Nandakumar, Gopala, Keshava are all the beloved names given to Lord Krishna. Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, is celebrated on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha or the month of Bhadrapada in the Hindu calendar, honours the birth of Lord Krishna.
The orator of the Bhagavad Gita, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, Arjuna’s charioteer, Sudama’s friend, Draupadi’s brother, Radha’s love or Meerabai’s devotion, he has been depicted in numerous forms, however, a constant in all these has always been love and compassion.
According to mythology, it was foretold that Devaki and Vasudev’s child will be the one to bring an end to the tyrannical rule of Kansa, the king of Mathura and Devaki’s brother. Fearing the prophecy to be fulfilled, Kansa imprisoned the couple and each time a Devaki would give birth to a child, Kansa would snatch the baby away and kill it. At the birth of her eighth child – Lord Krishna – the heavens intervened and before Kansa could take the baby away, it poured all through the night, bringing floods. The gods cast a spell on the prison guards and opened the cell door for the couple to save their child.
In the guise of the rains, Vasudev put his new-born child in a wicker basket and crossed flooded river across to Vrindavan. During the crossing, the eternal snake – Sheshnag – provided protection from the rains by covering the wicker basket with its hood. After crossing the river, Vasudev left his child in the care of Nanda and Yashoda. Instead, he took the latter’s new-born baby girl back to the cell. When the spell was lifted, Kansa came to take the baby away. As he was about to kill the baby, she flew out of his hands towards the skies and transformed into Goddess Durga. Thus, bringing the prophecy to fruition.
In contemplating a deeper meaning of this myth, we understand that that love triumphs all. Lord Krishna is the symbol of eternal love and devotion – both qualities that are inherently a part of us humans. In the natural state, love overcomes ego and all dramas of maya. He represents the very source of bliss When ego melts and disappears, love dawns within us.
Celebrations and Events
Janmashtami is celebrated with dance and music – elements that give birth to love and joy. Lord Krishna was known for his mischievousness or Leelas and his love for butter, and the ritual of Dahi-Handi honours this on the day. It is auspicious to spend time reading the Bhagavad Gita on this day to connect with the energy of Lord Krishna.
There are several ceremonies that are performed by the devotees which include Rasleela, Jhankis, and the most famous of all Dahi Handi. In the streets of Mathura, Vrindavan, Dwarka, and the state of Maharashtra, earthen pots containing a mixture of milk, dry fruits, and ghee are hung about 30-35 feet high up in the air with the help of ropes. Devotees form human pyramids to reach these pots and break them, while the onlookers splash water on the participants to prevent them from breaking the Dahi Handi. After the pot is broken, pieces of the pot are taken and kept at home as auspicious totems.
The following mool-mantra can be recited during the pooja:
।। ॐ श्रीं नम: श्रीकृष्णाय परिपूर्णतमाय स्वाहा ।।