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Shri Krishna Janmasthan, Janam Bhumi, Janmashtami, Uttar Pradesh

Janmashtami, Dhanbad- Jharkhand

Description

Krishna Janmashtami (Sanskrit: कृष्णजन्माष्टमी, romanized: Kṛṣṇajanmāṣṭamī), also known simply as Krishnashtami, Janmashtami, or Gokulashtami, is an annual Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. In certain Hindu texts, such as the Gita Govinda, Krishna has been identified as supreme God and the source of all avatars. Krishna’s birth is celebrated and observed on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in Shravana Masa (according to the amanta tradition) or Bhadrapada Masa (according to the purnimanta tradition). This overlaps with August or September of the Gregorian calendar.

It is an important festival, particularly in the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. The celebratory customs associated with Janmashtami include a celebration festival, reading and recitation of religious texts, dance and enactments of the life of Krishna according to the Bhagavata Purana, devotional singing till midnight (the time of Krishna’s birth), and fasting (upavasa), amongst other things. It is widely celebrated across India and abroad.

Etymology
The meaning of the sanskrit word “janmashtami” can be understood by splitting it into the two words, “janma” and “ashtami.” The word “janma” means birth and the word “ashtami” means eight; thus, Krishna Janmashtami is the celebration of Krishna’s birth on the eighth day of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in the month of Bhadrapada (August–September).

History
Information about Krishna’s life is noted in the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and Bhagavata Purana. Krishna is the eighth son of Devaki (mother) and Vasudeva (father). Surrounding the time of his birth, persecution was rampant, freedoms were being denied, and King Kamsa’s life was threatened. Krishna was born within a prison in Mathura, India where his parents were constrained by his uncle, Kamsa. During Devaki’s wedding, Kamsa was warned by a celestial voice that Devaki’s eighth son would be the cause of his death. In an effort to defy this prophesy, Kamsa imprisoned Devaki and her husband and promptly killed the first six of her newborns after their birth. The guards responsible for keeping watch over Devaki’s cell fell asleep and the cell doors were miraculously opened at the time of Krishna’s birth. These events allowed Vasudeva to send Krishna across the Yamuna River to his foster parents, Yashoda (mother) and Nanda (father). This legend is celebrated on Janmashtami by people keeping fasts, singing devotional songs of love for Krishna, and keeping a vigil into the night.

Throughout Krishna’s childhood and young adult life, Balarama, Krishna’s half-brother, was a “constant companion” for him. Balarama joined Krishna in the major events that are celebrated in Vraja, Brindavan, Dravarka, and Mathura such as stealing butter, chasing calves, playing in the cow pens, and participating in wrestling matches.

Observance and celebrations

Some communities celebrate Krishna’s legends such as him as a Makkan chor (butter thief).
Krishna Janmashtami holds significant importance to Hindus around the world, and it is celebrated in diverse forms depending on their regional and cultural customs. Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting, singing, praying together, preparing and sharing special food, night vigils, and visiting Krishna or Vishnu temples. The places of Mathura and Vrindavan are visited by pilgrims. Some mandirs organize recitation of Bhagavad Gita in the days leading up to Janmashtami. Many northern Indian communities organize dance-drama events called Rasa Lila or Krishna Lila. The tradition of Rasa Lila is particularly popular in the Mathura region, in northeastern states of India such as Manipur and Assam, and in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is acted out by numerous teams of amateur artists, cheered on by their local communities, and these drama-dance plays begin a few days before each Janmashtami.People decorate their houses with flowers and light. On this day, people chant “Hare Krishna hare Krishna, Krishna- Krishna Hare Hare”. The Janmashtami celebration is followed by Dahi Handi, which is celebrated the next day.

After Krishna’s midnight hour birth, forms of baby Krishna are bathed and clothed, then placed in a cradle. The devotees then break their fast by sharing food and sweets. Women draw tiny footprints outside their house doors and kitchen, walking towards their house, a symbolism for Krishna’s journey into their homes.

Dahi Handi, a Janmashtami tradition, in progress in Mumbai India.
Northern India

Janamashtami at ISKCON temple, Delhi
Janmashtami is the largest festival in the Braj region of north India, in cities such as Mathura where Hindu tradition states Krishna was born, and in Vrindavan where he grew up. Vaishnava communities in these cities in Uttar Pradesh, as well as others in the state, as well as locations in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himalayan north celebrate Janmashtami. Krishna temples are decorated and lighted up, they attract numerous visitors on the day, while Krishna devotees hold bhakti events and keep night vigil.

The festival typically falls as the monsoons in north India have begun retreating, fields laden with crops and rural communities have time to play. In the northern states, Janmashtami is celebrated with the Raslila tradition, which literally means “play (Lila) of delight, essence (Rasa)”. This is expressed as solo or group dance and drama events at Janmashtami, wherein Krishna related compositions are sung, music accompanies the performance, while actors and audience share and celebrate the performance by clapping hands to mark the beat. The childhood pranks of Krishna and the love affairs of Radha-Krishna are particularly popular. According to Christian Roy and other scholars, these Radha-Krishna love stories are Hindu symbolism for the longing and love of the human soul for the divine or Brahman.

Poetry describing the feats of Krishna became popular in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries within the Braj region, and is written according to a vernacular called “Braj basha” (present-day “Hindi”). The Braj basha poems of Surdas (collectively known as the Sursagar) are popularly recalled, some of which describe the birth and childhood of Krishna.

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