(Last Updated on : 26/08/2010)
Krishna Janmashtami falls on the eighth day of Shravana. It is the birth (Janma) anniversary of Lord Krishna 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 mankind. During Janmashtami, 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 and the Lord Krishna`s statue are decorated in the same colour as the colour of the ghatas.
The twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan take on a festive look and spirit of devotion runs high among the people. 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. Professional drama troupes or even young children perform Raslila`s. Colourful costumes and equally colourful backgrounds are a special attraction. 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 and they bathe the image with Gangajal in a mixture of curd, milk, honey, dry fruit and tulsi leaves. This mixture is distributed as Prasad and partaking of it breaks the fast. 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. Krishna was very fond of curds and homemade butter; 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, which 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 superstition exists that if the broken pieces of the pot are kept in house mice do not enter and damage things.