Janmashtami festival is the annual celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. It is also called Krishna Janmashtami, Gokulashtami, Sri Krishna Jayanti, Ashtami Rohini and Sree Jayanti. Lord Krishna was the eighth incarnations of Lord Vishnu and eighth children of Devaki and Vasudeva. It is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the dark fortnight of Shravan. The Hindu calendar observes the birthday of Sri Krishna in August or September. The period in which Krishna was born is known as Dwapar Yug (era). The Hindu scriptures state the birth date as 19 July 3228 BCE. The birthplace of Krishna is the present day Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
Legend of Janmashtami
Krishna was born in the Yadavas clan who were the rulers of the Mathura. His grandfather was King Ugrasena who was removed from the throne by his own son, Kansa. Krishna's mother, Devaki was Kansa's sister who was married to Vasudeva. Kansa was very cruel to his subject. One day God appeared in his dream and predicted that he will die at the hands of the eighth son of Devaki. Fearing for his life, he imprisoned the couple and killed the first six children born to Devaki. The seventh child was transferred to into the womb of Rohini, the first wife of Vasudeva. When the eighth child appeared as Krishna, a voice from the heaven guided Vasudeva in taking the child to Gokula where he was raised by Yasoda.
The birth of Krishna was the period that brought joy and happiness. The period also marked the ending of demons. Peace was restored and people were happy. Hence, Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated world over by Hindus.
Krishna was born on the dark and rainy night in Rohini Nakshatra. The day itself is very auspicious and on that, the birth of the Lord calls it for a grand festival. The celebration starts from the midnight as the time of birth of Krishna in the Hindu scripture is stated the same. Hence, it is observed for two days as Krishnashtami and Kalashtmi. Temples all over the country are decorated few weeks before to welcome Krishna. There is a great flood of devotion for these two days. Joy and happiness are flowing inside the body of the admirers of Krishna.
The birthplace of Krishna, Mathura appears like a city read or heard in a fairy tale. The entire city is decked up with colourful artifacts and decorative items. People even refurbish their homes for the festival. Before heading to the temple, people take a bath. Since Krishna was born in the midnight, devotees start assembling in temples from the evening itself.
Priests in the temple perform abhishek and bathe the idol of Krishna with paanchamrit. This ingredients included in the bathing ceremony include Gangajal, (water from the holy river, Ganges), ghee (clarified butter), honey, curd and unboiled milk. A cradle is decorated with flowers. The idol is adorned with new clothes and jewelry and then kept in the cradle. People gently push it to swing like done for infant babies. Offerings are made in the forms of fruits, sweets, and kheer to the lord. The priests conduct regular chanting of mantra and aarti.
The second day of Janmashtami is celebrated to remember the naughty side of Krishna. In his childhood, Krishna was a notorious person who used to steal curd and butter from homes. He even used to tease gopikas (young girls) and trouble them by breaking their water pot by hurling a stone through a 'Y-shaped' instrument small enough to fix in palm. To depict this funny and mischievous nature, young men form groups to break the matki (pot) hanged at the top. The handi is an earthen pot filled with buttermilk. The groups are called as Govinda Pathak.
This ceremony is particularly famous among youngster and in Mumbai and Pune. The fame of this festival is so high, that many political parties join in to make it a grand event. Celebrities from film, sports and TV are invited as guests to pull the crowd. A hefty reward is kept for breaking the handi, which fuels the competition. Each Govinda Pathak forms a human tower and tries to break it in the first attempt. The person on the top of the tower carries a coconut to break the matki.
Janmashtami is popular in all the states of India. Prayers, devotional renditions, procession of the idol are the common sights during this festival. People come out of their hectic schedule and enjoy both the days dedicated for the birth of Lord Krishna.