Know the History and Significance of Krishna Janmashtami
Shri Krishna – a divine figure in Hinduism – is considered the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Shri Krishna is revered in India and abroad. Devout Hindus keep an idol of him at home. Many of them name their sons after him.
His birthday is fervently celebrated in India, especially in North-West part of the country where a large number of his devotees live. The occasion is known as Janmashtami.
You are going to read the history and significance of Janmashtami here. It will be a fascinating read if you take interest in cultural exoticism.
Info on Janmashtami
Before going into the history, here’s some quick info on Janmashtami that you’ll find interesting. The occasion begins with a ceremony called Nishita Puja. Its duration varies between thirty minutes and one hour. According to Hindu mythology, Shri Krishna was born exactly eight days after the full moon. It’s an auspicious day according to Hindu astrology.
Janmashtami evening is called Saptami and devotees observe fast in the evening. They also spend the night without sleeping. After midnight, they pour milk on Shri Krishna’s idol to show their veneration, milk is a symbol of fortune and prosperity in Hinduism. The idol is then dressed in expensive clothes and encrusted with decorative ornaments.
History of Janmashtami
The story behind Janmashtami is quite interesting. In the absence of factual evidence supporting Shri Krishna’s birth, the story is all that we got. According to the story, the earth once became full of sins. Celestial beings discussed among themselves how to save the earth from the weight of growing sins.
Unable to find a solution, they asked Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu assured them that he’ll end the tyranny of the sinners on earth. The greatest sinner was a despot name Kansa who ruled Mathura – which is in present day Uttar Pradesh, India.
Kansa’s sister Devaki married Vasudeva. On the day of marriage, Kansa heard the prophecy that the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva will kill him and end his regime. Scared, Kansa had his sister and brother-in-law incarcerated. He killed seven of Devaki’s children. The last one was Krishna. Kansa failed to kill the newborn Krishna as he was smuggled out of Mathura to a place called Gokul.
Krishna grew up in Gokul as a cattleman. After becoming an adult he traveled to Mathura to eliminate Kansa. Kansa fought against Krishna, but the divine power was on Krishna’s side and so Kansa was defeated and killed.
Krishna in ancient scriptures
Krishna was mentioned in the Puranas (mythological records) and in the epic Mahabharata. His skin color was dark blue. Krishna was depicted as a romantic figure playing flute to attract local women. His activities were apparently mischievous but the gopinis (young women) felt amused by the mischiefs.
Bhagavad Gita – the holy Hindu text – was a summary of the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna that took place at the ontset of the battle of Kurukshetra.
Almost all ancient scriptures hailed Krishna as a deity who came to earth for saving humanity. Hence, there’s little surprise that Janmashtami is so widely celebrated in India, and especially in Mathura – the fabled birthplace of Shri Krishna.
Significance of Janmashtami
Janmashtami is significant not just for the religious importance it carries but also for highlighting spiritual lessons. Janmashtami and its celebration signifies victory of good over evil, God’s willingness to help distressed people and the firm devotion of the venerators whose faith in God is unquestionable.
The festival also signifies love and happiness, reminds us of the ancient wisdom that God is always among us, love and devotion only help to manifest him.
Some believe the mythical story of Shri Krishna and Kansa was actually a metaphor. Krishna symbolizes goodwill, steadfastness and charity and Kansa is the metaphor for greed, selfishness and ignorance. Krishna’s conquest of Mathura and Kansa’s defeat symbolizes triumph of positive virtues over negative ones.
The “Dahi Handi”
A description of Janmashtami is incomplete without mentioning the “Dahi Handi.” It’s a fun-filled activity and the main attraction of the festival. Devotees are grouped into small teams. Then a pyramid like human tower is formed. A clay pot filled with yogurt is hung high and each team climbs up atop the tower to break the pot. The team that wins receives prizes.
This activity mimics Krishna’s childhood. When Krishna was a child, he used to steal freshly churned milk products. So women of Gokul – the village he grew up – used to hang butter and other dairy products high up. But Krishna still managed to climb up top to reach them.
This year, Janmashtami is on September 2nd. Enjoy this day with your friends and family. Pray to Shri Krishna for your and your family’s well-being. And if possible, break the dahi handi.