Janmashtami - The Birth of Lord Krishna

Jul 27, 2015, 11:47 AM
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Janmashtami celebrates the arrival of Lord Krishna on the eighth day of the lunar month of Shravan on the Hindu calendar,usually in August or September according to the Gregorian calendar. Referred to as ‘Janamashtmi’, the day is spent in both ritual and celebration.

The preparations for Krishna’s birth start well in advance, leading up to the midnight hour which marks the exact time he was born. Prior to that the infant Krishna’s idol is bathed then prayers are sung and bells are rung whilst all along his cradle lies empty. When the moment is about to arrive, all lights and illumination are turned off for a few seconds. On being turned on again, the idol of Baby Krishna can be seen sitting in its beautifully garlanded cradle. The festivities then continue through the night, into the early hours of the morning – going on for a couple more days.

Many believers fast on this day as a mark of respect and complete devotion to Lord Krishna because it is believed that abstaining from eating helps in controlling one’s senses and desires, the appropriate state in which one surrenders to Lord Krishna in order to conquer the ego and ultimately attain eternal bliss.

In Maharashtra, these celebrations take the form of ‘Dahi Handi’. This represents Krishna’s love for milk, curd and butter. Legend has it that Baby Krishna was in love with milk and milk products. He would eat all the curd and butter in his own home and then mischievously steal more of the same from his neighbours. Being a little bundle of mischief he quite easily managed to get into his neighbours’ homes. In order to hide their milk products, the neighbouring women used thick ropes to suspend their curd and butter high up from their roofs – out of the child’s reach. However, Krishna was smarter than they had surmised and with the help of his friends, he formed a human pyramid to reach the unreachable Dahi Handis (yoghurt pots).

What started as a mischievous prank of stealing a clay pot filled with curd and butter was to continue down the centuries as a celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth and his legend in the form of Gokulashtami and Dahi Handi celebrations.

In cities such as Mumbai and Pune, people bring recreate Krishna’s mischiefby dressing up children as the child Krishna in his form of the Makhan Chor (butter thief) in almost every street. Typically, residents of a locality suspend an earthen pot from a rope stretched one or two storeys high across a street.This pot contains a reward worth vying for, generally in the form of cash. Young people (traditionally boys, but nowadays even girls!)  from the locality may take on the role of Makhan Chors and form human pyramids to reach the pot filled with the reward. Joining them are troupes of young people known as Govindas who travel across cities in search of dahi handis. The Dahi Handi celebrations in Mumbai are famous for creating some of the highest and most complex human pyramids in the world.

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