Historians calculate that the birth of Lord Krishna to around 3227 BC. He was born on a dark, stormy night, on the eighth day of the second fortnight of the month of Shravana which now corresponds to the month of August-September. Lord Krishna was declared to be the savior of mankind and the end of Kansa. Even before his birth, Krishna, right from the day of birth exhibited that he was a special child and he had extraordinary powers. Throughout his childhood and adolescence in Gokul, he did many things which made people believe that he was a form of God. Since then, the people of Nandgaon or Mathura celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna.
The celebration goes on for two days. On the first day, the Raslila (dance drama) is performed, which depicts the important phases of Shri Krishna’s life. The merrymaking reaches its peak at midnight when aarti is performed and bhajans are sung to praise the Lord. Small children are dressed, as the young Krishna and his playmate Radha. Then there are folklores and stories which are recited or enacted on the occasion, they are generally connected to the history of Janmashtami. The grandeur of the decoration of Janmashtami at Dwaraka Dheesh temple in Mathura is worth watching.
Krishna was born as the savior of religion and promoter of mankind on earth. Thus, unlike other Gods, Lord Krishna became more of a friend and guide to most of his devotees. He in his life time also emerged as a promoter of brotherhood and friendship owing to his relation with Arjuna. Devotees of Krishna thus regard him as the ultimate deity, a god in all forms and commemorate his earthy presence by the celebration of Janmashtami . On this day, the fasting and feasting in their homes go hand in hand. During the two days celebration in the Janmostva of Krishna, they decorate their house and temples with flowers and decorate the cradle of the Lord. The statue of Lord Krishna and his cradle is decorated. The statue is bathed in panchamrit (honey, gangajal and ghee) and new bright clothes and garlands are put on lord Krishna. The cradle of Krishna is decorated with marigold and rose flowers.
Some popular Rangoli motifs like peacocks, swans, mango, flowers or creepers are drawn in the houses to welcome the lord and celebrate his birth. Traditionally, the natural dyes derived from barks of trees and leaves were used for rangoli. Today, rice flour, turmeric powder and red vermilion are also used to draw the rangoli motifs. People keep their house and premises clean, decorate the place with flowers and draw his footsteps, using rice flour, at the entrance of their house. The footsteps are considered complete, only when they are complemented by a beautiful kolam or rangoli.
Special puja is conducted at Lord Krishna temples on Janmashtami. The puja for the festival usually begins early in the morning, when a sacred bath is given to the idol of baby Krishna, using the holy water of Hindus – Ganga jal (water collected from River Ganga). After bathing, the idol is adorned with new clothes, that are bought especially for the auspicious occasion. The temples are illuminated with diyas, while the devotees chant mantras and sing bhajans, praising Lord Krishna. Next, the idol is swung in a cradle and conches are blown. When the entire pooja is over, the devotees break their fast by having ‘panchamrit’. Thereafter, the prasad is distributed among the devotees. Lord Krishna’s birth is celebrated by fasting and feasting. People believe Krishna to be the ultimate savior of the world. One who unlike other gods, can be regarded, as a lover, friend or divine guru. Singing and dancing in the name of Krishna, is heard, on the day of Janmashtami.
Kansa, was a mighty prince of Mathura. His father Ugrasen had chosen Vasudev, a high ranking official in his army as the groom for his daughter, Devki (Kansa’s sister). A very happy, Kansa arranges the wedding of his only sister. One day while riding along with Devki and Vasudev, a heavenly voice interrupted their journey with life changing words for the couple that their eighth son would kill Kansa. Hearing this Kansa was aghast, he ordered the imprisonment of the newly wed couple. When his father objected to this, he also put him behind bars. He became the king of Mathura, he kept beheading all the babies, as they were born. The time came for the eighth baby to be born. A heavenly voice instructed Vasudev to take the new born to Gokul and exchange it with the newborn of Yashoda and Nanda.
When Lord Krishna was born, the guards fell asleep, they were not able to inform their master about his birth. It is said that the gates opened miraculously and he carried the newborn in a basket and traveled through the stormy waters of the Yamuna. A huge snake Adisesha, with 2000 hoods protected them till Gokul and he was able to return with a newborn(Yashoda’s). The gates opened , he returned before the guards woke up. The guards informed Kansa about the birth of the eighth child. As Kansa was about to kill the child, she slipped out of his hands and appeared as a Goddess and declared that the eighth child is safe much to the horror of Kansa.
Lord Krishna grew up at Gokul as a mischievous prankster who was the heartbeat of Gokul and the favourite of the Gopikas. He grew up as a lovable brat, who played around mischievously and looted fresh Makhan (homemade butter) from every household of Gokul. Year by year, people in Mathura, Gokul and elsewhere in India celebrate the birth of the favorite deity – Lord Krishna on the eighth day (asthami) of Savan month and it is known as Janmashtami or Krishnashtami. People indulge in making delicious food to savor on, after worshipping Lord Krishna. Sweets and desserts are the most preferred dishes, the celebration is full of joy as it was celebrated thousand of years ago.
Image Courtesy :