Janmashtami is a popular festival of the Hindus that revolves around the celebration of the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. This festival usually falls on August or September. In 2013, it is going to be celebrated on August 28th.
About Lord Krishna and Janmashtami History
Krishna is considered to be one of the most powerful incarnations of Vishnu who was born in this world to get rid of evil demons. Janmashtami history goes back to several thousands of years when Lord Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudevaa who were imprisoned by his maternal uncle Kamsa, the king of Mathura.
Lord Krishna’s Childhood Days
There are various stories of Lord Krishna, which speak about his feats during his childhood. According to one such story, Krishna had killed lady demon, Putna and various other demons like Trunavarta, Aristhasur, and Keshi. He’s also famous for killing Kaliya Nag in order to remove poison from the river Yamuna.
As a child, Krishna was mischievous and adept at stealing curd and butter and playing pranks with the girls of the village. He mesmerized the village girls and ladies with the music of his flute and his cosmic dances. He spent 3 years and 4 months of his childhood in Gokul after which he went to Vrindavan and stayed there until he was 6 years and 8 months old.
One of the most exciting stories about Krishna’s childhood is that he lifted the Govardhana hill with his finger so as to protect the villagers of Vrindavan from the rain caused by Lord Indra. Krishna then stayed in Nandagram for 10 years after which he returned to Mathura. Next, he killed Kamsa and freed his parents from the prison. He made Ugrasena the king of Mathura and completed his education during his stay there.
Lord Krishna as the King of Dwarka
Lord Krishna helped the Yadava chiefs get back their kingdom by gaining victory over the army of King Jarasandha of Magadha. This was the time when he built the city of Dwarka and shifted all his relatives and dear ones to that city. Krishna also fought the Nakasura and protected his kingdom from the demon. In this process, he freed 16,000 princesses from Nakasura and married all of them, as they had no place to go.
For several years, Lord Krishna stayed with the Pandavas and Kauravas of Hastinapur. He offered his forces to the Kauravas and agreed to be the charioteer of the Pandava warrior Arjuna during the battle of Kurukshetra. It was just before the war started that he delivered his famous speech to Arjuna. This speech forms the theory of the Nishkam Karma which means performing an action without any attachment. This theory is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, the holy scripture of the Hindus.
Lord Krishna returned to Dwarka after the battle of Kurukshetra ended. He stayed there for several years till he was shot by a hunter. Whether he was a human-being or an incarnation of God, he is said to have a deep impact on the Hindus. His teachings are being propagated by his devotees all around the world.
About Lord Krishna’s Teachings
Lord Krishna emphasized on the fact that one should get rid of emotional attachments, as they are considered as illusions or Maya. He believed that every living or non-living object born on Earth must be free from worldly things and they should submit to God. Lord Krishna gave emphasis on the benefit of meditation, as he felt that it was a way of looking into our inner selves. He also asked everyone to get rid of materialistic things in the world.
Lord Krishna stressed on the spread of love and peace. He wanted people to move along the path of righteousness (or Dharma) and good deeds in order to attain salvation. Lord Krishna also emphasized on the concept of Satsanga; thus, he advised people to remain in the company of sadhus.
Due to the profound impact he had on the Hindus, Lord Krishna is widely worshipped by one and all. His birthday is celebrated as the Janmashtami, which usually falls on the 8th day of the Krishna Paksha during the month of Bhadrapada in the Hindu calendar.
About Janmashtami Rituals
Below, you will find information about the rituals followed on Janmashtami.
The devotees of Lord Krishna observe a fast on Janmashtami until midnight when Lord Krishna was actually born. Some devotees prefer going for the Nirjal fast whereas others may restrict their food to fruits and milk products which Lord Krishna loved to savour. Know more about Janmashtami fast
before you decide to go for it.
A special highlight of Janmashtami is the ritual that includes chanting of mantras and shlokas describing the qualities and feats of Lord Krishna. An important ritual held during Janmashtami includes the chanting of 108 names of the Lord.
Preparation of sweets: On Janmashtami, the devotees prepare sweets and sweet recipes like pedha, kalakand, sesame pudding, and shrikhand. Since Lord Krishna was fond of milk and butter products, therefore, the devotees emphasize on offering such food items to the Lord.
Krishna bhajans and aarti: A special feature of Janmashtami is the singing of devotional songs or Krishna bhajans and dance performances by the devotees of the Lord. One of the most interesting Janmashtami rituals is the aarti that’s performed once the devotees complete the worship of their Lord. Find examples of the bhajans and aartis from our section on Janmashtami aarti and Krishna bhajans, and conduct them so as to invoke a spiritual feeling during the festival.
Staging of plays based on Krishna’s life: One of the most exciting events on Janmashtami is the "Rasa Lila" which comprises stage dramas enacted on the basis of Lord Krishna’s life. The "Rasa" depicts the flirtatious side of Krishna during his youth. These dramas are specially performed in Mathura and Vrindavan where Lord Krishna had stayed for a number of years.
Dahi Handi ceremony: This is one of the most popular Janmashtami rituals. The Dahi Handi ritual is performed as an act of remembrance of Lord Krishna’s love for milk and butter products. In his childhood, the Lord used to get into the houses of his neighbors to look for butter and other milk products.
In the Dahi Handi ceremony, the devotees of Lord Krishna fill an earthenware pot with fruits and milk products including butter. Then they suspend the pot from around 20 to 40 feet. The devotees form a human pyramid such that the person on the topmost position breaks the pot and claims the items in it. In most cases, the prize money is tied to the rope from which the pot is hung. The devotees forming the pyramid are usually allowed to divide this money among them.
Janmashtami brings joyous moments for the devotees of Lord Krishna. They have a great time offering prayers to the Lord, and indulge in festive celebrations on this special occasion.