In the holy and diverse land of India, numerous festivals are celebrated with lots of zeal, enthusiasm, and fervour. One such festival is Janmashtami. Janmashtami celebrates the birth of the divine Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar or incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This day is commonly known as Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami. This specific festival is celebrated by Hindus all over the world. Janmashtami 2021 will be falling on 30th August 2021.
Let's look at the important date and time for Shri Krishna Janmashtami 2021.
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The auspicious Janmashtami marks the birth of Lord Krishna, one of the most famous deities worshipped by Hindus all over the world. Lord Krishna is believed to be the most powerful incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The festival of Janmashtami is celebrated on the Ashtami tithi (Eighth Day) of the dark fortnight under Rohini Nakshatra. Lord Krishna's birth month is Shravan as per the Amanta calendar and Bhadrapada as per the Purnimant calendar. This corresponds to August and September as per the Gregorian calendar. This specific day is celebrated as the birth date of Lord Krishna.
The words 'Janm' means birth, and 'Ashtami' means eighth. The divine Lord Krishna is believed to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Krishna is also the eighth son of Vasudev and Yashoda, born on the Ashtami tithi (eighth). According to religious beliefs, Lord Vishnu took birth as Lord Krishna to establish Dharma. The birth of Lord Krishna and his subsequent victory over his maternal uncle- Kansa is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. Lord Krishna's birth happened to dispel evil from the Earth and to spread the message of love, care, and brotherhood amongst everyone.
On the pious occasion of Janmashtami, the devotees offer prayers to Lord Krishna. By worshipping Lord Krishna on this day, all the wishes are fulfilled. It is believed that childless couples hoping for children can get children by offering prayers to Lord Krishna on this day. Observing a fast on this holy day is believed to be highly fruitful. The fast of Janmashtami is called Vratraj as per the scriptures. In Bhavishya Purana, it is mentioned that whoever observes this fast, misfortune, premature death, and discord don't befall them. Whoever observes this fast even once enjoys all the pleasures of the world. Various cultural practices are observed in different parts of the country that are all inspired by the life of Lord Krishna, especially his childhood days.
According to mythology, Lord Krishna was the eighth child born to Devaki and Vasudeva in prison in Mathura. Devaki was the sister of Kansa, an evil ruler of Mathura who ruled the Vrishni kingdom. Before Lord Krishna was born, it was prophesied that Devaki's 8th son (Lord Krishna) would kill Kansa. Terrified by this news, the ruthless Kansa decides to kill his sister, but Vasudeva intervenes and pleads with him to not kill his wife and promises to hand over each newborn to him. Kansa agrees to this and puts the couple behind bars. He proceeds to kill every child that Devaki gives birth to. Kansa continues killing the children to prevent the prophecy from coming true.
However, when the fateful day arrived, and the eighth child (Lord Krishna) was born, the entire kingdom fell asleep. Vasudeva secretly took the baby to Nand Baba's home in Gokul, a village in Mathura. Vasudeva encountered several problems during his journey to Nand Baba's house to save the baby from the maternal uncle. However, he miraculously reached his destination. Vasudeva handed the baby over to Nand Baba and Yashoda. Vasudeva exchanged his newborn child with the couple's baby daughter to ensure that Kansa does not find the eighth child. After exchanging the babies, Vasudeva returns to the prison where Kansa was prepared to kill the eighth child.
When the ruthless Kansa tried to kill the girl child, the baby transformed into Goddess Durga and warned him about his evil deeds and inevitable end. Meanwhile, Lord Krishna grew up in his foster parents' (Nand Baba and Yashoda) home in Vrindavan. He was the cynosure of everyone while growing up. On reaching adulthood, Lord Krishna killed Kansa, united with Devaki and Vasudeva, and ultimately re-established peace in Mathura.
Therefore, on the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami, the devotees hail Lord Krishna and pray to him.
Janmashtami is considered an important festival for the Hindus. Devotees mark this auspicious festival by observing a fast and offering prayers to the divine Lord Krishna. Devotees decorate their house with diyas, flowers, and lights for this special occasion.
Following rituals are to be practised on this auspicious day.
Wake up early in the morning. Take a bath and wear clean clothes.
After this, take the resolution of fast by facing east or north.
Install the idol or picture of Mata Devaki and Lord Krishna in the cradle. On this pious day, the child form of Lord Krishna, i.e. Bal Gopal or Ladoo Gopal, is worshipped.
While worshipping, offer prayers to all the deities. Chant the names of Devaki, Vasudeva, Nand, Yashoda, Baldev, etc., while worshipping.
Worshipping and celebrating the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna at night (midnight) has a lot of significance. This is because the divine Lord Krishna was born at night.
Offer new clothes to Lord Krishna after anointing him with Panchamrit and make sure Ladoo Gopal swings on his swing (jhula). Serve Lord Krishna and take care of him with complete devotion.
Add Tulsi (basil leaves) to the Panchamrit, and then offer Makhan-mishri, Meva, and Dhaniye Panjiri to Lord Krishna. After performing Aarti, distribute the prasad among your family members.
The idol of Lord Krishna is adorned with sparkling new clothes, mukut (crown), and other jewellery for this festival. The fast kept for this occasion is only broken by consuming the prasad after worshipping Lord Krishna at night. Many devotees break the fast on the next day as well. On this festival, devotees worship Lord Krishna and Lord Vishnu by singing devotional songs. The devotees also chant shlokas.
With the stroke of midnight, the festivities start as it is believed that Lord Krishna was born at midnight. These celebrations are vibrant, lively, and filled with enthusiasm. This holy day is celebrated in various parts of India in different ways and comprises various kinds of local traditions and rituals. This day is celebrated in North Indian states as Janmashtami, whereas in Southern states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as Sri Krishna Jayanthi. Many Hindu temples, such as the Iskcon Temple in Delhi and Vrindavan, Prem Mandir in Vrindavan, and Jagannath Temple in Odisha, are decorated exquisitely with lights and flowers.
A large throng of devotees gathers in the temples on this holy occasion. A host of bhajans and kirtans are organised in the temples. Devotees organise many stage performances to depict incidents from Lord Krishna's life. Stage performance commemorating the special bond that Lord Krishna shares with Radha, known as Raslila, is also quite popular. This garners a lot of attention from the devotees. Food and delicacies play a crucial role in this festival. Lord Krishna is believed to have loved milk, white butter, and curd, so delicacies are prepared from these ingredients.
This festival's celebration is more vibrant and unique in Mathura and Vrindavan, which are the holy places associated with Lord Krishna, especially with his childhood and early youth days. The temples and household shrines in Mathura and Vrindavan are dolled up to celebrate the birth date of Lord Krishna. Images and statues of Lord Krishna are bathed and placed in cradles to symbolise his birth. Conch shells are blown, and bells are rung, which fill the entire atmosphere with positivity. Mantras are also chanted with complete devotion to venerate the divine Lord Krishna.
Dahi Handi is another popular practice associated with this festival. Dahi Handi enacts Lord Krishna's childhood antics and mischief. Lord Krishna is known as Makhan Chor and is believed to have stolen butter from earthen pots. This is why a Dahi Handi or an earthen pot of buttermilk is hung at a certain height in the streets. Men form human pyramids over each other to reach and break the earthen pot. This, in fact, is an imitation of Lord Krishna's childhood antics when he used to steal butter with his friends from pots that were hung out of reach. Dahi Handi is also organised as a competition in many places in India.
The auspicious and holy occasion of Janmashtami sees the coming together of devotees from all walks of life. They come together and immerse themselves in the mirth of the festival. Even though the celebrations might differ as every region has its own way of celebrating this occasion, the fervour is the same in the hearts of all devotees.