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Krishna Janmashtami

The birth of Lord Krishna (a re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is celebrated on the eighth day of a lunar fortnight in August-September, hence the name Janmashtami (birth + eighth day). Lord Krishna was said to be a mischievous child who loved milk, butter and ghee, and so women fast and make milk based sweets of all kinds and offer it to the Lord. They also visit temples or set up prayer rooms at home and pray to Lord Krishna.

Janmasthami, the birthday of Krishna(an incarnation of the god Vishnu), is of special religious importance in Haryana because it was on a battlefield at Kurukshetra that Krishna is said to have delivered to the warrior Arjuna the teachings contained in the Bhagavadgita (a part of the epic known as the Mahabharata).

The occasion is observed especially in Mathura and Vrindavan (Brindaban), the scenes of Krishna’s childhood and early youth. On the preceding day devotees keep a vigil and fast until midnight, the traditional hour of his birth. Then the image of Krishna is bathed in water and milk, dressed in new clothes, and worshipped. Temples and household shrines are decorated with leaves and flowers; sweetmeats are first offered to the god and then distributed as prasada(the god’s leftovers, which carry his favour) to all the members of the household.

The devotees of Krishna commemorate the events of his birth by preparing elaborate representations of Mathura, where he was born, the Yamuna River, over which he was transported to safety, and Gokul (ancient Vraja), the scene of his childhood, using small images of the god, the other participants, and the animals and birds of the forest. Pots of milk are hung from tall poles in the streets, and men form human pyramids to reach and break the pots—this in imitation of Krishna’s childhood play with the cowherd boys, when they stole the curds hung out of reach by their mothers. The festival is also a time for group singing and dancing.


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