Krishna Janamashtami (also known as Krishnastami or Gokulastami) is the birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, believed to have been born about five thousand years ago in Mathura in ‘Dwapar Yuga’ . This annual Hindu festival is observed according to the Hindu luni-solar calendar, on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada, which overlaps with August and September of the Gregorian calendar. Krishna Janmashtami in 2017 is on Monday, 14th of Aug.

The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and vigor by Hindus all over India and abroad. People observe fast the whole day, sing hymns and conduct prayers at midnight to rejoice the birth of the Lord. It is an important festival, particularly to the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. Krishna temples are decorated and lit up and numerous visitors are welcomed on the day, while Krishna devotees hold bhakti events and keep a night vigil. After Krishna’s midnight hour birth, statues of baby Krishna are washed and clothed, then placed in a cradle. The devotees then break their fast, by sharing food and sweets. Women draw tiny foot prints outside their house doors and kitchen, walking towards their house, a symbolism for Krishna’s journey into their homes. Major Krishna temples organize recitation of Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita.
Many communities organize dance-drama events called Rasa Lila or Krishna Lila, which enact the life of Krishna and re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days. according to the scriptures. All this and a festival the next day are part of Janmashtami celebrations.

Another interesting aspect of Krishna Janmashtami is the practice of Dahi-Handi which is played out as a community tradition in Maharashtra, and other western states of India. Pots of yoghurt are hung high up, sometimes with tall poles or from ropes hanging from the second or third level of a building. This game portrays the playful and mischievous side of Krishna, where teams of young men form human pyramids to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. As per the annual tradition, teams of youth and boys called “Govindas” go around to these hanging pots, climb over one another, form a human pyramid and then break the pot. Girls and other spectators surround these boys, cheer and tease them while dancing and singing. The spilled contents are considered as Prasada (celebratory offering). It is a public spectacle, cheered and welcomed as a community event.

Youth groups form Govinda pathaks, which compete with each other, especially for prize money  on Janamashtami. These groups are called mandals or handis and they go around the local areas, attempting to break as many pots as possible every August. Celebrities and media attend the festivities, while corporations sponsor parts of the event and cash and gifts are offered for the Govinda teams.

PICTURE CREDIT :  AstroCAMP.com,  Dawn – Reuters

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