Krishna Janmashtami is also known as “Krishnashtami”, “Saatam Aatham”, “Gokulashtami”, “Ashtami Rohini”, “Srikrishna Jayanti”, “Sree Jayanthi” or popularly as “Janmashtami”, it celebrates the birth of Lord Shree Krishna. Lord Krishna was born at midnight in the second fortnight of Krishna Paksha (lunar Fortnight) in Rohini Nakshatram.
It is observed on the eighth day of the dark half of the month of Bhadrava. The festival always falls within mid-August to mid-September in the Gregorian calendar. On a dark, stormy night went the Lord from his prison birthplace atop his father’s head in a small basket as the angry river gave way and the serpent Seshnag protected him from the driving rain – to his foster care – the reciter of the Geeta – the avatar who both created and played out Mahabharata, slayer of Kansa arrived, son of Devaki – Yoshoda Nandan – on the darkest of night – the brightest of lights. I am not sure of the literary translation from sanskrit – tried to stick to the ‘feelings’ part.
Rasa Lila or dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna are a special feature in regions of Mathura and Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa Lila recreates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days, Govinda Pathaks or Dahi Handi celebrate the God’s playful and mischievous side, where teams of young men form human pyramids to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it.
In the Banke Bihari temple of Vrindavan at midnight Maha Abhishek is conducted in the inner sanctum followed by special darshan from 2am to 6 am. At midnight, the idol of the infant Krishna is bathed, clothed in silk and finery, placed in a cradle and worshiped.
Janmaashtami, popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as “Dahi Handi” is celebrated with enthusiasm. The clay pot filled with buttermilk is positioned at a height prior to the event; the topmost person on the human pyramid breaks it spilling buttermilk over the group, symbolizing their achievement through unity. “Govinda” troops compete with each other to break handis to commemorate the breaking of pots by the young Lord and his group of friends. Janmashtami is also celebrated fervently in Manipur.
In Dwarka (Gujarat) Jagad Mandir – which traces history back to 400BC on this special day Shreejee or the Thakur gives darshan to his devotees. Rituals are performed by Aboti Brahmins; they are said to be performing this auspicious task since centuries.
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