Janmashtami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. It gets marked on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin, usually in September or October. It is one of the most important festivals in India and is celebrated with much fanfare and devotion by Hindus worldwide. Here’s everything you need to know about Janmashtami, from the history and meaning of the festival to recipes and activities for celebrating it!
The History and Importance of Janmashtami
According to Hindu texts, on this day, Lord Krishna appeared in this world as Lord Vishnu’s eighth avatar and destroyer of evil.
The story of Lord Krishna’s birth and how his maternal uncle, King Kansa, wanted to kill him get clearly stated in ancient Hindu literature, including the Bhagawad Gita and the Bhagwat Purana. Since his birth, the eighth day of the month of Bhadrapada has to get celebrated as Krishna Janmashtami. In addition, many people use this day to commemorate the victory of good over evil.
Celebrations of Janmashtami in India
The entire community gathers again to start celebrating Lord Krishna’s birthday with great zeal and enthusiasm. It is common to see children dressed as Krishna, markets lined with sweet stores and graceful handis, people preparing for plays, and temples embellished with petals. Scripture readings of verses from the holy books, Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita, are also held at Hindu shrines on this day.
While celebrations across the country are captivating, some locations in India deserve special mention. These are the places where you can experience the true spirit of Janmashtami celebrations. Let’s look at the various locations where this festival holds a special place in people’s hearts.
Celebrations of Janmashtami Uttar Pradesh, Mathura-Gokul-Vrindavan
Mathura, Gokul, and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, the three places affiliated with Krishna’s childhood, are the go-to destinations for those planning to start celebrating Janmashtami away from home. Mathura, Lord Krishna’s birthplace, has 400 temples devoted solely to him, each of which gets beautifully decorated during this time. Raas Leela’s enactment, firework displays, and jhulotsava are some popular ways to greet Krishna at all three locations. The festivities begin almost ten days before the child’s birthday.
Celebrations of Janmashtami Karnataka’s Udupi
During Janmashtami, the southern region of India also celebrates. Vittal Pindi (or Rass Leela) dance dramas are performed by locals in Udupi, Karnataka. Gopuras get built beneath which the chariot carrying the Lord’s idol moves across the city. Curd (or Dahi handi) gets hung in earthen pots and later broken by sticks. Huli vesha dancers and local competitions showcasing people dressed in ethnic costumes are a big draw during the celebrations. At temples, devotees get given prasadam, and bhakti songs get sung.
Celebrations of Janmashtami Manipur, Imphal
Unlike other North Indian festivals that aren’t as well-known in this region of the country, Janmashtami draws a large crowd to Mahabali Temple and Sri Govindjee Temple. People fast and pay flower respects to Lord Krishna at the temple. Folk dance appearances are an essential part of the Janmashtami celebrations in Manipur.
Celebrations of Janmashtami Maharashtra, Mumbai-Pune
This day is known as Dahi-Handi in Maharashtra, and it features contests for trying to break a high-hung, beneath-the-earth pot filled with yoghurt, milk, water, and fruits. Youths form groups known as Govinda Pathaks to compete with one another by creating a human pyramid to reach the high-hung pot and break it, as Krishna did as a child. The winning team gets then presented with blessings and prize money worth up to Rs. 12 lakh.
Celebrations of Janmashtami Odisha’s Puri
Puri, known for the Jagannath Temple, has its own set of celebrations unique to the region. People fast until midnight, which is Krishna’s birth hour, and chant “Hare Krishna” and “Hari Bol.” Religious music gets sung at the temple complex, beautifully decorated for the occasion, and verses from the Bhagavad Gita get recited. Various types of sweets are made at home and shared with everyone. Makhan Handi, which translates to “an earthen pot filled with butter” in English, is celebrated in places like Dwarka, Gujarat (where Lord Krishna laid down his kingdom).
Celebrations of Janmashtami India’s southernmost state
Various regions of south India celebrate differently. People in Tamil Nadu fast, make kolams (rice batter patterns) and rehearse the Bhagwad Gita. Sweet dishes like verkadalai urundai get made in Andhra Pradesh for celebrations, and young boys dress up as Krishna to visit relatives and friends. Everyone is singing hymns, mantras, and devotional songs. Usually, paintings are worshipped instead of Lord Krishna’s idols, and fruits and sweet treats get provided to him. Musical dramas and dramatic reenactments of his life are prevalent.
Celebrations of Janmashtami Manipur
Vaishnavism had evolved into a famous official religion in Manipur by the 1700s. Imphal Hindus observe the festival by praying at the Shri Shri Govindajee and ISKCON temples. Manipuri productions and Raaslilas devoted to Lord Krishna get held during this time. In Manipur, this day gets known as Krishna Jamma. The celebrations begin at sundown and last until dawn. Devotees fast for the entire day to commemorate Krishna’s birth, and different cultural systems get held.
In case you’re still confused about how to celebrate Janmashtami, we can confidently say that it is just like any other festival. You can make new memories with family or friends and savour some delicious sweets. Happy Janmashtami!
The meaning and significance of the festival are perhaps more important than all the celebrations put together. Why not try some new recipes or a few fun games to celebrate Janmashtami this year? In case you’re interested in what it is like to celebrate this joyous occasion, stay tuned for Talkbuz upcoming blog on how people celebrate in India!