Janmashtami is the joyful celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth. It is one of the important Hindu festival being celebrated all across India. This festival is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety. According to antecedents, Sri Krishna Janmashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu.Krishna took birth at midnight on the ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha or dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Shravan maas(August-September as per Hindu calendar when the Rohini Star is ascendant.). This auspicious day is called Janmashtami. Indian as well as Western scholars have now accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on earth.
The devotees of lord krishna observe this festival by fasting on the previous day of Saptami day (the seventh day). This is followed by a night long vigil commemorating the birth of Lord Krishna at night and his immediate removal by his father to a fosterer home for safe keeping. At midnight, the deity of the infant Krishna is bathed, placed in a cradle and worshiped amidst the blowing of conch shells and the ringing of bells.
In the early morning, ladies draw patterns of little children’s feet with the paste of rice-flour outside the house ,walking towards the house. Small kids,infants are dressed and decorated as the Lord Krishna during his childhood. This symbolizes the entry of the infant Krishna into his foster-home. This custom is popular in some communities of South India. After ablutions, morning prayers and worship, the devout break their fast with Panchamrit-a mixture of gangajal, honey, sugar, ghee and curd, food that has first been offered to God. During the fore-noon hours, the “Dahi-Handi” custom is celebrated in the south western state of maharashtra with many different groups of young men making human pyramid and climbing up high to break the earthen pot which carries rewards and gifts. Basically a symbol of celebration to mark the occasion by enacting childhood plays of Krishna eating butter and curd from earthen pots. This is followed by sumptuous mid-day feasts, where extended families friends and community gathers to celebrate.While some temples offer what is known as ‘Chappan bhog’ – an offering of 56 dishes to Lord Krishna, other temples offer as much as 108 dishes to Lord.
In Northern India, people celebrate this festival differently. The temples at Vrindavan and Madura witness a colorful, even boisterous celebration on this occasion, and festivities at these places may extend for several days. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration. The Rasa Lila is performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and commemorate his love for Radha. Care is taken among certain circles not to imitate the Rasa Lila in a mundane way. It is said that one should not imitate the Rasa Lila even in dreams. The idea is that Krishna, or God’s pastimes cannot be understood by the mundane mind-set and discussing them should therefore be avoided altogether. Krishna’s pastimes with Shrimati Radha can never be understood by materialistic people, they are transcendental and great care should be taken to present them in such manner.
While the Rasa Lila recreates the youthful Krishna’s dalliance with the milkmaids of his native land, the “Dahi-Handi” tradition of Maharashtra re-enacts his childhood pranks, wherein Lord Krishna and his young friends helped themselves to butter and other goodies in the houses of their neighbors. Dahi Handi (or simply Human Tower / Pyramid) is celebrated on the second day of Janmashtami. Clay earthern pots called “Handi” are filled with curd, butter, milk and dry fruits. The pot is then suspended high above the ground at a height of about 20 – 30 feet. Silver coins are decorated round the handi to make it more decorative. To a constant chorus of “Govinda, Govinda” or “Ala re ala, Govinda ala” from all those present around, teams of young men form human pyramids to reach the pot and break it, to the merriment of the youths and of the assembly. In some parts of the country, the teams of young men tour the locality in a specially decorated truck called the Govinda Pathakas breaking the pots setup at every street corner. The silver coins etched to the handi are later shared amongst the team members after breaking the pot. The prize for the team sometimes touches few Lakhs of rupees too, a part of which is sponsored by local political parties.
The festival is thus celebrated with great joy and communal togetherness by one and all.