In the Hindu month of Bhadrupada, at the stroke of midnight on the eighth day after full moon (Krishnapaksha Ashtami), Devaki and Vaasudevi had their eighth baby. That baby, the eighth incarnation among the Dashavataras of Lord Vishnu, grew up to be one of the most loved, the most adorable and an extremely enchanting character in Indian mythology. We know that baby, who went on to narrate the Bhagvat Gita, by numerous names – Krishna, Gopal, Giridhar, Govinda, Janardhan and Madhusudhan, among others. Every year, on the auspicious day of Bhadrupada Ashtami, the birth of this baby is celebrated as the festival of Janmashtami.
Janmashtami is celebrated with much pomp and festivities in different parts of the countries. Cities, towns and villages come alive with prayers, ras leela, Dahi Handi competitions, a riot of colours, delicious food, music and dancing. Although every part of India has its own way of celebrating this festival, the energetic festive spirit and the element of fun that this festival brings is the same everywhere.
In Maharashtra, for instance, people form human pyramids by standing over one another and try to break a pot filled with buttermilk positioned high up in the air. Competitions are held and the group that breaks the pot first is declared the winner. In Manipur, traditional dancers perform the Ras Leela dance and celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna.
In Kerala, Janmashtami is known as Ashtami Rohini. Girls perform a special dance called Kaikottikkali, which is somewhat similar to dandiya ras performed in the north and west. The sacred Guruvayur temple comes alive with beats of drums and traditional Kerala music. Traditional sweets such as palpayasam are prepared because they are considered to be Krishna’s favourite. In many places of south India, homes are decorated with small footprints drawn with rice flour. These small footprints symbolise Lord Krishna walking into homes and blessing the residents.
Kite flying is one of the important rituals practiced by the people in Dwaraka, a city in the current Gujarat and a kingdom believed to have been established by the Lord himself. In Odisha, Janmashtami is a two day long festival, beginning from ashtami. On the first day, people observe fast and await the birth of Krishna at midnight. The second day, called Nanda Utsav, is dedicated to Nanda and Yashoda, the foster parents of Lord Krishna. This day is all about feasting and merrymaking. In Karnataka, people prepare a variety of foods from flattened rice (poha) and offer them to the Lord.
In Vrindavan, the place where Krishna grew up, dancers perform beautiful Ras Leela dances depicting Krishna playing pranks with the gopikas of his village, fighting demons and dancing on the seven hooded serpent Kalia.
In celebration of baby Krishna’s birth, people in the northern parts of the country make small cradles, decorate them with flowers and place a small idol of Krishna in it. They rock the cradle and sing songs praising the lord and narrating the many naughty things he did in his childhood.
Lord Krishna did great things in his lifetime on earth. On Janmashtami, it is time to relive those moments, be naughty and have a lot of fun. So, set your diet plans aside and gorge on the butter and sweets as the Lord celebrates his eternal birthday on the 28th of August this year. More importantly, let us understand what he preached and live a life of better quality.