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’. It is celebrated in the August/September months, on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon and is celebrated over two days. The first day is Krishnashtami or Gokulashtami. The second day is called Kalastami or more popularly Janmashtami. This celebration is said to be revealed originally by the Sri Krishna himself to Yudhishthira, the eldest of Pandavas, as mentioned in the Bhavishyottara Puran.
He was born to Vasudev and Devki, who were imprisoned by Devki’s evil brother Kansa and was brought up by Nand and Yashoda. The birth of Lod Krishna is believed to be symbolic of our imprisonment in worldly illusions, where He took birth with us and led us to salvation and peace, vanquishing all evils depicted by Kansa in the story.
People fast on this day, usually a waterless fast. They spend the day immersed in Shri Krishna’s glory by reading, reciting and singing his divine leela especially in the evening in mandirs. Temples of Lord Krishna are decorated most beautifully and children are adorned as Lord Krishna and Radhika, his spiritual beloved. Krishna Leela or the plays depicting scenes from Krishna’s life, especially childhood, are performed. At midnight, the Lord’s birth hour, arti is performed. He is also installed in the form of ‘Lalji’ (child form) in a swing and devotionally offered many sumptuous food dishes. ‘Makhan’ (butter) is especially included since Shri Krishna loved this in childhood. The traditional prasad is ‘Panchajiri’ – made of five ingredients: powdered ginger, ‘suva’, coriander, sugar and ghee. Other ingredients include poppy seeds (khaskhas) and dessicated coconut shavings.The most popular ceremony of Dahi-handi (breaking a pot full of milk and its derivatives} takes place on the second day.
The Ceremony of Dahi-Handi:
During this ceremony a large earthenware pot is filled with milk, curds, butter, honey fruits etc. and is suspended from a height between 20 to 40 feet. Sporting young men and boys come forward to claim this prize. To do so they construct a human pyramid by standing over each other’s shoulders till the pyramid is tall enough to enable the topmost person to reach the pot and claim the contents after breaking it. Normally, currency notes are tied to the rope by which the pot is suspended. This prize money is distributed among those who participate in the pyramid building.
This ceremony replicates Krishna’s love for milk and butter. In his childhood, the Lord Krishna along with his mates used to raid the houses of his neighbors in search of milk and butter.
How is Janmashtami Celebrated?
Where Vaishnava temples exist, festivities begin before dawn and extend all day until midnight, the exact moment of the anniversary of Krishna’s appearance. Events include kirtan, singing the Lord’s name along with other devotees; and japa, private, more intimate prayer. Some devoteescook a feast of over one hundred dishes, while others perform drama and dance. Some clothe and decorate the deity of Krishna while others string enormous flower garlands and other decorations for the temple. Incense burns, scriptures are read, and all but the young and the infirm fast all day. The deities are also bathed with a variety of auspicious liquids in a kind of ablution ceremony called abhisheka. Sometimes taking over two hours, this is performed with great pomp.
Finally, at midnight, priests pull apart the curtains to reveal the
freshly dressed deity of Krishna on a creatively festooned and colored altar. The excitement builds, and a rousing kirtan ensues.
How to Celebrate Janmashtami at Home
But what if you don’t live near a temple? What if you can’t make it to a major celebration Does that mean you can’t observe Janmashtami? Of course not. It is our sincere devotion that pleases Krishna most, and this can be offered anywhere. So to help you feel more connected to the Lord and His devotees on this special day, here are Krishna.com’s tips on how to celebrate Janmashtami at home:
Invite all your friends and family to participate in the festivities.
Decorating your home for Krishna can be fun, particularly for children. Encourage them in helping to make garlands, hanging balloons and festoons of leaves, and generally making the house beautiful for Krishna’s appearance.
Get a copy of the Vaishnava Songbook and choose some of your favorite bhajanas(devotional songs in praise of God) to sing. Krishna, also known as Murlidhara, or “one who holds the flute,” loves music. And so will your friends and family, as you take turns singing and playing instruments. Alternatively, play bhajan CDs and heighten the spiritual atmosphere.
You can also chant extra rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra on yourjapa mala (prayer beads). This is an intimate one on one exchange with Krishna, and makes you feel much closer to the Lord.
If you have Radha-Krishna deities, get extra special new outfits for Them. Exercise your creativity and pay special attention to decorating Their altar.
Recreate the temple program and hold an abhisheka bathing
ceremony for your deities. Simply buy different liquids like yogurt,
honey, ghee and fruit juices and bathe the deity with them while
singing devotional songs.
Temples prepare at least one hundred and eight different food dishes on Janmashtami. Of course, you don’t have to go that far, unless you’re feeling particularly energetic! But it’s always nice to cook some very special preparations to offer to the Lord. Imagine that Krishna was actually right there, in your house—what would you offer Him? This makes for a wonderful meditation while cooking on Janmashtami. Have a midnight arati (worship ceremony) with a
kirtan. This is the exact time that Krishna appeared on this
planet, so it is most auspicious and spiritually inspiring. If you
have arati paraphernalia, then you can do a full offering. If
not, don’t worry–Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, “If you
offer Me with love a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.”
So offer whatever you can—it’s your love and devotion that matters.
Tune into Krishna.com’s webcams and watch the festivities going on at some of ISKCON’s major temples.
Buy a special gift for the Lord. You can wrap it and write a card to Krishna. Here are some gift ideas: If you have Deities you can buy or make jewelry, new clothes, garlands, peacock feathers, turban pieces, flutes or water cups
New picture frame if you worship a picture of Krishna
Brand new aratiset
If you are able to fast from food, fasting until midnight is recommended. If fasting is too difficult, then try to eat only light foods during the day. By putting our own needs aside and concentrating more on Krishna’s, we show our love for Him.
You can engage your children in many of the above activities. Depending on your children’s ages, they can help cook, make garlands, design a birthday card, play musical instruments, dance and chant Hare Krishna. There are many children’s books about Krishna as well as DVDs of Krishna pastimes at the Krishna.com store. Children also enjoy dressing up as Radha, Krishna and their associates, and re-enacting Krishna’s pastimes. This helps to create a very festive mood. As you celebrate Janmashtami, remember that just as we enjoy the attention and fun on our birthday, so the Lord also enjoys our attention and gifts on His appearance day. The difference between us and Krishna is that He is able to reciprocate perfectly with each one of us. In the transcendental realm, everything that we offer to the Lord with love and devotion will benefit us unlimitedly, and those benefits will stay with us for eternity.
The Festival of Kite
Flying in Jammu
Kite (Patang or Guddi) is a light frame of bamboo stick covered with paper, often provided with a balancing tail, and designed to be flown in the air at the end of a long glass coated thread (Manja or Dor); it is held aloft by the wind. Making a kite is an art and flying it is a fine art. Kite-makers inherited and learnt the art of making kites from their ancestors passed it on to their future generations.
In Jammu, kite flying is an important part of celebrations on Raksha Bandhan and Shri Krishna Janmashthami. The kite is called Guddi and the string with which it is flown is called ‘Dor’ by the locals. The kites are given different names depending upon the color combination and design. Names like Danda (stick), Pari (fairy), Chand Tara (moon & star), Chhapan Chhuri, Tiranga (tricolor), Budda (old man) are common. Highly maneuverable single-string paper and bamboo kites are flown from the rooftops while using line friction in an attempt to cut each other’s kite lines, either by letting the line loose at high speed or by pulling the line in a fast and repeated manner. It is called Patang Baazi in Hindi.
An array of designer kites soar the skyline in Jammu on Raksha Bandhan and Shri Krishna Janmashthami. People start flying kites early in the morning and continue until the evening. From dawn to dusk, people of all ages fly kites rejoicing in the spirit of the day. The blue sky is enlivened by colourful and pictorial kites. An array of colourful designer kites soar the skyline, their lines moving as if alive. Playing music while kite-flying is a common sight in Jammu. Music is loud and people dance when they cut someone other’s kite. Crowded rooftops, fun-loving rivalry to outdo each other, and delicious feast are the hall-marks of the festival.
Kite flying or Patang Baazi is a cultural sport in India as well. It is a fun sport for all times. Some say the history of Kites dates back to the days of Mahabharat. Kites were not only used in receiving messages but also measuring distances in war times.
Kite flying has contributed to the composite culture and harmony of India.