Janmashtami Festival – Krishna Birthday
Gokulashtami, dahi handi festival
Janmashtami or as it is popularly known, Shri Krishna Janmashtami; is the celebration of Bhagwan Vishnu’s eight incarnation’s arrival to the mortal world, as Krishna. At midnight, on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadrapada (August-September), Bhagwan Krishna was born in the Rohini Nakshatra (The twelve zodiac signs are divided into 27 Nakshatras in Vedic Astrology based on the movement of the Moon through them). Along with Shri Ram, Shri Krishna is revered as the Purna Avataar (when Narayan descents in his complete form, rather than sending his ansh or element/fraction) of Bhagwan Vishnu.
The meaning of the word Krishna is, one with dark skin. Shri Krishna is often depicted as peacock-blue in complexion as well. His other names are Shyam (one with dark skin), Murlidhar (one with a flute), Gopal (protector of cows), Vaasudev (son of Vasudev), Dwarkadhish (Lord of Dwarka kingdom), Govinda (Lord of cows), Jagannath(Lord of the whole world), Murari (enemy of demon Mura) and many more.
The story of Krishnavtaram is set during the last stage of Dwapar Yug. With Kali Yug approaching closer, mankind was more falling towards lewdness. Values & morals were compromised for short term benefits. Mother Earth was appalled by the number of sins that were being committed on her surface. She went to Brahma and described her agony pleading him for help; it wasn’t even Kali Yug and her inhabitants were falling prey to adharma. Brahma, after listening to her, approached Bhagwan Vishnu describing the early fall of man. Narayan rest assured Brahma that he would soon incarnate on Earth and will eradicate Adharm from its surface.
Situations were taking shape accordingly; the kingdom of Mathura was going through transition. The righteous king Ugrasena had now grown old, his son Kansa was looked upon as the prospective king. But he was everything opposite to his father; evil, arrogant and oppressive he was a real threat to humanity. But he cared for his sister Devaki very much. Ugrasena decided to marry his dear daughter with Vasudev. Kansa himself became the charioteer to drop Vasudev & Devki. Suddenly, the clouds thundered and a divine prophecy proclaimed that Vasudeva’s eighth son would kill Kansa. To protect himself, Kansa rushed to kill his sister.
Vasudev shielded Devki and promised Kansa that he will hand over all his children to Kansa. Kansa put his brother-in-law and sister in prison. He also put his father, King Ugrasen in prison and declared himself the new king. Kansa killed all the six infants of Vasudev & Devki as soon as they were born.
The seventh child (Balram) was saved due to divine intervention, when he was transferred from Devki’s womb to that of Rohini’s (other wife of Vasudev).
Soon Devki conceived her eighth child, everything around was imbued with benevolence and majestic beauty. Lord Krishna was born in the divine form with lotus like eyes, his palms bearing the signs of a lotus, while his sole has a swastika sign. He was adorned with jewels and was wearing a crown. Just as he was born at midnight, a chain of events astonished Vasudev, when he saw the gates of the cell flow open and all the guards fast asleep. He immediately thought of Nand, his close friend in Gokul and decided to hand over his child to him in order to save him from the clutch of Kansa. Crossing the River Yamuna, Vasudev reached Nand’s residence and exchanged his son with Nand’s daughter.
Upon reaching the prison, the door got locked behind him and he was chained again as if nothing happened in between. The guards also woke up and after hearing the cry of the baby, informed Kansa about the birth of the eighth child. Just as Kansa rushed to kill the baby, it slipped out of his hand and flew towards the sky, proclaiming that the annihilator of Kansa was born and was safe. Soon, at the destined time, Kansa was eliminated by Shri Krishn and Ugrasen was re-installed as the king of Mathura.
Vasudev and Devki see Krishna’s divine form (Roop) in Jail
Every time the earth is burdened by evil forces, Bhagwan Vishnu descends onto it in a divine incarnation to save the earth and its residents from these very forces. Thus the main objective of Lord Krishn’s birth was to free Mother Earth from this wickedness of demons. These are demons that we find in our everyday life as well and not some mythical creatures. These are the demons of the vices of greed and of selfishness. Lord Krishn also played a very important part in The Mahabharata war (legendary battle in Kurukshetra), where he gave Arjun (one of the five Pandav brothers, who was the finest archer) the divine sermon of the Gita and shows him his divine form called the Viraat Swaroop (the ultimate form of God).
“Whenever the balance of the universe is disturbed by external interference from any of its parts, I reveal myself, as the power of eternal balancing. For the protection of those who are in harmony, and the rectification of everything disharmonious, I incarnate at every juncture of time.”
“यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत।
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानम सृज्याहम।
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम।
धर्म संस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे ॥”
Four Kinds Of actions according to Lord Krishna, or karma, that a human can perform:
Kamya Karma- Actions performed for selfish gains.
Nishiddha Karma- Actions that are forbidden by holy texts and scriptures.
Nitya Karma- Actions that must be performed daily.
Naimittika Karma-Actions that must be performed on certain special occasions.
Lord Krishna clearly forbade his devotees to perform the first two kinds of Karmas as they lead to rebirth and laid stress on the performance of the latter two as they help in getting Moksha or Nirvana, in other words, salvation.
Krishna-Janmashtami is the one festival that is celebrated everywhere in the most jubilant way. Depending upon the regions, the devotees celebrate the arrival of their beloved lord in their own fashion. Mathura, the birth place of lord Krishna, celebrates Janmashtami with great enthusiasm. The major celebrations are performed at the Dwarkadhish temple at Mathura and Dwarka (in present day Gujarat where he established his kingdom) as well. The ceremony of worship is a very simple affair. The priests chant holy mantras & bathe the idol with Gangajal (water from the holy river Ganges), milk, ghee, sugar and honey i.e. Panchamrat, pouring all these from a conch shell. Only after the ceremony is over, devotees break their day long fast. Often the image of the baby Krishna is placed in a cradle and rocked by the devotees.
The next day is the ceremony of “Dahi-handi”. It is an enactment of Lord Krishna’s efforts to steal butter from matki (earthen pot) suspended from the ceiling. During this ceremony, a large earthenware pot is filled with milk, curds, butter, honey, fruits etc is suspended from a height between 20 to 40 feet. Sporting young men and boys come forward to claim this prize. To do so, they construct a human pyramid by standing over each other’s shoulders till the pyramid is tall enough to enable the topmost person to reach the pot and claim the contents after breaking it. This ceremony is also performed with great enthusiasm in Maharashtra; in fact, Mumbai’s ‘dahi-handi’ is famous for the competitions held and the lofty heights of handi suspension all over the world. In Dwarka, Gujrat, a similar ceremony to ‘dahi-handi’ is played amonst the youngsters, known as ‘makhan-handi’.
One of the most important aspects of the festival of Janmashtami is “Rasleela” a divine sport (kreeda). Shree Krishna played with his Gopis (divine lovers) on the banks of river Yamuna in Vrindavan, where he spent his childhood. It is a form of dance where in the gopis danced encircling him. Radha was the most important and closest Gopi to the Lord. She is believed to be his Shakti, his core. Shree Krishn was ten years old when he performed Rasleela. Rasleelas are particularly performed in the city of Vrindavan.
Lord Krishna is one of the most loved Gods of the Hindu religion. He is popularly depicted with a peacock feather in his hair and a flute in his hands. Krishna is the most colorful, vibrant and coolest God from the many forms of The One that exist in Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism or Hindu is word not mentioned in any ancient text, this word arose from the Arab literature meaning the people who live on that side of the Indus River). His teachings on various aspects of human life to Arjun during the epic battle of Mahabharata are eternal and relevant till today.
Though Hinduism has many holy books, Bhagwat Gita is considered a prime book of importance, a simplified version of the Vedas compiled in one book that guides us towards righteousness. On reading the Gita one realizes about the easiness and the beauty of Hinduism due to the absence of dogma in the text. The main message of the Gita is to do our Karma (action) and not bother about the fruits of the action because that is in God’s hands only. By following this philosophy we can become so happy and carefree in life without any stress or tensions.
“नन्द के आनंद भयो जय कन्हैया लाल की,
हाथी, घोड़ा, पालकी जय कन्हैया लाल की”