Janmashtami – Birth of Lord Krishna (Makhan Chor)

”For one who has conquered his mind, a mind is best of friends, but for one who has failed to do so, a mind is the greatest enemy.” – Lord Krishna 

Lord Krishna also known as Madhusudan, Vasudeva, Govinda, Mukunda and Banke Bihari is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu born in Yadu dynasty in Dwapar Yug, almost 5000 years ago.The name “Krishna” originates from the Sanskrit word Krsna, which means “black”, “dark”, “dark blue” or “the all attractive”.Krishna is lovingly known as Makhan Chor because according to legends baby krishna used to seek and steal butter from other people’s houses in Gokul. Lord Krishna is an epitome of love,compassion and knowledge of Karma, Dharma amd Moksha. We,all Indians celebrate the festival of Janmashtami or Gokulashtami to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna in the month of Shravaan on the eigth day of Krishna Paksha.

Highlights of Janmashtami – The major attractions of the Janmashtami festival are dance-drama enactments (Raas Lila) of the life of Krishna, recitation of Bhagwad Gita and Bhagvata puran devotional bhajans singing through the midnight when lord Krishna was born, fasting, a night vigil (Jagaran), and a festival (Mahotsav) on the following day.  After Krishna’s midnight hour birth, statues of baby Krishna are washed and clothed, then placed in a cradle. The devotees then break their fast, by sharing food and sweets. Women draw tiny footprints outside their house doors and kitchen, walking towards their house, a symbolism for Krishna’s journey into their home. Krishna Janmashtami is followed by Nandotsav in Gokul.

Janmashtami celebration at my friend Bhavani ‘s house
Janmashtami @ home

North India – The festival is celebrated with umnatched zeal and fervour in Braj twin cities Mathura(birth place of Lord Krishna) and Vrindavan (childhood days spent here). Over 8 lakh devotees come to Mathura & Vrindavan every year to take part in the Janmashtami festival and to offer prayers and witness the grand celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna.The devotees decorate temples as well as their own homes with flowers and rangolis. The idols of Radha and Krishna are taken out from the altar and placed on the beautifully decorated swings. The swings are placed in courtyards, and aartis are offered. The lord is offered panchamrut and chappan Bhog (56 dishes).Rasleela, dance of Divine Love, is performed by various groups.The celebrations also consist of “Jhankee” which are clay modelled figures on display that depict various stages of Lord Krishna’s life.The festival is celebrated in two steps : Jhulanotsav and Ghatas. During Jhulanotsav, devotees placae lord Krishna on a decorated swing in their house as well as temples to mark his birth. The next day the lord is bathed and adorned with new clothes and ornaments. The next ceremony is illuminating the Krishna Janmasthan Temple complex and celebrating the festival with chanting pious mantras, ringing bells, conches and performing Ras leela. In Gokul, localites shower curd and turmeric on each other to celebrate Dadhikana and distribute sweets known as Nandotsav.

Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura
Radha Rani Prem Mandir Pic courtesy: Sushmita

Gujarat – Lord Krishna established his kingdom in Dwarka and therefore the Dwarkadhish temple is the main place of celebration. The whole city is drowned in joy and happiness, temples and streets are decorated with flowers and diyas. Local markets are open until the midnight .The festival day begins with :

  • Mangal Aarti – Performed at 7.00 a.m. Lord Krishna is offered ‘Banta Bhog’ [milk and milk products]. This is followed by cleansing of his face with water, brushing the idol’s teeth.
  • Abhishek or bath of Lord Krishna: The devotees are allowed to see Lord Krishna’s Abhishek [holy bath] with Panchamrut. Usually, this occurs between 8 – 10 am and that too only twice a year.
  • Adorning Lord Krishna [Shringar]: Temple is closed and Lord Krishna is adorned with clothes in Pitamber and ornaments like Chandanmala, Vyjantimala [garland] and Suparimala [Made of Betel nuts]. Also, Lord Krishna is adorned with Shankh [Conch], Discus [Chakra].
  • Darshan and Shringarbhog: The devotees take darshan of the Lord. After the darshans, again the curtains are drawn and Shringar Bhog [Sweetmeats] is offered to the Lord.
  • Shayan bhog and Shayan arti: During the evening Aarti, Lord is offered sweetmeats again. Also, the devotees are not allowed to have darshan of the Lord during this time. Around 9:00 pm, Lord Dwarkadhish goes to sleep. On Janmashtami, temple reopens around 10:30 pm for devotees to have darshan.
  • Janmashtami Celebrations: Lord Dwarkadhish is adorned with gold jewellery, diamonds and topaz at around 11:00 pm. Utsav Bhog is offered to God. Devotees rejoice from 12 to 2.00a.m and sing bhajans. The temple is closed and Mahabhog is offered to lord Krishna and the idol is kept in a cradle for devotees to take darshan.
Dwarkadhish temple in Dwarka

Rajasthan – In Nathdwar Lord Krishna is worshipped as Shreenathji manifesting a seven year old child.The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna is celebrated with the salute of cannons and guns at Nathdwara temple of Shrinathji. Shri Krishna Janmotsav is not celebrated as a public exhibition in the night, but on the second day by affirming ‘Nand Gher Anand Bhayo, Jai Kanhaiya Lal ki’ in presence of Tilakayat Maharaj Shree and his family, Brajvasi Sevakgan, Mukhiyaji and Lord Sreenathji by splattering curd and milk and dancing in front of Lord Shreenathji. In Jaipur, in Govind Devji temple krishna Puja is done at Nishita kaal by following sixteen steps called as Shadashopachar puja.

Lord shreenathji @nathdwar
Chappan bhog @nathdwar

East and Northeastern India– People of the east celebrate this festival by indulging in varied performances known as Borgeets (lyrical songs), Ankia Naat (one act plays), Sattriya (dance dramas) and Bhakti yoga introduced by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In manipur localites take part in performing and witnessing manipuri dance form as a part of the calebration in addition to fast and chantings. Children play the Likol Sannaba game in the Meetei Vaishnava community.In Odisha and West Bengal, the festival is called Sri Krishna Jayanti and is celebrated by fasting and reciting the tenth chapter of the Hindu scripture of Bhagavata Purana until midnight.

Sketch by Keshavi kashyap depicting manipur dance form
Ms.Ruparekhadas performing sattriya dance style of Assam

Maharashtra – People of Maharashtra call it Gokulashtami and celebrate it in a unique way by breaking Dahi Handi (earthen pots filled with yoghurt) by forming human pyramid.Youth groups form Govinda pathaks, which compete with each other to break the Dahi Handi and win the prize money on Janamashtami. Events are organized and attended by celebrities and well known personalities.

Dahi handi in Maharashtra

South India – The citizens of Karnataka have a tradition of performing the divine play called Rasleela, locally named as Vittal Pindi. Huli Vesha dancers perform attractive dances on streets and attract hordes of people. The major attractions of Shree Krishna Udupi matha are “Muddu Krishna” competition and carrying of clay idols in golden chariots around car street. In Andhra Pradesh localites relish savouries such as Chakodi, Murukku and Seedai after offering them to the image of Lord Krishna. In Tamil Nadu, people recite Bhagvad Gita and draw small footprints of a baby at the entrance of their house alongwith Kolam (rangoli designs using rice batter) to mark Krishna’s arrival to their abode and prepare Sweet Seedai, Verkadalai Urundai for the Lord. In Kerala,it is customary to visit the Guruvayur Temple and Bhuloka Vaikuntha located in Guruvayur town.The temple called Bhuloka Vaikuntha is believed to have the main idol of Krishna which has four arms carrying a lotus, the mace of Kaumodaki, Panchajanya(conch) and Sudarshan Chakra. Special dishes like Palpaysam and Appam are prepared and offered to the lord

Shri Krishna @ udupi Krishna matha
Vittalpindi pic courtesy :varun acharya
Vittalpindi pic courtesy : varun acharya

Hope you got a glimpse of how Janmashtami is celebrated all over India with utmost devotion. But this year in 2020 there were restrictions on visiting temples in huge number due to the pandemic situation all over…. But May Lord Krishna keep showering his blessings on one and all…. Jay Shree Krishna!!!

“Gokul mein hain jinka waas, gopiyon sang jo kare raas, Devaki -Yashoda jinke maiyya, aise hamare Krishna kanhaiyya”

Published by sujata pawnikar

Avid reader n blogger and a traveller by soul

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