Krishna Jayanthi or Janmashtami is the festival that celebrates the birthday of Krishna, a major God in the Hindu pantheon. This is celebrated in the month of Bhadrapada (August-September). Krishna, according to Hindu mythology, was the 8th incarnation of Vishnu, one among the Hindu trinity of gods, which also includes Brahma, the Creator and Shiva, the Destroyer. Vishnu is both Preserver and Protector. He is said to take different forms and incarnate on earth to rid it of evils and maintain dharma or righteousness. Krishna is a very popular deity in the country, and hence, Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated grandly all over India. Let us see which are the top 10 places in India to visit during Krishna Jayanthi or Janmashtami.
Krishna is said to have grown up in Vrindavan, though he was born in nearby Mathura. This was because his father, Vasudev, left him in Gokul, with his friend Nanda, to save him from the clutches of his evil maternal uncle, Kamsa, who wanted to kill him after a divine prophecy declared that he would be slain by the 8th son of his sister, Devaki. There is a beautiful Iskcon temple in Vrindavan, built with marble, and located on the banks of the river, Yamuna. Vrindavan is where the young Krishna performed Rasleelas with Radha and the Gopis (village maidens). The festivities begin 10 days before Janmashtami. There are performances based on the life of Krishna and incidents in the Mahabharata during Janmashtami. With more than 4000 temples in Vrindavan, like Ranganathji temple, Radharaman Temple, ISCKON Temple, etc., the celebrations draw huge crowds of devotees from all over the world.
Mathura, the place of Krishna’s birth, too celebrates the festival grandly. Jhulanotsav and Ghatas are two very important aspects of the festival, which are celebrated here.
During Jhulanotsov, people put up swings in the yards of their homes and the courtyards of temples. The temples are decorated with flowers and rangolis to welcome Krishna. Idols of Krishna, adorned with new clothes and ornaments, are placed on the swings and swung. Ghatas form another remarkable feature, wherein all the temples here use a particular color as the theme. Even the idol’s clothes are of this color.
Rasleelas or dance-dramas are performed by different groups, particularly by children, around 10-13 years. People also make Jankis, which are figures crafted from mud and based on incidents in different stages of Krishna’s life.
This is the Golden City of India, the place where Krishna resided for around five thousand years. Dwarka means “door to salvation”.
Mythology says that the state of Gujarat was created by Krishna’s elder brother, Balarama. It also says that the city became submerged in the ocean after Krishna died.
Dwarka is very famous for its fabulous Janmashtami celebrations. People from many places visit the spot in the month of Shravan. During the Janmashtami festival in Dwarka, ‘Mangla aarti’ is performed in all the temples, and “Banta Bhog” and “‘Utsav Bhog'” are offered. The festival begins at 11 PM, and the arati will be performed at midnight.
Janmashtami is also called Krishnashtami or Gokulashtami, probably because Krishna was raised in Gokul by Yashoda and Nanda. During the Janmashtami Pooja, temple bells will be rung, and conches will be blown. Sanskrit mantras praising the deity will be chanted, and Krishna Bhajans sung till midnight. At midnight, the idol is bathed with holy Ganges water, and also with buttermilk, curd, and nectar. Krishna loved curd and buttermilk, and as a child, he used to steal curd.
In Manipur, Janmashtami is held on the eighth day of the new moon in Thawan (July-Aug) month. People celebrate the festival with great enthusiasm.
Devotees observe fast and visit temples like the Shri Shri Govindajee temple of Imphal, Mahabali temple, ISKCON temple, and many others. At these temples, priests recite stories of Krishna’s birth and life. Lots of devotees offer prayers at the temples.
Sweets are also prepared by the temple cooks, and aid is given to the poor.
Krishna Janmashtami is a huge celebration in Assam. The Shilanyas Iskcon temple of Assam at Ulubari, Guwahati, has a fabulous celebration. The Radha-Krishna Iskcon Sanctuary in Assam is part of the Iskcon Society, founded by Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
At the Shilanyas ISKCON temple, Janmashtami is celebrated with arati, Bhajan recitals, and chanting of Bhagavad Gita. People of all religions can take part in the celebrations.
Janmashtami is grandly celebrated in the renowned ISKCON temple in Delhi, which is called the Hare Krishna temple, located at Hari Krishna Hill, en route to the East of Kailash region of New Delhi. Young boys and girls dress up as Krishna and Radha. Rasleelas are performed, and many scenes based on his life, like stealing curd, frolicking with the gopis or village maidens, romancing Radha, advising Arjuna on the battlefield, etc. will be enacted.
ISKCON, Pune, is another great place to witness Krishna Jayanthi celebrations. Thousands of people used to visit the temple on this day, Devotees observe fast and perform “Abishek” for the deity. The festival begins with Mangal Arati, followed by Krishna Bhajan and Akhanda Kirtan. There will also be a Mahamantra, Maha Abhishek and midnight Arati. Prasad will be given to the devotees after the ceremony.
Bangalore ISKCON temple also witnesses a huge celebration, accompanied by much pageantry, on Krishna Jayanthi. On Janmashtami, there will be a special Abishek, concerts, musical performances, and special feasts. The highlights include a musical performance by an orchestra comprising 80 students within the temple premises, and Nandotsava, a sumptuous feast featuring more than 3,000 dishes. Special Abishekas and Jhulan Seva to Krishna will also be performed on two days.
Ganesh Chaturthi and Janmashtami are two of the major festivals celebrated in Mumbai. One highlight of Janmashtami celebrations is the ritual of ‘Dahi handi’, where a large number of people form a pyramid to reach and break an earthen pot that is tied high up in the air. Many groups take part in this contest. Such groups are called Govinda mandals, and they also take part in other events held all over the city. Wearing their distinctive group costumes, they visit all the Dahi handi venues to break the pot and claim cash prizes and rewards given to the victors.
The best Dahi handi celebrations can be seen in Thane, Worli, and Jogeshwari. Many people also flock to the ISKCON temple in Juhu as it celebrates Krishna Jayanthi grandly.