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Krishna Janmashtami – Celebrating the Birth of Lord Krishna

hare rama hare krishna mantra

Krishna Janmashtami commemorates the Birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. This festival is zestfully celebrated across the country. It occurs between the second half of August to the first half of September, according to the Gregorian Calendar.

Krishna Janmashtami - Krishna idol
Celebrating Krishna’s Birth

The Story of Krishna’s Birth

Krishna is the eighth Avatar of Vishnu, according to Hindu texts. During the Krita Yuga or the First Yuga, a couple named Prishni and Sutapas meditated for several years for a child. So, Lord Vishnu appeared before them. They asked him thrice that he should be born as their child, so he said he would grant their wish three times.

The first time he was born to the couple as Prishnigarbha. The second time, the couple were born as Aditi and Kasyapa and Lord Vishnu was born to them as Vamana the Dwarf. Then in Dwapara Yuga, the couple were born as Devaki and Vasudeva, and he was born as Krishna.

Before Krishna Janmashtami – The Appeal by Bhumi Devi

Bhumi Devi or Mother Earth, in the form of a cow, tearfully appeals to Lord Brahma for help. She is unable to bear the burden of innumerable demons now born in the form of Kshatriyas. Brahma takes her along with all the Devas to Lord Vishnu. He assures them not to worry, he would soon be born on Earth in a full avatar and would rid the world of evil forces.

Mathura and Kamsa

In the meantime, Mathura, the modern Uttar Pradesh, was being ruled by King Ugrasena, a just and wise ruler. However, his son is opposite to him in character. The evil Kamsa craves power. So, he imprisons his father. Kamsa then begins his tyrannical reign, favouring those who praise him and punishing those who dare to question him.

Kamsa has a sister, Devaki and he adores her. When she marries Vasudeva, he takes the reigns of the chariot bearing the couple back home. Just then, a  divine voice loudly predicts that the eighth child born to Devaki would kill him. Enraged, he tries to kill Devaki but Vasudev intervenes and promises to give him each child born to them. Kamsa puts them in prison and kills six of their children. The seventh child is divinely transferred to the womb of Vasudev’s first wife Rohini and is born as Balarama.

Krishna Janmashtami Celebration
Krishna is born on this day

The First Krishna Janmashtami

On the Eighth Day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadrapada (Aug-Sep), Krishna was born as the eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva. On his birth, their prison cell is illuminated and they see a divine four-armed child holding tiny versions of Lord Vishnu’s weapons in his hands. The child then transforms into a normal baby and instructs Vasudev to take him to his friend Nandagopa’s house and exchange him for their newborn daughter. 

The shackles that bind Vasudeva’s feet break, the prison cell door opens. The guards are asleep, it is the middle of the night. In the pouring rain, Vasudeva makes the journey to Gokula and leaves his child near the sleeping Yashoda, Nandagopa’s wife. He brings back the lovely female child, feeling sure  Kamsa will spare this child as it is female and the prediction was about a boy. Nevertheless, when Kamsa hears of the newborn child, he comes raging in and snatches the baby from Devaki, intending to kill it. However, the child slips from his hands and appears as the lovely but fearsome Warrior Goddess Durga. She tells him that the child who would kill him is safe and growing up somewhere else.

Baby Krishna escapes – Crossing River Yamuna to Nandagopa’s house

This is the story of Krishna’s birth, described in the Puranas.

Krishna Janmashtami Fasting

Many devotees undertake a fast leading up to Janmashtami. They believe that this cleanses their mind and paves the way for Moksha or liberation. There are two types of Krishna Janmashtami Fasting:

Nirjala: In this type of fasting, devotees abstain from all food and don’t even drink a drop of water. Finally, they take the Prasad or the offerings made to Lord Krishna and break their fast.

Phalahara: This is a modified version for those who can’t completely abstain from food. These devotees just consume some milk and fruit to sustain them and do not take anything else until after the Krishna Janmashtami Aarti.

Puja and Aarti

Janmashtami celebrations include the singing of bhajans and kirtans. The formal ceremony begins with a Puja, then sweets, butter, and fruits are offered to little Krishna. It concludes with the singing of the Krishna Janmashtami Aarti song.

Krishna Janmashtami Celebration

Krishna Janmashtami - Boy dressed as Krishna
Kids dress up as Krishna and gopis to celebrate Janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated with great fervor throughout the country. This includes singing bhajans and kirtans, visiting Krishna temples, dancing, and reenactments of Krishna’s childhood antics. Children dress up as Krishna. In the South, women draw patterns of little feet using rice flour mixed with water. These represent the coming of little Krishna to their homes. 

Devotees celebrate this occasion with sweets and savouries, with delicious milk sweets, fruits, and butter. Krishna was a cowherd and he loved butter and milk. So these are special offerings to him along with many wild fruits like Jambu fruit. 

Krishna Janmashtami is a joyful celebration of the Birth of Krishna. Song and dance and feasting after a Fast are part of the festivities.