|| The day of the birth of Lord Krishna is very popular
in north India. People observe fast all day long, which is broken only at mid
night, the time when Krishna is believed to have born. The festival is a community
celebration, and people visit Krishna temples, which are specially decorated and
lit for the occasion.
The image of Krishna is ceremonially bathed in a mixture of curds, milk, honey,
dry fruit and basil or tulasi leaves. This mixture is then distributed as prasad
to all devotees. The idol is dressed in new clothes and offered food, sweets,
fruit and clarified butter. Priests chant mantras from religious scriptures. The
temple too reverberates with devotional songs in praise of the god.
In Mathura, believed to be Krishna's birthplace, and other places near by, these
ceremonial observances are amplified by the staging of dramas. In them, Krishna
makes himself available in and especially vivid manner to his devotees through
child actors. These Brahmin boys act out incidents from Krishna's childhood and
are, for that period, considered to be the god. Devotees treat them with respect
and veneration, even prostrating before them. Tableaux featuring scenes from the
life of Krishna abound the streets all through the day. A little before midnight,
devotees pour into temples to participate in the special arati and to relive the
birth of Krishna. Till midnight, devotional songs are sung in anticipation of
the holy birth. Special cradles are installed at temples and a small statue of
the god's s placed in them. At exactly midnight, temple bells are rung to announce
the birth of Krishna. Everyone clamors to rock the cradle of the newborn. Then
a special arati is performed, after which devotees partake the special prasad.
|Details of celebrations
for Janmashtami are found in many scriptures. The Dharmashastras specify the day
to be celebrated as a vrata. The Bhavishya Purana caution s against the non-observance
of this vrata saying: " Whether a man or woman, if one neglects to observe the
birthday vrata of Lord Krishna - the Krishna Janmashtami - born as a female serpent
in a deep forest." Other such references leave little doubt that Krishna Janmashtami
originates in ancient times and that the vrata is considered mandatory.
Interesting games commemorate this event. One of the most popular is the breaking
of the dahi handi or 'pot of curd'. A terracotta pot containing milk, butter and
curd is hung high up across a street. Groups of men form a pyramid to try and
break this pot. The group that succeeds is named the winner, and the community
treats its leader with respect. This game is believed to have been especially
dear to Krishna and his friends. Another form of public recreation is the Raslila.