Janmashtami, is the birthday of lord Krishna which is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country. It is believed that lord Vishnu reincarnated in the form of lord Krishna on the auspicious day of Janmashtami. The historical background of the birth of lord Krishna depicts the significance of this Hindu festival. Lord Krishna was born at midnight on the eighth day of Hindu lunar month, Shravana.
What’s the religious meaning of Janmashtami?
Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti or sometimes simply as Janmashtami, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
The festival is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shravan (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathura and Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa lila re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days, the Dahi Handi celebrate God’s playful and mischievous side, where teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. This tradition, also known as uriadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami. Krishna Janmashtami is followed by the festival Nandotsav, which celebrates the occasion when Nanda Baba distributed gifts to the community in honour of the birth.
Krishna was the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva. Based on scriptural details and astrological calculations, the date of Krishna’s birth, known as Janmashtami, is 18 July 3228 BCE and he lived until 18 February 3102 BCE. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas from Mathura, and was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
Mathura (in present day Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh) was the capital of the Yadavas, to which Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki belonged. King Kansa, Devaki’s brother, had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father, King Ugrasena. Afraid of a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki’s eighth son, Kansa had the couple locked in a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki’s apparent miscarriage of the seventh (which was actually a secret transfer of the infant to Rohini as Balarama), Krishna was born.
Following the birth, Vishnu ordered Vasudeva to take Krishna to Gokul to Nanda and Yashoda, where he could live safely, away from his Uncle Kansa. Vasudeva took Krishna with him and crossed the Yamuna to reach Gokul. There, everyone was asleep, So he quietly kept him there and returned with Yashoda’s daughter. Kansa, thinking her to be Devki’s eight child, threw her on a stone. But she rose into the air and transformed into Yogmaya (who is Vishnu’s helper) and warned Kansa about his death. Then, she disappeared. Krishna grew up in Gokul with his brother, Balram. He then returned to Mathura and killed Kansa with the help of Balram.
Who & Where Janmashtami Celebrated?
Janmashtami commemorates the earthly appearance of Krishna, who is described in India’s sacred writings as God Himself. One of the biggest religious festivals in the world, it is celebrated by nine hundred and thirty million people around the world and two million in the US alone. To devotees, it’s Christmas and New Year’s in one, a day of deep spiritual renewal and celebration that effectively finishes an old year and begins a fresh one.
Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting, worshipping Krishna and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna’s infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct readings of the Hindu religious scripture Bhagavad Gita.
What’s the significance of Janmashtami?
The verses in the Bhagavad-Gita (a sacred book narrated by Lord Vishnu) say, that whenever there will be predominance of evil and decline of religion, I will reincarnate to kill the evil and to save the good. The main significance of Janmashtami is to encourage goodwill and to discourage bad will. Krishna Jayanti also celebrates togetherness. The holy occasion brings people together, thus it signifies unity and faith.
The tale of Krishna’s birth is recited and remembered from temples and households. The story signifies the divine power of lord Krishna. Devotional songs are sung which are dedicated to lord Krishna. Cities all over India get into a trance like mode. People visit temples at night, joint their hands and bow their heads in front of Krishna’s idol with enormous faith.
A small cradle is placed with a miniature Krishna’s idol in it as a symbol of his birth. Devotees swing the cradle joyously and celebrate the arrival of Shri Krishna by reciting aarti (prayer) and bhajans. Devotees fast for the whole long day, they break their fast in the midnight or on the next day. The fast is usually a waterless fast. Fragrance of the flowers, soothing aroma of burning camphor and jingle of the temple bells fill the atmosphere with divinity.
Why Dahi Handi is celebrated?
Dahi Handi (pot of curd) is celebrated on the second day of Janmashtami. Shri Krishna, as a child was very naughty. He loved butter. He would steal butter prepared by the gopis. (young women in Gokul)When the gopis complained to his foster mother Devaki, she ran behind him with a stick in hand to punish him. She could not catch infant Krishna. She decided to tie him with a rope. Krishna allowed her to tie him as he knew that his mother loves him a lot. She did not punish him. She scolded Krishna and told him not to steal butter again. Krishna’s charismatic smile made her heart melt. She hugged little Krishna. Thus little Krishna got the name, Makhanchor (one who steals butter) due to this. Krishna is also fondly called as Devakinandan (Devaki’s son).
Dahi Handi is celebrated to mimic the stealing of butter by Krishna. An earthen pot containing butter, ghee (milk fat), dry fruits and milk is hung at a height with the help of a rope. Energetic men make a human pyramid and climb on each other to reach the pot and the break the pot. Later Dahikala (ingredients in the pot) is distributed among everyone. Dahi Handi celebration encourages working in a team, thus signifies the importance of team work.