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Home > Religious Festivals > Hindu Festivals > Janmashtami
Janmashtami
Lord KrishnaKrishna Janmashtami falls on the eighth day of Shravana. It is the birth (Janma) anniversary of Lord Krishna ( 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and an important festival for followers of Vishnu.

According to the legend of the birth of Krishna, Vishnu incarnated himself as Krishna to destroy the evil Kansa who was harassing the mankind. Kansa was born to the queen of Ugrasena. His father was a demon who had approached the queen by impersonating her husband. When he grew up, Kansa imprisoned Ugrasena and started persecuting the people. Unable to bear his atrocities, Bhudevi (Goddess of Earth) urged Vishnu to help.

Devaki ( Krishna`s mother) was Kansa`s sister. He loved his sister and upon learning of her marriage with Vaasudeva, he urged to be the charioteer of the bride and groom on their wedding day. He was riding them to the palace when they heard a voice from the skies. It announced that the eighth son born to Devaki will destroy him. He wanted to kill his sister at that very moment. But ,Vaasudev interfered and pleaded for mercy. He promised to handover Devaki`s every child to Kansa. Thus, he didn`t kill Devaki but he put the couple in prison and chained them.
Whenever Devaki gave birth to a child, the guards would inform Kansa and he would take the child and hurl the child to the ground. Six of Devaki`s children were killed this way. The seventh child, while still in Devaki`s womb, was miraculously transferred to the womb of Rohini(another wife of Vaasudeva). Kansa was told that Devaki gave birth to a still baby.

Devaki`s eighth child, Krishna was born at a midnight. After the birth of the child, a divine message came to Vasudev. It instructed him to take the child across the Yamuna River to Gokul, exchange him with Yashoda`s daughter and return to the prison before anyone comes to know about the birth of the child.

Vasudev immediately followed the advice. As he carried the child in his arms, his chains broke open and the prison doors opened automatically. The guards were put to sleep by Gods. Vasudev approached the Yamuna River, which was very turbulent due to heavy rains. It was a stormy night with lightning and thunder. Vasudeva placed the child in a basket and carried him on his head across the river. Whenever the depth of Yamuna increased due to the outpouring of rain, Krishna touched the waters with his foot. This made the waters to recede. A huge snake, Anant, protected Krishna from the rain by standing like a canopy over the basket.
Dahi KalaVasudev reached the opposite bank of the river safely and found all the people of Gokul fast asleep. He went to the house of Nanda, a herdsman. He placed the baby Krishna in the place of Yashoda`s baby girl who was born at the same time as Krishna. Then, Vasudev returned to the prison with the baby girl. As he placed the girl child beside Devaki, all the prison doors closed automatically and he was again in his chains. The guards were now awake and were startled by the cries of the baby girl. The guards ran to Kansa and announced the birth of the eighth child.

Kansa was surprised to hear of a girl-child. Though the child was not a boy, Kansa took the baby and dashed it onto the stone-slab. Before hitting the ground, the child flew up in the air and said, "The one destined to kill you is safely away at Gokul". She was a Goddess.

After this day, Kansa was always engaged in his attempts to kill Krishna. These were futile efforts to kill the all-pervading. As predicted earlier, Kansa was killed by Krishna.

The main celebrations are held at the Dwarkadhish temple, Mathura in the form of Jhulanotsava and the Ghatas during the entire month of Shravan. The ghatas are a unique feature of the month long celebrations. The temples are decorated in the same colour as the colour of the ghatas. Even the Lord is dressed up in the same colour. The twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan take on a festive look and spirit of devotion runs high among the people. It was on the banks of the Yamuna river where Lord Krishna played during his childhood and indulged in pranks and tricks with his friends and the gopis. There are about 400 temples dedicated to Lord Krishna in this sacred city and the major festivities are held at the Banke Bihari, Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram temple and Gopinath temple. The Raslila of Braj is thematically the basis of many performing arts.

Raasleelas are performed by professional drama troupes or even young children. Colourful costumes and equally colourful backgrounds are a special attraction. Rasleelas are very popular among the people. The play is enacted in the local language, Brajbhasha, but sometimes Hindi is also used.

On Janmashtami, devotees keep a strict fast. This is broken only at midnight, the time of Krishna`s birth. At midnight, the idol of baby Krishna is placed in a small, decorated cradle which is rocked while singing hymns. Then, Pancharti is performed. They bathe the image with Gangajal (holy waters of River Ganga ) in a mixture of curd, milk, honey, dry fruit and tulasi ( Ocimum sanctum) leaves. This mixture is distributed as Prasad (consecrated food) and the fast is broken by partaking of it. Passages from Gita and Bhagavata Purana are recited.

The following morning "NAND-MAHOTSAV" is celebrated in praise and gratitude to Nand, the ruler of the cowherds of Nandgaon. Nandgaon is the place where Krishna grew up and lived in his childhood.

Dahi KalaKrishna was very fond of curds and home-made butter. He used to gather his friends and climb their shoulders to steal curds from the pots hung high away from the reach of children. Hence, this day is also called Dahi-Kala. On this day, his childhood pranks of stealing are re-created by youngsters who call themselves "Govindas" and "Gopalas" and move about in streets. On this day, in some parts of India, especially Maharashtra, youths celebrate it by breaking clay pots called `Dahi-Handi`. These pots are filled with curd and butter and rice flakes and are suspended high above the ground. Young men and children form human pyramid to reach the pot and break it.

At some places, the pots contain silver coins. The coins are then equally distributed. This custom follows the tendency of Lord Krishna who used to steal butter in this manner from villagers along with his friends. The reason for this is that Gokul; the place where lord Krishna spent his childhood was famous for milk-production and the people used to sell it in Mathura. This deprived the children of Gokul from milk and butter which is very essential for young boys and girls.

The superstition exists that if the broken pieces of the pot are kept in house mice do not enter and damage things.
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