Janamashtami is the festival to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. Krishna resides in the very heart of India. India, its history, its culture, its heritage, and Krishna can't be viewed separately from each other. Krishna has left his marks on the Indian culture like no other.
Every man in India grows listening to Krishna's stories. From his childhood tales to the liberating knowledge of Geeta, he has covered every aspect of humanity. Although he existed around 5,000 years ago, he is still equally relevant today. In order to understand Janmashtami, we need to understand Krishna first
Understanding Krishna: Krishna is a man who can't be bound within definitions. He has such a large personality that everything gets covered under it. He does not follow fixed patterns and responds to life with equal freshness each time. That is why he can't be tagged as morally 'good' or 'bad'. He does the unthinkable.
On one side, he is dancing with his 16,000 queens, while on another side, he is the greatest yogi. Sometimes, he acts childish, and it is also he, who has given the greatest source of knowledge to humanity, the Bhagwad Geeta. That is why Krishna has been extremely popular among the people. He did not exclude anyone by putting moral restrictions.
For a child, he is just a playmate, for a mother, he is a sweet child, for a girl, he is a brother, and for people like Arjuna, he is the mighty Krishna. That's the reason He is still remembered today by celebrating his birthday in a grand way known as the festival of Janmashtami.
Celebration of Janmashtami: According to the Hindu calendar, Janamashtami falls on the Ashtami of Krishna paksha in the month of Shravana or Bhadrapada. It generally overlaps with the month of August or September of the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as Krishna Janmashtami and Gokulashtami in many parts of India.
Janamashtami is one of the biggest Hindu festivals celebrated in India. This is a big occasion, especially for the people belonging to the Vaishnavism sect. Most Hindus celebrate this festival in different ways. Many people visit Krishna temples to offer their reverence to the lord. Many celebrate this festival by making a small decoration of toys and sweets for child Krishna.
At large, the festival is celebrated in different ways across India. These include some very unique and joyful ways, such as:
Dahi Handi: This way of celebration is mainly popular in the state of Maharashtra and neighboring areas. Dahi handi literally means earthen pots of yogurt. It is a very popular tale of how Krishna used to steal butter, yogurt, and other things from Gopis when He was a child. Gopis would hang earthen pots high above the ground so as to protect them from Krishna. But Krishna would come up with innovative ways to get what He wanted. He would form a human pyramid with His friends and reach the pots.
These stories were the reason Dahi Handi celebration became an integral part of the Janmashtami celebration. Dahi Handis are hung high above the ground using ropes. There are groups of young boys who are called Govindas. They visit these places and form up huge human pyramids to get the prize. This is a spectacle to watch. Being a very grand celebration, this is attended by many celebrities as well.
Raas Leela: Raas Leela is a part of the Krishna tradition where he dances with Radha and other Gopis dissolving into a very enchanting celebration. Raas Leela has been beautifully described in ancient texts such as Bhagavad Purana and Geeta Govinda. Above the general perception, Raas Leela is the celebration of feeling one with the divine.
Raas Leela is celebrated across various parts of India where young people are dressed up as Krishna and Gopis, and they form a mesmerizing aura of this festival. Sweets are also distributed among the devotees.
Recitation: It is a very common way of celebration for every festival in India. Scriptures related to the particular festival are recited in temples, at homes, and various other places. On the day of Janamashtami, texts such as Bhagavata Purana and Geeta are most commonly recited. Geeta Govinda is also recited by many people.
Fast and Devotional Offering: Devotion is the very heart of the Indian culture. The culture derives its wisdom and uniqueness from the virtue of devotion. Devotion isn't just limited to singing in the praise of the lord, or visiting temples. Devotion is the very quality of getting dissolved into the divine.
So, devotion for Krishna is very commonly seen on the occasion of Janmashtami. People keep fasts, offer devotional songs, visit temples, dance, and sing to celebrate their love for Krishna.
That's how Janmashtami is celebrated in many different ways in India. It is a very special occasion for the people of Vrindavan and Mathura, where Krishna spent most of his childhood. It is not only the people who celebrate Janmashtami, the whole city rejoices in ecstasy on this auspicious day. People from all over the world visit these cities on Janmashtami to have a glimpse of this delight.
Significance: The very significance of Janmashtami is to remember a man who should not be forgotten. He shows us the way of life and gives us teachings that will help us to touch the very source of existence.
The birth story of Lord Krishna is very tragic. He was born in the time of evil, of corruption, of suppression. He was born in a jail and was somehow carried to his foster parents the same night. It was prophesied that this child was going to be the reason for the end of evil, and the same thing happened eventually.
Krishna signifies the prevalence of Dharma over all. He was the only ray of light in the time of darkness. That's why Janamashtami becomes so relevant. It reminds us that truth can never be defeated. Janamashtami is the celebration of truth, of Dharma, of the eternal law that governs all.
Summary: Through his deeds and His life, Krishna has risen beyond the limited definition of a man. He has blessed humanity with His words that show us the very way of life. He designed the past of India, and so as the future ahead. That's why remembering Him is very important to remember our roots, our culture, and our wisdom.
That's why Janmashtami is such a grand festival across India. More than just a celebration, it is an opportunity to know Krishna, to experience the beatitude of His personality, to become one with him, the ultimate nature of the divine.