An Anthology of Celebrations – Krishna Janmashtami

Every year, Hindus celebrate Krishna Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna.

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Families and friends gather at pristinely decorated temples, the evening before Lord Krishna’s birth, to chant prayers, sing hymns, and watch plays re-enacting the life and teachings of Lord Krishna. The celebrations continue till midnight, as we welcome Lord Krishna into the world. At midnight, all devotees line up to greet Lord Krishna whose statue is placed on top of a swing. Each devotee offers sweets, fruits, and prayers to the Lord and gently tugs on Lord Krishna’s swing. Giving a light push to the swing is one of my favorite parts of Janmashtami.

At the end of the night, we come home with parshad or blessings in the form of sweet butter and curd.

Janmashtami is celebrated similarly in Canada and India. However, in India, the next day, individuals also gather on streets to watch and cheer teams participating in Dahi Handi.

During this event, teams of youth and adults steal butter and curd from clay pots, also known as Dahi Handi. As a child, Lord Krishna was lovingly called Makhanchor as he used to steal butter or Makhan from houses. The celebrations of Dahi Handi honor Lord Krishna’s birth and his favorite childhood sport.

During Dahi Handi, clay pots are hooked to a rope, many feet above the ground. Teams form human pyramids to reach the top and break the pots. Those successful at breaking the pot are awarded with prizes and applause.

The festivities carry on in temples and towns. Even TV shows alter their storylines to match the ongoing festivities. Krishna Janmashtami brings together families and friends to pray, sing, and celebrate Lord Krishna’s presence.

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Why do we celebrate Janmashtami?

Lord Krishna was born in the city of Mathura to Devaki and Vasudeva. Devaki’s brother, Kansa received a prophecy that Devaki’s eighth son would harm him. To prevent this from happening, Kansa imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva. Thus, Lord Krishna was born in a prison cell in Mathura.

Kansa had already killed seven of Devaki’s children. To protect their eight children from Kansa, Devaki and Vasudeva needed to escape from prison. Luckily, the night of Lord Krishna’s birth, Vasudeva noticed that the prison guards were asleep. He was able to easily escape from the prison and take Lord Krishna to his friend’s house, thus, protecting him from Kansa.

Janmashtami teaches us that when bliss is manifested into the world, the ego cannot prevail. Lord Krishna symbolizes “ananda” or bliss. Kansa represents the ego who seeks to destroy bliss. However, the night of Janmashtami, the prison guards, the guards of the ego that represent the five senses, fell asleep. Thus, Kansa could not harm Lord Krishna.

Janmashtami reminds us to cultivate love, joy, purity, and innocence from within. When we look outwards for love and joy, we are falling prey to senses, falling prey to the ego. When there is ego, the body, represented by Devaki, is imprisoned. Only love and happiness cultivated from within can overcome the ego. By cultivating love, joy, purity, and innocence, we can become closer to God, the source of bliss.

References

  1. Why We Celebrate Dahi Handi. https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/why-we-celebrate-dahi-handi.
  2. Story of The Birth of Sri Krishna | Everything You Wanted To Know. https://www.tell-a-tale.com/story-of-birth-of-sri-krishna/.
  3. Significance of Janmashtami. Indiaparenting.com https://www.indiaparenting.com/significance-of-janmashtami.html.
  4. DelhiAugust 21, I. T. W. D. N., August 23, 2019UPDATED: & Ist, 2019 11:32. Krishna Janmashtami 2019: Why we celebrate the festival, date and significance. India Today https://www.indiatoday.in/information/story/krishna-janmashtami-2019-why-we-celebrate-the-festival-date-and-significance-1587994-2019-08-21.
  5. Janmashtami and the spiritual significance of Lord Krishna’s birth. Wisdom by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar https://wisdom.srisriravishankar.org/janmashtami-spiritual-significance-lord-krishnas-birth/ (2016).

Wrote by: Gaauree Chawla

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