Janmashtami: Celebrating the Birth of Lord Krishna - 2023 Dates, History, Significance, Folk Tales and more•
Posted on September 06 2023
Janmashtami, the celebration of Lord Krishna's birth, is a time of immense joy, devotion, and reflection. It reminds us of the eternal wisdom imparted by Lord Krishna and the enduring message of love, righteousness, and selfless action. As devotees come together to celebrate this auspicious day, they are not only honouring the divine but also reaffirming their commitment to living a life guided by Krishna's teachings.
When will Janmashtami be celebrated this year?
Every year, the nation comes together to commemorate the sacred festival of Janmashtami. The celebration takes place on the Ashtami Tithi of Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadrapada and is also known as Gokulashtami, Shrikrishna Jayanti, Krishnasthami, and Krishna Janmashtami. However, there is uncertainty this year over the precise celebration day. The followers of Lord Krishna are unsure about whether to celebrate Janmashtami on September 6 or 7 this year.
While Ashtami Tithi begins at 3:37 p.m. on September 6 and ends at 4:14 p.m. on September 7, Rohini Nakshatra begins at 9:20 a.m. on September 6 and ends at 10:25 a.m. on September 7. As a result, Janmashtami will be celebrated on both days. While Janmashtami is celebrated on September 6, Dahi Handi is celebrated on September 7.
The Legend of Lord Krishna's Birth
The story of Lord Krishna's birth is the central theme of Janmashtami. According to Hindu scriptures, Lord Krishna was born in the town of Mathura, in northern India, in the Dwapara Yuga (the third age of the four Yugas).
He was born to Devaki and Vasudeva, who were imprisoned by Devaki's brother, the tyrannical King Kansa. It was prophesied that Kansa would be killed by Devaki's eighth child, who would be Lord Krishna.
On the night of Krishna's birth, as a divine miracle, the guards fell asleep, and the prison doors opened on their own, allowing Vasudeva to carry baby Krishna across the overflowing Yamuna River to the village of Gokul, where he was fostered by Yashoda and Nanda. This event, known as Krishna Janma, is celebrated with great enthusiasm during Janmashtami.
Celebrations and Traditions
Janmashtami is celebrated with a myriad of customs and traditions, each holding profound spiritual significance:
Many devotees observe a day-long fast leading up to midnight, the believed time of Lord Krishna's birth. Some devotees opt for a complete fast, while others consume only fruits and milk.
2) Devotional Songs and Bhajans
Devotees sing devotional songs and bhajans dedicated to Lord Krishna throughout the day and night. These songs often narrate the divine exploits of Krishna as a child and a young man.
3) Dahi Handi
In Maharashtra and some other parts of India, a popular tradition called Dahi Handi takes place. A clay pot filled with butter or yogurt is suspended at a significant height, and young men form human pyramids to break it, symbolising Krishna's love for dairy products.
4) Jhankis and Rangolis
Elaborate jhankis (tableaus) depicting scenes from Lord Krishna's life are set up in temples and homes. Colourful rangolis (decorative patterns) adorn the entrances, welcoming the divine spirit.
5) Midnight Celebrations
The most significant moment of Janmashtami is the midnight celebration, marking Lord Krishna's birth. Temples are beautifully decorated, and priests perform a special aarti (ritual of worship) at this auspicious hour.
6) Swinging of Cradles
In homes and temples, swings or cradles are adorned with flowers and decorative items. Baby Krishna's idol is placed in the swing, and devotees take turns rocking it gently as lullabies are sung.
7) Reading of Scriptures
Many devotees gather in temples to listen to narrations of the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures, which contain Lord Krishna's profound teachings on life, duty, and spirituality.
8) The Teachings of Lord Krishna
Janmashtami is not only a celebration of Lord Krishna's birth, but also an opportunity to reflect on his timeless teachings:
Dharma (Righteousness): Lord Krishna emphasised the importance of performing one's duty (dharma) without attachment to the results. He guided Arjuna in fulfilling his duty as a warrior in the epic Mahabharata.
Bhakti (Devotion): Krishna emphasised the path of devotion and encouraged his devotees to surrender to the divine with unwavering faith and love.
Karma (Action): He stressed the significance of selfless action and performing one's duties diligently, without attachment to the fruits of those actions.
Detachment: Lord Krishna's teachings also include the concept of detachment, advising individuals to engage in the world while maintaining inner equanimity.
Stories of Lord Krishna
1) Krishna and the Butter Thieves
One of the most beloved childhood stories of Lord Krishna revolves around his love for butter. As a mischievous child, Krishna was notorious for stealing butter from the homes of the villagers in Gokul. The gopis (milkmaids) would often complain to his mother, Yashoda, about his antics. However, Krishna's charm and innocence would always melt her heart. This story reflects the playful and endearing nature of Lord Krishna as a child.
2) Krishna and the Serpent Kalia
In the holy village of Vrindavan, the serpent Kalia had poisoned the Yamuna River, causing great distress to the inhabitants. Lord Krishna, at a young age, fearlessly confronted Kalia. After a fierce battle, Krishna subdued the serpent, dancing on its many heads. Instead of punishing Kalia, Krishna granted him mercy, teaching the importance of forgiveness and redemption.
3) Krishna and the Govardhan Hill
Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill on his little finger to protect the people of Vrindavan from the wrath of Lord Indra's rain and thunderstorm. This act of divine strength and protection demonstrates Krishna's role as the ultimate saviour and provider.
4) The Raas Leela
The Raas Leela is a divine and enchanting story where Lord Krishna danced with the gopis under the moonlight in Vrindavan. His melodious flute playing captured the hearts of the gopis, who were completely enraptured by his divine presence. The Raas Leela symbolises the divine union of the soul with the Supreme.
5) Krishna and Sudama
The story of Krishna and Sudama, his childhood friend and a poor Brahmin, illustrates Krishna's unwavering love and compassion. Sudama visited Krishna in Dwarka, bearing a humble gift of rice flakes. Despite his meagre offering, Krishna recognized Sudama's pure devotion and showered him with divine blessings, teaching us that material wealth holds no value in the eyes of the divine.
These stories of Lord Krishna showcase his multifaceted personality - as a playful child, a fearless protector, a compassionate friend, and the embodiment of divine love. They serve as a reminder of Krishna's presence in every aspect of life and inspire devotees to emulate his qualities of love, devotion, and righteousness.
Written by Puja Paul