One of the most famous festivals of India, Krishna Janmashtami, is the celebration of the birth of the Lord Krishna. The Krishna Janmashtami is also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, though there are several other names of Krishna Janmashtami but these are the most common ones.
The Krishna Janmashtami is observed with different rituals at different places. Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated on Ashtami tithi of the Hindu calendar. Celebrations include Rasa lila, which includes dramatically representation of the of the Lord Krishna.
Krishna Janmashtami has its special place because lord Krishna was believed to an incarnation of the supreme lord Vishnu. This festival is celebrated in North as well as in the south India.
The history of the Krishna Janmashtami is related to the time of Gods. It is a mythology of the Indian origin which states the birth of the Lord Krishna and the celebration of the Janmashtami.
The mythology starts in Mathura which at present is in Uttar Pradesh a. There used to be one dictatorial king Kamsa. Kamsa was a ruthless tyrant. People under his rule were never allowed to do anything by their own wish. He did not even leave his close ones.
Kamsa or popularly known as ‘Kans mama’, in order to attain all the power out threw his father and captured the throne. The whole city trembled under this despot king.
Kamsa had feelings of brotherly love inside him for his cousin Devaki. She was the only one for whom Kamsa or Kans mama cared. Soon after, Devaki’s marriage was arranged with King Vasudeva of Yadu. King Vasudeva was elected through a contest, in which he won. After the marriage rituals, a great sage named Narada came to Kamsa and foretold him that he, Kans, had in his fate to die from the hands of the 8th child of Devaki and Vasudeva.
Kamsa agreed to this but kept both of them under his eye in a prison. Soon they had their first child but as soon as it was born the guards told this news to the king, and the king Kansa himself came and thrashed the newly born child on the prison wall.
The same thing used to happen every time a child was born to Vasudeva and Devaki. This continued until the 8th child was born.
Birth Of lord Krishna
But the night the 8th child was born something miraculous happened. All the guards of the palace went into deep sleep. And as soon as the child was born a vice from the sky which told Vasudeva and Devaki to take their child to Gokul kingdom and exchange their child with the daughter of Yashoda.
After this the gates of the prison opened all by themselves and the shackles in which both of them were kept opened all by themselves.
Vasudeva did as he was ordered. On his way to Gokul he was supposed to cross the river Yamuna. As it was a rainy night the level of water in the river was higher than normal. Vasudeva kepth his child, Lord Krishna, in a basket and crossed the river. While crossing he was almost fully submerged in the river water but kept his child high up in his hands. While crossing he even saw a huge snake but was assured as he remembered the voice from the sky.
He then exchanged his child and went back to his prison with the girl child of Yashoda. When guards saw the child they reported the King. Kans came and as usual tried to trash the child on the wall but when he did the girl child converted into a goddess and scolded Kans that his end was near and the miracle child was born and was safe at some other place. After listening to this Kamas or the Kans mama went mad with anger and ordered his guards to find the child.
This story of the birth of the Lord Krishana is recalled every year at every place where the festival of Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated.
Celebration of Krishna Janmashtami
Every place has its own way to celebrate this festival.
Janmaashtami is called as Dahi Handi in Mumbai and Pune. The Krishna Janmashtami over here is celebrated with a huge fervor and passion. The handi (dahi handi) is basically a vessel full of buttermilk. This vessel is tied on a rope high above the ground.
Now on the day of the Krishna Janmashtami or the Dahi Handi festival, the boys of the locality together form a man pyramid, in order to reach till the height of the dahi handi and then the topmost person breaks the handi with a coconut as coconut is considered holy in the Indian Mythology, then the buttermilk (dahi) is dripped over the whole man pyramid.
The group of the man pyramid is called as Govinda Pathaks. There are several Govinda Pathaks groups within a city; all of them compete with each other as there is a competition of how many handis would a group break.
The place of the birth of the Lord Krishna – Uttar Pradesh or Mathura celebrates the festival with a lot of zeal. The place where Lord Krishna used to play in their childhood, the Gokul and the Vrindavan receives the maximum crowd during this festival.
The celebration of the festival lasts for more than a week. This preparations for this celebration of the festival starts a week before the festival. People from different places come to visit and become a part of the Krishna Janmashtami.
As the lord Krishna is much revered in Gujarat, many people keep the idol of the Lord Krishna within their houses and celebrate the Krishna Janmashtami with their family members.
Jammu celebrates this festival with a special touch. Kite flying is considered as an auspicious omen on the day of the Krishna Janmashtami. Apart from kite flying, special dishes are also made on this day and are rejoiced by all.
North East and West Bengal
In the eastern states like the Orissa, West Bengal and Puri public rejoices this festival with high rituals. People go on fasting and do puja at midnight (as the Lord Krishna was born on the stroke of Midnight).
The next day to the Puja is known as Nanda Utsav. On this day Nanda Maharaj and the Yashoda Maharaani are revered and the fast is broken after eating something sweet.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
In Karnataka special preparations for this festival are done in advance. The idol of the Lord Krishna is uniquely adorned with special clothes and ornaments. ‘Bhakshanam’, a special dish is made and offered to the Lord as it is considered to be the Lord’s beloved food. Fruit salad is also served along with this.
Even other food which has been stated in the scripts is served to the Lord Krishana. Like avalakki, which Sudhama (Krishna’s friend) and Krishana used to eat together.
In today’s Era
The festival has its same culture even in today’s era. Time has just changed the way of celebrating.
Like earlier the people of a particular locality themselves used to break the dahi handi, which now the Govinda Pathaks break.
This festival now marks the presence of the Indian mythology, which now seems too lost in the huge crowds of this new generation.
Now the breaking of the handis has become more of a social political event. Most of the political parties keep rewards upon the breaking of the Handis which is moving the essence of this festival from heartily zeal towards money.
In some places the whole event is organized by the political parties. Due to all this the whole charm of the festival is fading.
List of Krishna Janmashtami Bhajans
- Itna to Karna Swami by Shri Anup Jalota with lyrics in English and Hindi
- Govinda Hare Gopal Hare with Hindi and English lyrics and Guitar chords
- Jag me sunder hai do naam chahe Krishna kaho ya Ram by Shri Anup Jalota
- Kaun Kehate hai Bhagwan Ate Nahin sung by Vikram Hazra of art of living
- Badi der bhei Nandlala – from the Hindi movie ‘ Khandan’. the song is sung by Legendary singer Mohammad Rafi
- Gopala Krishna – George Harrison
- Sabse uchi prema Sagai sung by sung by Sri Swami Vishwananda and Jagjit Singh
- Hare Krishna Hare Rama by chiniwillly