Krishna Janmashtami – A joyous celebration of Krishna’s birth

Krishna Janmashtami  – A joyous celebration of Krishna’s birth

Sonia Sumitra Thakar

In the Bhagwad Gita (Chapter 4, verse 7), Lord Krishna says to Arjuna— 

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata

Abhythanamadharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham

Wherever there is a decline in righteousness in the world, I reincarnate myself again and again to maintain the balance. 

In the Dwapara Yuga, Lord Vishnu incarnated on earth for the eighth time to destroy the evil king Kansa, re-establish dharma, and spread the message of brotherhood and humanity. He was born in the Shravana or Bhadrapada month as Krishna. Janmashtmi is one of the most enthusiastically celebrated festivals by Hindus all over the world. Historians calculate that Krishna was born around 5000-6000 years ago. This day is celebrated as Gokulashtmi or Krishna Janmashtami  with great fervour and devotion. 

Story of Krishna’s birth

According to Hindu mythology, Kansa, the king of Mathura, was a tyrant and a ruthless man. When his beloved sister Devaki was married to Vasudev, he was so elated that he decided to parade them around his kingdom by driving the bridal chariot himself. At that time, the heavens rang out with a prophecy that changed everything. Kansa was warned that he would be killed by the eighth child of his own sister, Devaki. He immediately threw his sister and her husband Vasudev into prison. In fact, he wanted to kill Devaki but her husband begged him to spare her life and in return promised to hand over all future children to Kansa. 

One by one Kansa killed six children born to Devaki and Vasudev. When Devaki was expecting her seventh child, divinity interfered. The foetus was magically transferred to the womb of Vasudev’s other wife Rohini Devi, who lived in Gokul and was thus saved. He was born as Balaram, Krishna’s elder brother. Kansa thought that Devaki had lost the child. Devaki and Vasudev’s eighth child, Krishna, was born at midnight on a stormy wet night and the gods conspired to put the guards to sleep and open the locked doors of the jail so that Vasudev could carry the child out of the jail in a wicker basket, across the river Yamuna, to safety. He left the baby boy with his friend Nanda and his wife Yashoda in Gokul and returned to the jail with their new born baby girl who was actually the goddess Yogmaya. As Kansa moved to kill the baby girl she presented herself as a goddess and revealed to Ravana that Devaki’s eighth child had been spared. Later, Krishna killed his evil uncle Kansa and fulfilled the prophecy and upheld dharma.

Celebrating Krishna’s birth

To celebrate the message of brotherhood and peace and to commemorate the message that his life story, filled with holy deeds, embodies, Lord Krishna’s birthday is celebrated with great enthusiasm and ardour as Janmashtami . The celebrations usually span two days. On the first day, Raslila or a dance drama based on incidents in Sri Krishna’s life is performed. Small children dress up like Krishna and his beloved Radha and many people fast on this day. Bhajans are sung in praise of Lord Krishna, stories based on Krishna’s naughty yet wondrous childhood are recited with spirit and adoration and, often, a baby Krishna or Balagopala is rocked in a cradle at the altar. Festivities reach their peak at midnight as Krishna was born at that time. People express their devotion through song and dance, which only become more fervent and energised as midnight approaches, and finally the celebrations culminate in offering aarti to the deity.

On the second day, in many places Dahi Handi is something that the youth look forward to. Little Krishna was called ‘makhanchor’ (butter thief) as he loved to steal and eat freshly made butter stored in clay pots. In tribute to this adorable trait of Balagopala, youngsters come together to build human pyramids to try and break earthen pots filled with curds or butter suspended at a height. In some states, this community event takes the form of competitions and brings the entire society together in a joyous celebration. 

The festival of Krishna Janamashtami brings people together and strengthens the spirit of unity. It embodies the values of friendship, love, peace and brotherhood that Lord Krishna taught by example. 

On this auspicious and festive occasion, why not gift loved ones with our beautiful Krishna Chalisa and spread the joy and bliss that comes from celebrating Sri Krishna’s life.