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Krishna Janmashtami — also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti or sometimes simply as Janmashtami, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Sri Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Janmashtami commemorates the earthly appearance of Shri Krishna.
The festival is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm on the Ashtami (eighth day) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Bhadrapada (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. The actual celebration of Janmashtami takes place during the midnight as Sri Krishna is believed to be born on a dark, stormy and windy night. On this day temples and homes are wonderfully decorated and illuminated.
About Sri Krishna
The name Krishna—”the all-attractive one”—indicates the unequaled charm and beauty of the Supreme Person, as he appears to his devotees. Sri Krishna was born in Mathura in the prison around 5,200 years ago.
His father Vasudev immediately thought of his friend Nand and decided to hand over Krishna to save him from the clutch of Kansa (Krishna’s Maternal Uncle). Krishna grew up in Gokul and as destined finally killed King Kansa.
Sri Krishna played an important role in Mahabharata and propagated the theory of bhakti and good karma which is narrated deeply in the Bhagavad Gita.
How is Janmashtami Celebrated
Three places, Vrindavan, Mathura, and Dwarka are important places of significance for Krishna devotees. In these places, plays are organized where people enact scenes from Krishna’s childhood days and Mahabharata. This is popularly known as Rasleela. Janmashtami is celebrated with great gusto and fervor in these cities.
As a child, Sri Krishna was very naughty and chaste. He was very fond of butter. On the occasion of Janmashtami, people in Maharashtra enact incidents from Krishna’s childhood by placing an earthen pot high above the ground and then forming a human pyramid to try and break it. Many youngsters participate in this activity with great enthusiasm. This ritual of breaking the pot is known as Dahi-Handi.
In Udupi, Karnataka at Sri Krishna Mutt Janmashtami festival is celebrated with traditional pomp. Children dressed like young Sri Krishna come from all over Tulu Nadu region to participate in “Muddu Krishna” competition. On the stage, the children imitate the childhood pranks of Sri Krishna to devotional songs being played in the background.
One of the attractions of the festival is the ‘Huli Vesha’ (Tiger Mask). Typically, young males form troops of five to ten members, who are painted and costumed to look like tigers. These troops roam around the streets of their towns, and perform vigorous dancing accompanied by drum beats of their bands.
Krishna Janmashtami Puja
Many people conduct puja at midnight itself. In many houses in South India, people draw footsteps of Sri Krishna from the entrance of the house to the puja room. These footsteps are drawn with rice flour paste and drawing these footsteps is a sign of welcoming Sri Krishna home.
The puja preparation begins early in the morning with devotees giving a bath or abhisheka to Sri Krishna’s idol with Ganga Jal, ghee, water, honey, and curd. The idol is then adorned with new clothes (preferably in yellow color) and precious jewelry. Next, the idol of the lord is offered bhog. The contents of bhog may vary. It includes fruits, kheer, pedha, milk, and milk products. There are people who offer Chappan Bhog (56 dishes) to Sri Krishna.
Then, special Shri Krishna puja is performed. The cradle containing the divine infant’s idol is rocked, conch is blown. Devotees sing Sri Krishna aarti, some people chant 108 names of the lord. They get totally immersed in the name and praise of Sri Krishna.
A lot of bhajan singing, hymn chanting and pujas are performed this day. Functions and prayer meetings are organized to share the glory of their favorite God. Devotees queue all the major Krishna temples to seek his blessings. They keep the day long fast. After the entire puja is over, devotees break their fast by having Panchamrit.