Krishna Janmashtami: Pyramids, chanting, fasting commence in India

Hindus in colorful celebration

A Krishna Janmashtami program. Courtesy of Vimeo. (Click on the photo to view a video of the program.)

MONDAY, AUGUST 14 and TUESDAY, AUGUST 15 (date varies by country): Millions of Hindus worldwide revel in the spirit of Lord Krishna, fasting, chanting, indulging in sweets and celebrating for the grand festival of Krishna Janmashtami. An observance that lasts eight days in some regions, Krishna Janmashtami honors the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. To devotees, Krishna is the epitome of countless characteristics: according to ancient texts, he is a mischievous and fun-loving child, a romantic lover and an empathetic friend. Worshippers relate to one or more aspects of Krishna’s personality, and legend has it that the deity reciprocates devotions in ways unique for each devotee.

Fast fact: Scriptural details and astrological calculations place Krishna’s birth on July 18, 3228 BCE.

On Krishna Janmashtami, events begin before sunrise and last through midnight. Public and private prayer, both in centuries-old temples and in private homes, can include chanting and singing or a more private praise. Feasts of many dishes are prepared, and dances and dramas depicting the life and ways of Krishna are watched with fanfare. Some devotees dress or decorate statues of Krishna, while others string garlands across temples. Many Hindus fast until midnight—the official birth time of Krishna. At midnight, those at the temple watch a priest pull apart curtains to reveal a fully dressed figure of Krishna.

DAHI HANDI, BUTTERMILK & KRISHNA

Human pyramid at nighttime

A Dahi Handi human pyramid. Photo by Ramnath Bhat, courtesy of Flickr

Across India, Krishna’s janmashtami is commemorated with regional variations. In Mumbai, Pune and in other regions, boys form human pyramids in hopes of having the highest boy break an earthen pot (called a handi) filled with buttermilk, which is tied to a string strung high above the streets. If the pot is broken, buttermilk spills over the group and the boys win prize money. Various groups compete in Dahi Handi, in impersonation of a favorite pasttime of the child Krishna: stealing butter. Today, political figures, wealthy individuals and even Bollywood actors contribute to prize money for the Dahi Handi.

In some regions of India, younger boys—typically the youngest male in a family—is dressed up like Lord Krishna on Janmashtami. Hindus across Nepal, the U.S., Caribbean and more revel in festivities for Krishna Janmashtami, offering fruit, flowers and coins to the deity.

NEWS: DAHI HANDI PYRAMID RESTRICTIONS IMPACT 2017 FESTIVITIES

The famed Dahi Handi pyramids, formed by young people in efforts to break a hung pot and earn prize money, now face restrictions as the Bombay High Court banned entrants under the age of 18 and limiting the height of the human pyramids to 20 feet last year.

Now named a “dangerous performance,” the long-standing tradition of Krishna Janmashtami causes injuries that are often fatal, as pyramids may reach up to nine stories tall with no means of assistance in the occurrence of falls. (The Hindu reported; The Indian Express has updated on the story, this year.) Still, officials voice uncertainty in verifying the age of Dahi Handi participants, as well as in the heights of the pyramids amid the excitement of the crowded festivities.

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Categories: Faiths of IndiaHindu

Krishna Janmashtami: Hindus honor deity known for mischief, love & friendship

Human period reaching upward among crowd of people

A Dahi Handi pyramid for Krishna Janmashtami. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24 (southern, eastern, western India) and THURSDAY, AUGUST 25 (northern India): Millions of Hindus worldwide revel in the spirit of Lord Krishna, fasting, chanting, indulging in sweets and celebrating for the grand festival of Krishna Janmashtami. An observance that lasts eight days in some regions, Krishna Janmashtami honors the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. To devotees, Krishna is the epitome of many characteristics: according to ancient texts, he is a mischievous and fun-loving child, a romantic lover and an empathetic friend.

Did you know? According to legend, Lord Krishna reciprocates devotions in ways unique for each devotee.

On Krishna’s birthday, events begin before sunrise and last through midnight. Public and private prayer, both in centuries-old temples and in private homes, can include chanting and singing or a more private praise. Feasts of many dishes are prepared, and dances and dramas depicting the life and ways of Krishna are watched with fanfare. Some devotees dress or decorate statues of Krishna, while others string garlands across temples.

Many Hindus fast until midnight—the official birth time of Krishna. At midnight, those at the temple watch a priest pull apart curtains to reveal a fully dressed figure of Krishna.

BY REGION & COUNTRY: KRISHNA JANMASHTAMI

Across India, Krishna’s birthday is commemorated with regional variations. In Mumbai, Pune and in other regions, boys form human pyramids in hopes of having the highest boy break an earthen pot (called a handi) filled with buttermilk, which is tied to a string strung high above the streets. If the pot is broken, buttermilk spills over the group and the boys win prize money. Various groups of boys compete in Dahi Handi, in impersonation of a favorite pastime of the child Krishna: stealing butter. Today, political figures, wealthy individuals and even Bollywood actors contribute to prize money for the Dahi Handi. In some regions of India, younger boys—typically the youngest male in a family—is dressed up like Lord Krishna on Janmashtami. Hindus across Nepal, the U.S., Caribbean and more revel in festivities for Krishna Janmashtami, offering fruit, flowers and coins to the deity and chanting together.

AT HOME: HOW TO CELEBRATE

Devotees far from a local temple can celebrate Krishna Janmashtami at home, with suggestions from Krishna.com:

  • Invite friends and family to participate in festivities
  • Decorate your home for Krisnha with garlands, clothed figures and balloons
  • Check out the webcam views at Krishna.com, which capture festivities at some major ISKCON temples
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Categories: Faiths of IndiaHindu

Krishna Janmashtami: Hindus celebrate the colorful life of a beloved deity

Two young children dressed fancily in headpieces, bangles, jewelry and clothing covered in beads

Children dressed up on Krishna Janmashtami. Note the child on the left holding a flute—an object commonly associated with Krishna. Photo by Kuntal Gupta, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5: Millions of Hindus worldwide revel in the spirit of Lord Krishna, fasting, chanting, indulging in sweets and celebrating for the grand festival of Krishna Janmashtami. An observance that lasts eight days in some regions, Krishna Janmashtami honors the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. To devotees, Krishna is the epitome of countless characteristics: according to ancient texts, he is a mischievous and fun-loving child, a romantic lover and an empathetic friend. Worshippers relate to one or more aspects of Krishna’s personality, and legend has it that the deity reciprocates devotions in ways unique for each devotee.

Did you know? Scriptural details and astrological calculations place Krishna’s birth on July 18, 3228 BCE.

On Krishna Janmashtami, events begin before sunrise and last through midnight. Public and private prayer, both in centuries-old temples and in private homes, can include chanting and singing or a more private praise. Feasts of many dishes are prepared, and dances and dramas depicting the life and ways of Krishna are watched with fanfare. Some devotees dress or decorate statues of Krishna, while others string garlands across temples. Many Hindus fast until midnight—the official birth time of Krishna. At midnight, those at the temple watch a priest pull apart curtains to reveal a fully dressed figure of Krishna.

KRISHNA JANMASHTAMI AROUND THE WORLD

Human pyramid reaching 6 levels high

Young people form a pyramid for a Dahi Handi competition. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Across India, Krishna’s janmashtami is commemorated with regional variations. In Mumbai, Pune and in other regions, boys form human pyramids in hopes of having the highest boy break an earthen pot (called a handi) filled with buttermilk, which is tied to a string strung high above the streets. If the pot is broken, buttermilk spills over the group and the boys win prize money. (Wikipedia has details.) Various groups of boys compete in Dahi Handi, in impersonation of a favorite pasttime of the child Krishna: stealing butter. Today, political figures, wealthy individuals and even Bollywood actors contribute to prize money for the Dahi Handi. In some regions of India, younger boys—typically the youngest male in a family—is dressed up like Lord Krishna on Janmashtami. (Get tips here.) Hindus across Nepal, the U.S., Caribbean and more revel in festivities for Krishna Janmashtami, offering fruit, flowers and coins to the deity and chanting together.

NEWS: A PHOTO COMPETITION, BOLLYWOOD & MINI PAINTINGS

The Upudi Press Photographers’ Association will be holding a state-level photography competition for Krishna Janmashtami, with cash prizes (The Hindu has more). At a Sri Krihsna temple in Karnataka, an eight-day cultural program will take place from Sept. 1 and observe festivities in an 800-year-old Krishna temple (more here). Bollywood singer Suresh Wadkar will be performing on the eve of Krishna Janmashtami at the Iskon temple in Noida (more here), and in Gujarat, an exhibition of miniature paintings of Lord Krishna will be inaugurated at midnight on Sept. 5. (Times of India reported.) A miniature painting takes a minimum of six months to complete.

AT HOME: HOW TO CELEBRATE

Devotees far from a local temple can celebrate Krishna Janmashtami at home, with suggestions from Krishna.com:

  • Invite friends and family to participate in festivities
  • Decorate your home for Krisnha with garlands, clothed figures and balloons
  • Find a copy of the Vaishnava Songbook and choose some favorite bhajanas (devotional songs)
  • Check out the webcam views at Krishna.com, which capture festivities at some major ISKCON temples
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Categories: Faiths of IndiaHindu

Krishna Janmashtami: Celebrating the birthday of a popular Hindu deity

Pyramid of boys wearing red shirts in a street alley, with top boy reaching for pot hanging from strung rope

A team of youngsters attempts to reach the handi pot, on Krishna Janmashtami. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, AUGUST 18: Break out the handi pots, fast in reverence and join the anxious wait for the midnight birth of a Hindu deity on Krishna Janmashtami. Many of the world’s more than 900 million Hindus mark this magnificent holiday with sweets, butter, Dahi Handi and uriadi events, and dramatic enactments of Krishna’s life.

Renowned for his playfulness and mischievous youth, the eighth avatar of Vishnu is believed to have been born in 3228 BCE. Prior to his birth, a prophesy declared that the eighth child of Princess Devaki—Krishna—would kill the murderous king, Kansa. The prophesy inspired the hiding of the child Krishna, and as foretold, the grown Krishna returned home to take Kansa’s life.

HANDI POTS AND
ROARING KRISHNA’S NAME

From the morning of Krishna Janmashtami, devotees fast and place images of Krishna’s infancy in swings and cradles. Temples are decorated, and throughout India, groups of youngsters travel to areas where handi pots—earthen pots, most commonly filled with buttermilk—are hung high. Each group forms a human pyramid, from which the topmost child attempts to break the handi pot, which is hung high above the ground. (Wikipedia has details.) Prizes are offered for the group that breaks each pot, and large sums of money have attracted more competitors in recent years. In some regions, local celebrities and Bollywood actors participate in the activities, all in attempt to recall the child-god Krishna’s affinity for stealing butter.

At midnight, festivities culminate in the temple, where Hindus gather for devotional songs and dance. Kirtans are sung or played, and offerings of flowers, coins and food are made. Excitement builds, and some begin to bellow the kirtans for Krishna.

The following day is called Nanda Utsav, for the celebration of Krishna’s foster parents.

Celebrating at home: Even without a temple, anyone can celebrate Krishna Janmashtami. Krishna.com suggests decorating the home with garlands and balloons; playing music and listening to bhajan recordings; reading stories of Krishna’s life; and bathing figures of Krishna in yogurt, honey and ghee. Temple goings-on can be viewed online, here.

Why Krishna? Krishna is revered by devotees for his personable ways and for his reputation for mischief making, passion and empathy. It’s believed that Krishna responds to and reciprocates the innermost desires of his worshippers.

IN THE NEWS:
AGE RESTRICTIONS LIFTED,
TALLEST KRISHNA TEMPLE CONSTRUCTION BEGINS

A Mumbai High Court decision to ban children under age 18 from participating in the pyramid-building of Dahi Handi was lifted mere days before Krishna Janmashtami, when the Supreme Court lowered the age restriction to 12. The pyramids can reach heights that can cause injury or even death, if participants fall. In its ruling, the court directed organizers to supply helmets, safety belts and layers of cushions to participants. (Indian Express reported.) The court also asked organizers to have emergency medical help available.

Work will begin on the world’s tallest Krishna temple this Janmashtami, for a building expected to reach 210 meters on 70 acres of land. Located in Vrindavan, India, the temple will also be home to a museum, library, park, forests and luxury villas. (Read the story here.)

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Categories: Faiths of India

Krishna Janmashtami: Hindus show devotion, playfulness for Lord Krishna

Indian boys gather in a small circle, surrounded by a casual crowd, on a sunny dirt street

Boys on a street in India partake in Matki Fod, a beloved tradition of Krishna Janmashtami that involves the breaking of an earthen pot, often filled with buttermilk, that has been hung high. Photo courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28: Prepare the buttermilk pots and ready the infant figurines of Lord Krishna, for the enormously popular Hindu festival of Krishna Janmashtami. Celebrated with fervor across India and in several other countries by hundreds of thousands of devotees, Krishna Janmashtami marks the birthday of the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Based on both astrological calculations and scripture, tradition holds that Lord Krishna was born at midnight in 3228 BCE, and today, most adherents fast throughout the day until midnight. Festivities typically begin at dawn today, extending until 12 a.m., when the figure of Krishna is revealed by priests in a grand display. Colored altars, elaborately dressing rituals and meticulous bathing customs have welcomed the beloved Lord Krishna.

The rising of the sun signals the start of most merrymaking events for Krishna Janmashtami—though preparation of these events began weeks ago—and Rasa Lila, dramatic reenactments of the life of Krishna, can be seen on the streets while Dahi Handi draws boys from far and near to compete in the breaking of buttermilk pots.  (Wikipedia has details.) Known for his love of mischief, Lord Krishna draws devotees to expose their playful side today: kites soar in Jammu; sweets are cooked in eastern India; floors are decorated with flour in southern India, to represent Krishna’s childhood pastime of stealing butter from houses.

Krishna Janmashtami is a national holiday in Bangladesh, celebrated widely by Hindus in the Caribbean and in the United States, and carries great importance with the 80 percent of Nepalese residents who consider themselves Hindu. Yet nowhere is Krishna Janmashtami met with more excitement and splendor than in India.

Painted blue Lord Krishna, smiling, amid swirls

Lord Krishna depicted in wood. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

BORN INTO DANGER

The festivities of Krishna Janmashtami focus on the lighter side of Krishna’s life, but at the time of his birth, the situation was anything but. Born the eighth son of Princess Devaki and her husband, Vasudeva, six of Krishna’s preceding siblings were killed by Princess Devaki’s brother, who desired the throne for himself. Knowing his life would be endangered, Devaki and Vasudeva secretly passed Krishna to foster parents.

INCENSE, MEDITATION
& THE BHAGAVAD GITA

Not all customs of Krishna Janmashtami are playful; his deity is worshiped with great devotion. In many Hindu temples, the religious scripture Bhagavad Gita is read, chants are recited and songs, known as bhajans, fill the air. Burning incense wafts through the temples decorated with elaborate flower garlands, and pilgrims flock to places significant in Krishna’s life. When the day-long fast is broken at midnight, festivities escalate even more and enormous feasts are served.

CELEBRATING KRISHNA JANMASHTAMI AT HOME

Even if you don’t live in a hub of festivities, Krishna.com offers advice for celebrating Krishna Janmashtami at home: Decorate the house with homemade flower garlands; read stories about Krishna and meditate on his life; prepare special foods for family and friends, as temple volunteers do in Hindu communities—following the fast, that is; and tune into Krishna.com’s webcams for festivities at some of the major temples of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

IN THE NEWS:
SNAKE BOATS, MEDEIVAL ART, JAIPUR THEATRE AND A EUROPEAN MANOR

Stone temple in India, with passersby in colorful clothing walking nearby

The Jagdish Temple of Udaipur, during Krishna Janmashtami. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ceremonial and magestic snake boats have made their way down the river Pampa once again—legend has it that the boats are the sacred vessel of Lord Krishna—and, despite their costly upkeep, more than 20 participated in the parade this year; a major feast will take place today where the boats have gathered, at the Sri Parthasarathy temple. (Read more in The Hindu.)

Organizers regret that traditional recipes and skilled cooks are lost amid young generations, which is why a webcast of the feast began in 2011 and a Facebook page was created—both of which have been successful in drawing young interest and tourists alike. Next, organizers are hoping to receive more funding for the aging boats. (Get details from the Deccan Chronicle.)

Mumbai artist Purvii Parekh will showcase her bold oil and acrylic paintings throughout Krishna Janmashtami this year, with a series on Lord Krishna. (Read more in the Times of India.) In a style known as “Ragamala,” Parekh hopes to revive the illustrative style of painting that showcases Indian musical nodes and ragas, which was first used in the 16th and 17th centuries. Each piece reflects the mood of Krishna, claims the artist, which is a characteristic of Ragamala paintings.

Residents and visitors of Jaipur can experience a higher level of street plays this year, as a group of theatre professionals present a Broadway-style performance at a city auditorium. Despite financial constraints, organizers have arranged performances with rich content, hi-tech music and lighting. The Times of India reported that inspiration was drawn from Zangoora, Broadway and a Bollywood musical.

Europe’s Hindus can visit Bhaktivedanta Manor today, joining the more than 70,000 pilgrims expected for the grand festival of Krishna Janmashtami. Housing Europe’s largest cow protection project, Bhaktivedanta Manor will stage cultural dances, showcase Krishna deities, display illuminations of Krishna’s pastimes and serve vegetarian food to all attendees.

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Categories: Faiths of India