According to the Hindu Mythology, about 5000 years ago, the eighth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu was born, who soon came to be revered as one of the most important Hindu gods. Quick witted and jovial in nature, this notorious divinity became a favorite among devotees who fondly worship him both in his adult and childhood form. His birthday known to be celebrated every year all over India as Krishna Janmashtami. People observe fast, decorate their homes, and prepare delicacies to offer to the Lord; following all the rituals of this day.
Janmashtami is a portmanteau of two words: Janma (birth) and Ashtami (eight). According to the Hindu Calendar, the festival is celebrated in the month of Bhadrapad (August–September) on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight). This festival is celebrated all over India.
However, there are two places in India, where this festival is celebrated with an unmatched zeal and grandeur. They are Mathura and Vrindavan; the former being the birth place of Lord Krishna while the latter being the place he spent his childhood years. The celebrations that happen in these places are unique and people from all over the world gather to see the rituals and events and take part in the celebrations. Most devotees spend the day in Vrindavan witnessing the events and celebrations and go to Mathura in the evening to commemorate the birth of the lord.
Janmashtami Date for 2017 - 14th August 2017.
(Some places will instead be celebrating Janmashtmi on the next day)
Janmashtami in Vrindavan
The holy town of Vrindavan is where Krishna spent his childhood and his teenage years. Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, Vrindavan is where Krishna performed the famous Rasleelas with his Gopis. The celebrations start 10 days prior to the day of Birth in Vrindavan. Rasleelas and plays on the life of Krishna and even scenes from the epic Mahabharata of which Lord Krishna was an indispensable part, are performed by professional artists on the occasion of Janmashtami. These plays draw a large amount of tourists to Vrindavan.
There are over 4000 temples in Vrindavan of which Ranganathji Temple, ISCKON Temple, Radharaman Temple, to name a few, are the main temples where people flock for their ceremonies and ritualistic events that takes place throughout the day of Janmashtami; especially the ‘Abhishek‘ which is the grand ritualistic bath of Lord Krishna before the ceremonies begin.
Madhuban, an area near the Yamuna River is believed to be the exact place where Lord Krishna was said to have performed rasleelas with his beloved Gopis, 5000 years ago. A local folklore says that even till this date, Lord Krishna descends at this place to perform rasleelas with the gopis. Hence, no locals set foot in the area after dusk. Though, Madhuban is brightly lit and decorated during Janmashtami as rasleelas and plays are performed here but only during daytime. A majority of the devotees and tourists come to Madhuban to see the famous performances before heading to Mathura.
Janmashtami in Mathura
With thousands of temples in the city of Mathura, celebrations start over a month before the day of birth. Two most important aspects of the Janmashtami festival celebrated here are Jhulanotsav and Ghatas. Jhulanotsov is the ritual where people put out swings in the courtyard of their houses and temples decorated with flowers and rangolis around to welcome Lord Krishna to their dwellings and to symbolize the cradling of the infant Krishna. Ghatas are another unique feature of the celebrations here at Mathura, where all the temples in the city are decorated with the color of the chosen theme including the clothes of the Idol Krishna as well. They follow this tradition for an entire month and without which the celebration of the festival isn’t complete.
In the days leading up to the Janma divas, Rasleelas (dance – dramas which were popular performed by Krishna himself in his days) are performed by various groups especially by 10-13 year old kids. Also Jankis are made, which are clay modeled figures on display wherein scenes depicting various stages of Krishna’s life are showcased all over the city of Mathura.
Krishna was born at midnight so the celebrations lead up to that time after which various poojas and rituals take place in the temples. The main event however is held at the actual location of Krishna’s birth which is now converted into a big Krishna Janma Bhoomi Mandir. The idol is kept in a room called Garbha Griha, it is given a ritualistic bath with milk and curd, dressed up in traditional clothes and placed in the cradle. The cradle is then rocked while the devotees chant prayers and sing hymns. It is a popular belief that any wish made while the cradle is rocked, comes true on the day of Janmashtami. As the devotees welcome the lord, the lord is presented with panchamrit and Chappan bhog (56 dishes). This is then distributed among the devotees who break their fast with this.
Over 8 lakh devotees come to Mathura & Vrindavan every year to take part in the Janmashtami festival and to offer prayers and witness the grand celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. Are you going too? Let us know in comments section