India is a land of rich culture and beliefs. Festivals and celebration attached to the beliefs are also a great way to break the monotony of a routine life and indulge in some fun and bonding with family and friends. The enthusiasm and joy that the festivals bring are infectious.
Of the billion gods and goddesses worshipped in India, the favourite god for most is Lord Krishna. Believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, mythology depicts this god as the one who plays the flute, has a blue coloured skin tone, wears a peacock feather in his crown, and is famous for his mischief and pranks. Makhan-chor, Govind, Gopal, Keshav, Muralidhar, Madhav, Madhusudan, are some of many names for Krishna which talk about his forms, actions, traits and characteristics.
Krishna the icon and central character of the epic Mahabharat is also the narrator of the Bhagavad Gita, where he parted pearls of wisdom and advised Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The birth of Krishna is celebrated as Krishna Janmashtmi, also called Gokulashtmi or Krishna Jayanti. Celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtmi) of the Bhadrapada month (August-September) of the Hindu calendar, the birthday of Krishna is celebrated in a grandeur throughout the country.
From dressing up as Krishna and Radha and performing the Raas-leela, to offering Chappan bhog, to breaking the Dahi handi, each place has a unique way of celebrating the blue-skinned Lord's birthday. This year, the Krishna Janmashtmi will be celebrated on 14 August 2017. Plan a travel to these places to witness the unique and grand celebrations of Krishna Janmashtmi this month.
Mathura in Uttar Pradesh is the birthplace of Krishna. Grand celebrations are held at the midnight as the story of his birth goes. As per the scriptures, the Lord was born at midnight on a stormy night of Bhadrapada by the banks of river Yamuna in Mathura. Visit the Dwarkadhish Temple here, which celebrates the festival with a great pomp.
The beautiful idol of Krishna here is made of black marble. Sounds of temple bells, conch shells, chants and hymns reverberate through the city during the occasion. You can witness the royal Abhishek at the Dwarkadhish Temple where the idol is bathed with milk, honey, curd, ghee, and later adorned with beautiful clothes, jewels, and crown made of precious gems.
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Don’t Miss This In Mathura
The title of Makhan-chor tells us that Krishna loved butter. So while in Mathura, do try the dairy products like lassi and the famous Mathura Pedha. Visit the Krishna Janmabhoomi Mandir, Govardhan Hill - where the Lord had saved the village from the wrath of Indra by lifting the Govardhan Parvat on the tip of his little finger, Kusum Sarovar, Kans Qila and Radha Kunj which was the meeting place of Radha and Krishna.
A short drive of about 16 km from Mathura will take you to the town of Vrindavan, where Krishna engaged in the childhood pranks along with his elder brother Balaram and his cowherd friends. It is also the place where he did Raas-leela with the Gopis or the cowherd girls. Vrindavan, also called Brindavan, is where he met his beloved Radha and played the flute for her and the other gopis.
The Janmashtmi celebration in the Krishna Balaram Temple, constructed by ISKCON is something you mustn't miss. ISKCON Temples are known to be beautifully constructed and this one is no different. The beautiful temple is decorated with ornate flowers and strings of lights, aroma of flowers and soothing hymns fill up the atmosphere.
Don’t Miss This In Vrindavan
Raas Leela performances are a must watch while in Vrindavan. The performers of this dance-drama prepare for weeks for the performance. Phases of Krishna's life story are enacted skillfully by the artists. The Banke Bihari Mandir, Radha Raman Temple and Prem Mandir are other places that can be visited while in Mathura.
About 15 km south of Mathura, is the town of Gokul where Krishna was transported to on a stormy night. Gokul is where he lived with his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. Janmashtmi is also known as Gokulashtmi and is celebrated with a great pomp in Gokul a day after as Krishna arrived here from Mathura post midnight, as per the legend.
The entire town is lit up and festive mood can be sensed at every bend and corner. People keep day-long fasts. Sounds of Sanskrit chants, conch shells, temple bells, all add to the festive mood. Devotees drench each other with curd and turmeric to celebrate their joy, the celebration here is called Nadotsav or Dadhikana.
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Don’t Miss This In Gokul
The Nand Bhavan located on a hill is believed to be the house of Nanda - Krishna's foster father. It is known to be more than 5000 years old. Other places to visit in Gokul are the Radha Rani Temple, Gokulnath Mandir, Thakurani Ghat.
The mystical city of Dwarka was Krishna's kingdom. It is believed that the city submerged into the depths of the sea after Krishna left the earth for his heavenly abode. One of Krishna's name - Dwarkadhish, meaning the Lord of Dwarka is derived from a word which means door to moksha or salvation. The present day Dwarka, however, is a modern city on the coast of Kutch in Gujarat.
Lord Krishna's birthday is celebrated with such a splendour here at the 2000-year-old Dwarkadhish Temple, that people from across the globe visit Dwarka especially to witness the magnificence. Every corner of the temple is decorated luxuriously and the idol is adorned with precious jewellery after the grand puja. Maha Bhog or offerings is one of the main rituals here that is a must see, where the sanctum is decorated with thousands of gourmet dishes.
Don’t Miss This In Dwarka
Visit the Rukmini Temple that is dedicated to Rukmini - Krishna's wife. Take a ferry to Bet Dwarka, which is a located at a short distance away from Dwarka on the mainland. It is believed that Krishna died here. Don't forget to visit the Dwarka Beach or shop for famous Bandhni fabrics, Patola Silk Saris and handcrafted souvenirs.
Udupi is a South Indian city in Karnataka that is famous for its Krishna Temple. It is believed that the Sri Krishna Mutt in Udupi was formed after the Dwarka city was submerged in water, after Krishna's death.
The Krishna Janmashtmi celebration in Udupi will let you take a peek in the rich culture and art of the place. Many cultural events take place around this time including performances of folk songs and folk dance, and plays portraying events from Krishna's life.
Don’t Miss This In Udupi
Don't forget to see the Kankana Kindi, which is a small window in the Sri Krishna Temple. Legend says it was through this small opening that Krishna gave darshan to his devotee Kanakdas who was barred from entering the temple as he belonged to a lower caste. Udupi is also famous for its gourmet cuisine and you must try it when in Udupi. Visit the less-explored St. Mary's Island and the pristine Kaup Beach of Udupi.
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Though the city of Mumbai does not appear anywhere in the life story of Krishna, you simply must visit Mumbai to experience the sheer thrill, energy and festivity around the time. The city becomes a livewire brimming with excitement. Popularly known as Govinda - another name of Krishna, the Dahi handi is a legendary ritual that reflects the energy, joy and high spirits of the entire city.
A Dahi handi or clay pot filled with Krishna's favourite curd and/butter is suspended high up on a rope. Young men and boys, addressed as Govindas, form tall human pyramids to reach the handi and break it. There are competitions and prizes based on timing or height of the handi, throughout the city. The downpour of rain or buckets of water being splashed for fun and distraction, nothing dampens the spirit of the Govindas.
Don’t Miss This In Mumbai
There are many places to visit in Mumbai based on your interests. Visit the Siddhivinayak Temple, Mahalakshmi Temple, Haji Ali Mosque, Gateway of India, Marine Drive, Colaba Causeway. The city has many shopping places, film stars and celebrity houses, beaches, museums, art galleries, and some great places to eat.
Other Places To Visit For Krishna Janmashtmi
The festival is celebrated with great pomp throughout the country and there are many places you can visit. You can also visit the ISKCON temples at Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Imphal or Pandharpur to experience the grandeur of the Krishna Janmashtmi festival that is celebrated with a great splendour.
So where are you going to celebrate the long weekend of August and Krishna Janmashtmi?