With the eighth month of the year, we officially enter into the festive season. This year we have already seen Rakshabandhan and Eid in the first week. And now it’s time for another fun festival – Janmashtami. One of the popular Hindu festivals, Janmashtami is celebrated to mark Lord Krishna’s birth. Distinct from other festivals, Janmashtami is also remembered for Dahi Handi. That’s how the festival is celebrated in a few places across the country. But how does Lord Krishna’s Birthplace Mathura celebrates Janmashtami? Read on to find out.
Lord Krishna’s story is extremely popular in Hindu households, especially the story of his childhood days. And the first image that comes to our mind, when we hear of Krishna, is probably of Baby Krishna, eating Makhan (butter) from an earthen pot. Another popular imagery of Krishna is sitting on a swing with Radha. This imagery in itself gave rise to a tradition known as Jhulan Utsav. To celebrate this, the idols of Krishna and Radha are placed on decorated mini swings.
Another important tradition is of Dahi Handi – an ode to the mischievous young Krishna, who was notorious for stealing Makhan. We have all enjoyed the stories of Krishna and his bunch of friends stealing the Makhan hanging from the Kitchen ceiling.
Janmashtami celebration in Mathura
The celebration, unlike other festivals, begins at the stroke of midnight, as that was the time Lord Krishna is said to be born. Reading Bhagavad Gita is one of the important traditions of Janmasthami. Devotees rock the swing with Load Krishna’s idol while reading the sacred script.
Another tradition that is unique to the Janmasthami celebration in Mathura is Raslila. Krishna, according to religious scriptures, was known to dance with Radha and her friends, and is known as Raslila. It is also said that the dance form of Kathak has evolved from Raslila. And if you want to witness this unique dance, there is no better place than Mathura.
Another well-known tradition, which is followed during Janmasthami, Chappan Bhog, also has an interesting story behind it. This goes back to Krishna’s younger days when he was in Vrindavan. As fables are to be believed, Krishna lifted the entire Govardhan Hills on his little finger to protect the villagers from extreme rain and storm. Lord Krishna held up the hill for seven days and didn’t move or consume any food throughout. Once the rain came to an end, the villagers cooked for him. Kanha would usually have eight meals a day, so to cover for the entire week, villagers cooked 56 dishes. This is where the tradition of Chappan (fifty-six) Bhog comes from. Almost all temples in Mathura and Vrindavan follow this tradition, and the food is distributed among the devotees post the ceremony.
Temples in Mathura celebrating Janmashtami
Krishna Janmasthan Temple
As per the popular story, Lord Krishna was born in a prison, and this temple is built close to the actual location. It is said to be first built by Lord Krishna’s great-grandson Vajranabh, who was also the last living person of the Yadu dynasty. The temple has been destroyed and built multiple times. Being closest to Krishna’s birthplace, this place is jam-packed with devotees during Janmashtami.
Kesava Deo Temple
A part of Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex, the temple is dedicated to Keshavdeva, another name for Lord Krishna. The temple was built by Ramkrishna Dalmia in memory of his mother, Jadiadevi Dalmia in 1957. This is a popular place for devotees, especially during Janmashtami. Not just India, devotees from all over the world are seen here during the auspicious day.
Krishna Balaram Mandir
Although a little far from Mathura, this temple is equally important for Krishna devotees. One of the major ISKCON temples in the country, this temple is dedicated to Krishna and his older brother Balarama. Janmashtami here is one of the most important festivals, and the preparation starts days before the festival. The beauty of this temple is beyond imagination.
Janmashtami celebrations across the country
Janmashtami in Mumbai is synonymous with Dahi Handi. From schools organizing Dahi Handi with kids decked up as Krishna. To young boys and girls actually getting their hand dirty by trying to form a human pyramid and reaching the earthen pot filled with dahi (curd).
Gujarat and Rajasthan
The western region of the country is also popular for celebrating Janmashtami. Along with Dahi Handi, the festival is celebrated with folk dances and bhajans. Dwarkadhish Temple is one of the popular Krishna temples in Gujarat that sees a grand celebration on Janmashtmi, whereas farmers in Kutch district decorate their bullock carts and take out processions of Lord Krishna.
Odisha and West Bengal
Devotees pay their tribute to Lord Krishna by fasting and worshipping till midnight. The section dedicated to Krishna in Bhagavata Purana is recited, and the celebration here is extended to the next day when Nanda Utsav is celebrated. This celebrates the two most important people in Krishna’s like – Nanda and Yashoda – Krishna’s foster parents.