With a sparkle in my eyes, I remember listening to the fascinating tales of Lord Krishna and his divine powers from my mother as a child. She had her own fun little ways of narrating them! Sometimes, she would compare me to Krishna’s playful avatar when she would see me hiding chocolates and remind me that little Kanha stole matkas of butter in exactly the same way. As far as love is concerned, she considered Radha and Krishna’s story to be one of the most beautiful ones but didn’t forget to mention Meera’s selfless admiration for him. The stories of his birth, his escapades with demons, the reason for his ‘blue’ skin colour - Mom made sure I knew it all!
TBH, the fondest memories of my childhood include the ones with my family on Janmashtami. I would wake up to the aroma of mom cooking delicious, buttery desserts like ladoos, halwa and besan barfi with savouries like aloo puri and kachoris. My home would be decked up with garlands of marigold flowers serenading a sweet fragrance and in a corner, there would be a string of Lord Krishna’s picture frames and idols, decorated with peacock feathers and diyas. After the puja, we would all dress up in our best and head to our nearest temple where the festival was celebrated with great fanfare. The major highlight of the day was a children’s play narrating the enchanting story of Krishna's life, it always ended our day on an incredible note.
Nearly 5,000 years ago, in the modern-day state of Uttar Pradesh stood a holy city called Mathura which was ruled by an evil king. The king’s name was Kamsa. Keeping his own father, Ugrasena, imprisoned, he was drunk on power and greed and planned to be the sole king of Mathura as long as he lived. Unfortunately, it was a trying time for the people of the city as they had no other option but to put up with the unfair rules of Kamsa in their kingdom. But little did he know that karma would make him pay for all his wrongdoings - very soon!
It all started when his sister, Princess Devaki got married to King Vasudeva of the Yadus. The people of Mathura were extremely happy as they believed that this would lessen the number of wars with the Yadu clan. However, the happiness didn’t remain consistent for long. After the wedding, Kamsa decided to escort the couple home, himself, in their wedding chariot. But as soon as he took the reins of the chariot, a divine voice thundered from the sky, addressing him, “Oh, you foolish king! By giving Devaki’s hand to Vasudeva, you have signed your own death warrant. The eighth son born to Devaki and Vasudeva will kill you!”.
Hearing this, Kamsa froze in anger. He pulled down Devaki from the chariot, drew his sword out and decided to kill her on the spot but Vasudeva begged for his bride’s mercy. He promised to let him kill their eighth child so that the prophecy would not come true. Kamsa spared Devaki’s life that day but kept the couple imprisoned forever. Mercilessly, he killed all the first six children that Devaki bore by throwing them against a stone wall. Soon, thereafter, Devaki was pregnant with her eighth son and Kamsa couldn’t wait to get his hands on this one.
At the stroke of midnight, Krishna was born in his four-armed, divine Vishnu form. That's when they realised that he was one of the 10 avatars of God Vishnu who was destined to bring peace, love and justice into the world. But they begged him to turn himself into an ordinary baby so that they could hide him from Kamsa. Lord Krishna then, advised Vasudeva to take him to Vrindavana and exchange him with a newborn baby girl of a woman called Yasoda.
Magically, the guards in Kamsa’s prison fell asleep and the iron shackles, gates and locks opened. Such was the power of Lord Krishna! Vasudeva did as he was told and carefully, placed his Krishna on the bed of Yasoda and returned to the prison with the newborn baby girl. As soon as Kamsa saw the eighth child, he threw her against the stone wall as he did to the others - but this time, the girl slipped from his hands and emerged in the form of Goddess Durga, dressed in silk and adorned with jewels. She told him, “Your enemy is already born and is living somewhere else safely. One day, he will come in search of you and kill you!”.
Meanwhile, there was great rejoicing in Gokul as they believed that a baby boy was born to King Nanda. Although he was no ordinary child and this fact did not escape anyone’s notice, Krishna was pampered and loved by everybody immensely. All throughout his childhood and boyhood, his eyes twinkled merrily with a consistent smile on his face. He won the hearts of everyone, wherever he went and fought with countless demons who tried their best to kill him. So, this is how the Supreme God, Lord Krishna was born to save everyone on earth from all kinds of evil.
According to the Hindu calendar, Krishna Janmashtami i.e. Lord Krishna’s birthday is celebrated on the Ashtami or eighth day of Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Shravan or Bhadra (a leap month which occurs every once in three years). On this auspicious day, many people in India begin their celebration during midnight itself as it is believed to be the hour of Krishna’s birth. A small amount of sindoor is applied to the baby Krishna’s idol, adorned with a colourful cloth while rocking its mini cradle back and forth. The morning thereafter is followed by chanting devotional songs, attending religious pujas, evening aartis, classical dance, plays and more. Different states across India celebrate this occasion in different ways.
Being the birthplace of Krishna, the people of Mathura celebrate this festival with great pomp and show to signify their abundant love and adoration for Lord Krishna. Every home is adorned with lights and marigold flowers while brimming with incense fragrances. Mini cradles of Lord Krishna are decorated just as beautifully and rocked back and forth by all the family members whilst singing devotional songs. Plays like Rasleela and Jhanki Pradarshan are prepared for public entertainment and awareness and are hence, thoroughly enjoyed. The major highlight is the city’s Jhulan Utsav where every temple’s courtyard is decked with huge idols of Krishna, carefully placed on swings, giving every devotee a chance to sway the cradle and make a wish!
Since Lord Krishna spent the majority of his childhood in Vrindavan, people of the city have been known to celebrate Krishna Janmashtami with great zeal and enthusiasm. Temples like Shri Krishna Balram Temple, Rangnathji Temple, Radharaman Temple, Banke Bihari Temple and ISKON Temple celebrate this festival in the grandest of ways and perform important rituals at fixed times, inviting people from all across the nation to be a part of this beautiful occasion.
Often believed to be the kingdom of Lord Krishna, Dwarka celebrates the festival of Janmashtami in some of the best ways in the country. The Dwarkadhish Temple which is solely dedicated to Lord Krishna comes alive during the day with its spectacular decorations and lighting of different kinds. Here, Krishna is worshipped in his infant form while being adorned with precious pieces of gold and diamond jewellery along with bhajans or religious sermons. Furthermore, a special form of prasad is prepared in temples, homes and eateries which includes a total of 56 items that are considered to be among Lord Krishna’s favourite dishes. It is known as Chappan Bhog and is usually served in a huge thaali for everyone to share.
Since Krishna was known to be the naughtiest child in his village and was often caught stealing matkas full of dahi and makhan (butter), Maharashtra celebrates Gokulashtami with this fun little addition to symbolise this Makhan Chor’s childhood. They organise a competition called Dahi Handi wherein different groups of participants form a human pyramid and aim for the pitcher of Dahi which is hung at a certain height and attached with a rope. Whichever group manages to balance each other without falling, reach the dahi handi and successfully, breaks open the matka in the least amount of time, wins. This, amalgamated with loud cheers and chants of “Govinda, Govinda” doubles the excitement and fills the day with even more happiness.
Krishna Janmashtami is a beautifully celebrated festival in South India as well. While in Karnataka, the Krishna Janma Mahotsav Samiti of Kadri organise special celebrations to worship Lord Krishna, the people of Tamil Nadu tend to spread the festive vibe by preparing loads of delicious, sweet dishes and offering them as prasad to everyone. These delicacies are often cooked with milk products, only, as Lord Krishna was known to be extremely fond of them. The day also involves special rituals, Sanskrit chanting and bhajans in some of the most beautiful temples where people come to offer prayers with their families and worship Lord Krishna on this blessed occasion.
Consisting of some of the most ardent followers of Lord Krishna, the Hindus of Imphal celebrate the festival with a great amount of merriment. Many schools, societies and temples across the state organise different kinds of programmes related to Lord Krishna and his magical journey by including dance, music, art and plays to celebrate this beautiful day.
In Goa, all devotees or women of the households celebrate this beautiful festival by creating colourful rangolis at their doorstep, adorning their Krishna idols with flowers whilst singing devotional songs or bhajans and offering milk and dahi as prasad to everyone.
The main aim of Krishna Janmashtami is to encourage the idea of goodwill and spread positivity, peace and love to everyone around you. Hence, if you wish to spread the same spirit and enthusiasm among your neighbours, friends or family, here are a few fun activities that you can organise in your society to celebrate Krishna Janmashtami in the happiest of ways.
Instead of decking up your home with ready-made accessories and same ol’ flowers, why not change the look of your society by creating colourful Janmashtami decorations, together? From adults to kids, get everyone to participate in fun, crafty competitions like Flute Decorating Competition, Matka Painting Competition, Krishna’s Crown Decorating Competition, Bal Gopal Jhoola Decorating Competition and Rangoli Making Competition using a variety of colours, peacock feathers, flowers, beads, glitter, etc. The winners would get to take home exciting prizes and every creation would be on display for the entire society to praise for days.
To give your society the real essence of Krishna Janmashtami, let the magic come alive by creating pretty little sculptures of Krishna and his life scenes in the village using modelling clay, sand and colours. Get kids involved by allowing them to use their imagination and bring out the scenes from Krishna’s birth to adulthood. Place them in a row for everyone in the society to catch a glimpse into Krishna’s past and stay in awe of these wonderful creations.
No Janmashtami is complete without a Raas Leela or a play on either Krishna’s birth story or his beautiful relationship with Radha. This should be planned at least a month prior to Janmashtami. Create a script, ask your neighbours to participate, divide the roles according to each one’s preference or skills and practice until it’s executed with perfection. Hire a few volunteers to help you with the backstage production, makeup, costumes, stage decorations and props for the performance. And these memories are bound to stay with you for years!
There’s nothing more adorable than having kids participate in a fancy dress competition during Janmashtami where they are super excited to portray Krishna or Radha in the prettiest of attires and accessories. You can also organise a Dahi Handi Breaking activity for children but obviously in a safer and playful way. Instead of dahi, you can fill the matka with sweets and jellies and the matka could be made of paper. Then, give some kids a few sticks and you’ll see them having tonnes of fun in trying to break open the paper matka and find sweets inside.
Don’t you think it’s about time that all the kids of the society (and even adults) get to learn a few valuable lessons from the Bhagavad Gita? Ask someone with a strong voice and an interesting story-telling style to narrate a few incidents, stories or valuable teachings of Lord Krishna and find your audience growing and becoming more and more curious with each passing chapter.
If you don’t mind pulling everyone together for enjoyment, why must it remain any different for doing religious rituals or an aarti? The real spirit of Janmashtami is to bring everyone closer. So gather your neighbours and chant some shlokas, attend an evening aarti in a nearby temple, organise a midnight pooja or sing some devotional songs to celebrate the beauty of Janmashtami, together.
There’s nothing sweeter than spreading some love and homemade desserts to your neighbours as prasad to mark the celebration of Krishna Janmashtami. If you’ve got some close friends, try going to their place or inviting them to your home and share recipes, watch videos and use fun tips to cook these desserts together. Don’t you think they’ll taste a bit sweeter that way?
“May Krishna’s flute invite the melody of love into your life and may Radha teach you to love eternally and unconditionally without an iota of doubt. Happy Janmashtami!”
“May natkhat nandlal come to your house and take away your makhan, doodh and mishri along with all your worries, sorrows and tension too. Have the sweetest Krishna Janmashtami!”
“To be brave, yet kind; to be sharp, yet loving… May we all embrace Lord Krishna’s valuable virtues, this blessed Janmashtami!”
“Love is a constant passion to give, not a meek, persistent hope to receive. May we all learn to love with an open heart like Radha and Krishna and inspire others to do the same in life. Happy Janmashtami!”
“Let Lord Krishna remove all the sadness and worries from your life that torment your mind and soul like rakshasas. Have a blessed and happy Krishna Janmashtami.”
“May the brave deeds of Lord Krishna inspire you to face every problem with the knowledge that he will always be there with you, no matter where you are or what you do. Jai Shri Krishna!”
“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is. May Lord Krishna bless you with enough happiness and faith that you believe in the goodness of your own divine powers, heart and soul. Jai Shri Krishna!”
“Let the holy spirit of Krishna and Radha bless your soul with eternal happiness and selfless love and hope you become a source of inspiration for everyone around you. Shubh Krishna Janmashtami!”
“As Swami Vivekananda said, ‘You must worship the Self in Krishna, not Krishna as Krishna. May this Janmashtami bring you tonnes of happiness, faith and the power to love yourself through the eyes of Krishna!’”
“May Lord Krishna show you the right path in life as he showed the way to Arjuna in the battle of Mahabharata. And may he drizzle his entire benediction over you and your family members, today, tomorrow and always. Happy Janmashtami to everyone!”