and singing songs removes all fear and automatically you will want to be a part of it. The birthday celebration at midnight is broadcasted live from various Historic temples on TV and Internet.
Janamashtami Celebration outside India
Pakistan- Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Karachi, Pakistan is the place to be if you are a hindu and residing in Pakistan. Singing of songs from the life of Krishna and Holy Sermons throughout the day are sung by the Pakistani Hindus.
Bangladesh- Janmashtami is a national holiday in Bangladesh. Dhakeshwari temple at Dhaka, is national temple of Bangladesh. The Procession starts from this temple and Proceeds through streets of old Dhaka.
Nepal- about 80% (Percent) of nepali are hindus and celebrate Krishna janmashtami. They also take a fast till midnight and religious songs called bhajans and kirtans are Sung or played. Narayanhiti Krishna Mandir at patan Darbar Square is famous for nepali style Janmashtami festivities.
Fiji- One fourth of Fiji Population are Hindus and janmashtami is called as Krishna Ashtami there. The Celebration starts 8 days before the birthday of Lord Krishna. Hindus gather in the evening to make groups and sing devotional songs and read from the ancient scriptures like Bhagwat Purana.
United States of America -Janet Napolitano the Governor of Arizona, U.S. became the first Elected Government Official to Proclaim the Janmashtami. She Declared The Festival on September 4,2007 As the Shri Krishna Janmashtami Day.
Iconic Indian Temples Celebrating Janmashtami – 2016
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