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The Holy Birth Of Lord Krishna
Janmashtami is celebrated every year on the 8th
day of the dark fortnight that is also known as the Krishna Paksh, in
the Hindu month of bhadon (around July-August). The period usually
coincides with the rainy season.
The festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna – the black God. Krishna is the eighth
and most important incarnation of Vishnu (Preserver in the Hindu Holy Trinity
of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer of the Universe). Krishna is also perhaps the
most human of all Hindu deities. Hence, his birthday is a celebration of all
that he epitomises. He was known for his lighthearted revelry, and Hindu
mythology is replete with tales of his antics and his irresistible charm.
However the avatar of Krishna that perhaps overrides the sum total of his
other manifestations is that of the omniscient charioteer who delivers the
wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjun before the great war of Mahabharata – a
Hindu epic. Therefore Krishna is also known as Parthasarathi, or
Arjun's/Partha's charioteer. The discourse is also telling of his consummate
wit, intelligence and acumen as a statesman.
According To Hindu Mythology
Hindu mythology presents a fascinating chain of events that were to unfold
around the time of Krishna’s birth.
Krishna's parents Deviki and Vasudev were thrown into prison by his maternal
uncle Kans – the tyrant King of Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), as it had been
prophesied by Naradmuni that Kans would be annihilated by the eighth child
born of his cousin sister Deviki. Not wanting to leave anything to chance,
Kans killed each of the seven children immediately after their birth in
prison. Finally the eighth child was born – a beautiful dark baby boy. Legend
has it that miraculously all the guards of the prison fell into deep sleep,
the prison gates opened, and Deviki and Vasudev became unfettered. An akashvani,
or heavenly voice ordained Vasudev to take his newborn son, destined to rid
the world of evil, to his friend Nand and his wife Yashoda in Gokul, a city
that lay across the River Yamuna. Fearing for the life of his son, Vasudev
readied himself for a journey wrought with perils. Yamuna in spate parted its
waters to make way for the father and son as soon as infant Krishna touched
the swelling waters with his tiny foot, and the Shaeshnag (the
many-headed serpent king) emerged from the deluge to shield the two from the
Across the Yamuna, Yashoda had recently given birth to a daughter who was
sleeping soundly besides her parents. Vasudev quietly left his son besides
the sleeping and unsuspecting Nand and Yashoda, and returned to his wife in
Mathura with Nand and Yashoda's daughter.
The Legendary Tale Continues
In keeping with the nature of legends, as soon as Vasudev was back in the
prison cell, the gates clamped shut and the guards woke up to resume their
duty. The birth of the child was brought to the notice of Kans who
immediately came to repeat the infernal ritual with the supposed eighth child
The heartless king threw the girl child against the wall. But instead of
being killed, she rose to the skies and soon the heavens resounded with a
celestial voice informing Kans that his destroyer had already been born and
was safe! With this, the girl child vanished amidst thunderclap and lightning.
It is believed that the child, referred to as Deviji, was actually the
embodiment of the Goddess Durga (the Goddess of War and Power) and was
later to be worshipped under other names such as Tara, Mandakini, Ishani.
therefore actually celebrated twice, the occasions coinciding with Krishna's
birth in captivity in Mathura, and the discovery of the newborn Krishna in
Nand and Yashoda's house in Gokul.
This tale is fondly remembered on the day of Janmashtami as temples and homes
light up for the joyous occasion. Especially cities like Mumbai, Agra,
Mathura and Vrindavan come alive during the festival. Cribs and other
displays with dolls in traditional costumes depict the life and times of
Krishna. Raas Leelas (dance dramas) enact incidents from Krishna’s life
amidst much pomp and show. People fast till midnight, the time of Krishna’s
birth. Elaborate pujas, or prayer ceremonies are held in temples and
homes to welcome the lord at midnight amongst joyous singing of hymns. Prasad
(sweetmeat offered to the lord and later eaten by devotees) is distributed to
everyone. The lord having arrived, it is time for everyone to settle down to
a hearty vegetarian meal.
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