Janmashtami is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temples witness an extravagant and colorful celebration on this occasion. Raslila is performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha. The image of the infant Krishna is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over Northern India. This festival is celebrated with a special fervor by people of
'Brij Bhoomi' area of Faridabad district.
According To Hindu Mythology
Hindu mythology presents a fascinating chain of events that were to unfold around the time of Krishna's birth.
Krishna's parents Deviki and Vasudev were thrown into prison by his maternal uncle Kans -
the tyrant King of Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), as it had been prophesied by Naradmuni that Kans would be annihilated by the eighth child born of his cousin sister Deviki. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Kans killed each of the seven children immediately after their birth in prison. Finally the eighth child was born - a beautiful dark baby boy. Legend has it that miraculously all the guards of the prison fell into deep sleep, the prison gates opened, and Deviki and Vasudev became unfettered. An akashvani, or heavenly voice ordained Vasudev to take his newborn son, destined to rid the world of evil, to his friend Nand and his wife Yashoda in Gokul, a city that lay across the River Yamuna. Fearing for the life of his son, Vasudev readied himself for a journey wrought with perils. Yamuna in spate parted its waters to make way for the father and son as soon as infant Krishna touched the swelling waters with his tiny foot, and the Shaeshnag (the many-headed serpent king) emerged from the deluge to shield the two from the tumultuous downpour.
Across the Yamuna, Yashoda had recently given birth to a daughter who was sleeping soundly besides her parents. Vasudev quietly left his son besides the sleeping and unsuspecting Nand and Yashoda, and returned to his wife in Mathura with Nand and Yashoda's daughter.
The Legendary Tale Continues
In keeping with the nature of legends, as soon as Vasudev was back in the prison cell, the gates clamped shut and the guards woke up to resume their duty. The birth of the child was brought to the notice of Kans who immediately came to repeat the infernal ritual with the supposed eighth child of Deviki.
The heartless king threw the girl child against the wall. But instead of being killed, she rose to the skies and soon the heavens resounded with a celestial voice informing Kans that his destroyer had already been born and was safe! With this, the girl child vanished amidst thunderclap and lightning. It is believed that the child, referred to as Deviji, was actually the embodiment of the Goddess Durga (the Goddess of War and Power) and was later to be worshipped under other names such as Tara,
Janmashtami is therefore actually celebrated twice, the occasions coinciding with Krishna's birth in captivity in Mathura, and the discovery of the newborn Krishna in Nand and Yashoda's house in Gokul.
This tale is fondly remembered on the day of Janmashtami as temples and
homes light up for the joyous occasion. Especially cities like Mumbai, Agra, Mathura and Vrindavan come alive during the festival. Cribs and other displays with dolls in traditional costumes depict the life and times of Krishna. Raas Leelas (dance dramas) enact incidents from Krishna's life amidst much pomp and show. People fast till midnight, the time of Krishna's birth. Elaborate pujas,
or prayer ceremonies are held in temples and homes to welcome the lord at
midnight amongst joyous singing of hymns. Prasad (sweetmeat offered to
the lord and later eaten by devotees) is spread to everyone. The lord
having arrived, it is time for everyone to settle down to a hearty