What Is Janmashtami?

What is it?

Whilst Janmashtami is known by several other names, they all celebrate the same thing: the birth of Lord Krishna. It’s the time to get down and celebrate Krishna with great pleasure, pomp, and of course, a bit of prayer. As the date it falls on depends on the Hindu calendar, there is no fixed date in the Gregorian calendar, but it is usually celebrated in August or September.

Who is Lord Krishna?

Lord Krishna is known as the protector of the universe and is the eight incarnation of Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is one of the principal deities of the Hindu triad; the Trimurti. Many people believe Hindu’s have 100’s of Gods, but these God’s are various incarnations of one of the main three deities. Other religions such as Buddhism and Jainism acknowledge him and He is of course the supreme deity to members of the Hare Krishna Movement.

As one of the most widely revered divinities, Lord Krishna is pretty boss. He is the God of compassion, tenderness and love. He’s like the cool guy in your class as he’s a musician (he’s typically seen with his flute), a prankster, eats sweets without gaining weight (his favourite is makhan, a type of butter made from cream or milk), and is a serious womanizer! He is usually accompanied by the ladies or his lover, Radha. He’s considered a child, a warrior, hero, cowherd, teacher, and philosopher. He is an inspiration to many people around the globe which makes him the ultimate Gee.

Why is it significant?

Of course the many trials Krishna endured and things he taught us make his birth significant, but even his birth alone provided a beacon of light. He was born in a time of chaos when evil was everywhere and freedoms denied. Legend says his father, Vasudeva, took him across the Yamuna River after he was born, to foster parents, Nanda and Yashoda, in Gokul. It was predicted Lord Krishna would kill his uncle, Kansa, who was ruling the kingdom through terror and had imprisoned Devika, his sister and Krishna’s mother, because of this prediction; hence he was smuggled to safety. Years later, Krishna came back and slayed Kansa for good, ending his horrific reign.

Of course the many trials Krishna endured and things he taught us make his birth significant, but even his birth alone provided a beacon of light. He was born in a time of chaos when evil was everywhere and freedoms denied. Legend says his father, Vasudeva, took him across the Yamuna River after he was born, to foster parents, Nanda and Yashoda, in Gokul. It was predicted Lord Krishna would kill his uncle, Kansa, who was ruling the kingdom through terror and had imprisoned Devika, his sister and Krishna’s mother, because of this prediction; hence he was smuggled to safety. Years later, Krishna came back and slayed Kansa for good, ending his horrific reign.

How is it celebrated?

As with many festivals in India, different states celebrate in slightly different ways. However, it is common for people to fast in Lord Krishna’s honour either until the next day or until a special puja (prayer), after which they break the fast with something sweet! Followers may wash an idol of Krishna and decorate him with new clothes, because who doesn’t want to get dolled up on their birthday?! There are often plays and dances (or raslila) performed based on stories of Krishna. People also sign bhajans (devotional songs) and hold vigils.

Childhood Memories!

I grew up celebrating Janmashtami and even though I am not religious, some of my favourite memories are of going to Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford with my family. I would fast after showering (as I was told to; I don’t now), drive down in anticipation and get to feed the cows on the grounds of the temple. We would walk through miraculous displays showing Lord Krishna’s life and see performances based on it. There was a carnival type spirit here, maybe because the house used as the temple was donated by Beatles singer, George Harrison! An excitement filled the air from the moment we arrived till long after it was time to leave.

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