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Hindu Holidays and Festivals: Krishna Janmashtami

The Indian Festival of Krishna Janmashtami

Hindu Holidays and Festivals: Krishna Janmashtami
Image Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKrishna_Janmashtami.jpg)
This legend is celebrated on Janmashtami by people keeping fast, singing devotional songs of love for Krishna, and keeping a vigil into the night.[13] After Krishna's midnight hour birth, statues of baby Krishna are washed and clothed, then placed in a cradle. The devotees then break their fast, by sharing food and sweets. Women draw tiny foot prints outside their house doors and kitchen, walking towards their house, a symbolism for Krishna's journey

Krishna is one of the two most popular avatars of Vishnu in which Indian worship the almighty Lord, the other being Ram. The life story of Krishna is as interesting as any can be, and no surprises then, in the popularity of his birthday, the Krishna Janmashtami as a major festival in India, celebrated with a lot of fanfare.


Krishna: The Eighth Avatar of Vishnu

KRISHNA is considered Lord VISHNU’s eighth avatar or incarnation as a human being, who came to the mortal world to show us the way and to get rid of the evil that was pervading the world. KRISHNA JANMASHTMI is Krishna’s birthday. It is celebrated widely across India by different ways of worship, rituals, traditions and festivities.

Krishna Janmashtami: Day of Krishna’s Birth

In the Indian calendar that is based on lunar year, as per the ancient texts, Krishna was born on ASHTAMI, the eighth day, in the month of SRAVANA. The scriptures also provide astrological details of his birth time. He was born in the ROHINI NAKSHATRAM, the details of which are given in the scriptures and correspond to a date approximately 5,227 years ago.

The festival of Janmashtami often falls on two days as the astrological details fall over two days. The time of Krishna’s birth is midnight.

The Story of Krishna’s Life

The story of Lord Krishna is a very interesting one. At that time, certain evil kings had taken control of the society, and were tormenting all especially the scholars and pious men. One of them was KANSA, who became a big terror and was associated with demons. One day a divine voice told him that his sister’s eight son will kill him. So he imprisoned his sister and her husband, and one by one, killed seven of her children. When Krishna, the eight child was born, miraculously all the guards became unconscious and all gates opened. His father, sensing a divine intervention, took little Krishna outside to a nearby village where he entered the house of a village leader and exchanged his son for her daughter. Later, when Kansa tried to kill the girl, the girl suddenly disappeared and the divine voice reminded Kansa that the child that will kill him is alive elsewhere.

Kansa tried his best to find Krishna, and finally when he could, he tried to kill him by sending his agents, but little Krishna killed all of them. In his childhood, he indulged in many activities that made people believe that he is a divine child. Finally, he was invited to take part in wrestling completion in palace of Kansa, who wanted to kill him there. Instead Krishna attacked Kansa and killed him.

Subsequently, Krishna killed many evil kings some directly; some by helping honest people kill them. The most important of them was Krishna’s participation in the war between PANDAVA and KAURAVA, wherein he sided with Pandava and helped them win. The story of this war and its background is the theme of the ancient Indian epic of MAHABHARATA, an epic poem with over a hundred thousand verses, in Sanskrit. It contains a chapter called BHAGVATGEETA, the sermon Krishna gave to his friend ARJUNA, who was the greatest of warriors of his time, but refused to fight against his relatives and teachers in the war, as he could not decide whether he should be fighting them or not.

BHAGVATGEETA is a philosophy that in many ways forms the essence of Hindu religious thought. Krishna told Arjuna to follow the path of his dharma or duties and perform the activities that his duties dictate, and leave the consequences to the Lord, the almighty. His sermon gave rise to the concept of KARMA, as it is known today. It is one of the most powerful and compelling philosophies of all times.

Janmashtami: The Festival & the Celebrations

Janmashtami is a popular festival in India. Different people celebrate it differently. The ardent devotees perform a day long fast that is broken at midnight at the time of Krishna’s birth after the rituals of worshipping Krishna have been completed. During the day, many people prepare and decorate a place in their house depicting the newborn Krishna, which is then worshipped with prayers, chanting and meditation. Most people visit Krishna temples on this day and offer their prayers. Many people sing and dance. Different regions in India have developed their own traditions for these celebrations.

There are many international organizations like ISCON - International society for Krishna consciousness, which celebrate this festival in their own way, often by dancing with religious folk music, wherein devotees almost lose themselves in their devotion to the lord, thereby getting almost in to a trance and attain happiness.

Overall, like all religious festivals in Indian, Krishna Janmashtami is as much a traditional event as it is an occasion to break the daily monotony and indulge in festivities and celebration. It is also an occasion to remember and rejoice in the memory of a person born several thousand years back, who rose to the attain the status of divinity among his peers and masses, and gifted with one of the most sophisticated and yet practical philosophies ever conceived by mankind, in the form of Bhagvat Geeta.

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