Janmashtami is the annual Hindu celebration of the birth of Krishna. Like many religious festivals, the date of the celebration varies according to the lunar calendar. Janmashtami falls on the eight day of the Hindu holy month of Shravana and this year, that works out to be this Sunday, 2nd September.
This is the theme of our blog this week at eSense Translations, as we explore the significance of the festival and what kind of celebrations take place across the world.
There are four major dominations in Hinduism: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism, and followers from each subset place a different emphasis on the gods they worship and their religious traditions. Janmashtami is the most important to Vaishnavism, as they place great importance on Krishna, the 8th incarnation of their god Vishnu.
Krishna is regarded as one of the most powerful incarnations of Vishnu and also one of the most popular; to many Hindus, Krishna is revered as a God. His influence is widespread across the lives of many Indians; leading and protecting them day-to-day, as well as being a prominent figure in their culture. He appears frequently in Indian art, music, dance and drama.
Unlike perhaps the traditional view of gods and deities, Krishna is adored by many Hindus for his personability. He is known as being very handsome, a great friend and confidant, but also pretty mischievous and these qualities influence the way in which Janmashtami is celebrated.
Janmashtami, therefore, is a great time for celebration for many Hindus. In fact, it is one of the biggest religious celebrations in the world; observed by nine hundred and thirty million people across the globe.
The festivities of Janmashtami begin at dawn and continue through to midnight; the time when Krishna arrived on the Earth. Songs are sung and prayers are said. The temples are decorated with beautiful, colourful garlands and incense is burned. People dance and perform dramas, whilst others cook huge celebratory meals, often comprising of more than 100 dishes.
On this day, Hindus also celebrate the birth of Krishna by bathing idols of him in milk, honey and water and dressing him in new clothes. Then at midnight, at the culmination of the celebrations, the priests reveal the deity of Krishna from behind the curtains, where he is sat on a lavishly decorated altar.
During Janmashtami, all but the old and infirm fast until midnight, as a sign of respect and also to help them reflect on the day. As with many cultures, fasting is seen as a time to put one’s own needs aside, dedicate time and energy to God and the needs of others.
If people are unable to get to temples, they will often recreate some of the Janmashtami rituals at home, gathering together with friends and family to sing, pray, decorate the house and cook special food.
Janmashtami is celebrated across many parts of India including in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and throughout the south of the country.
Here in the U.K. the biggest Janmashtami festival takes place at the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford, London. This festival is expected to attract around 70,000 people, all celebrating the birth of Krishna. Music, dance and prayer will take place in the elaborately decorated temple, alongside many displays created to pay homage to Krishna and his pastimes. Food again plays a big part in the festival, where over 50,000 plates of vegetarian food will be made and distributed to all visitors.
Do you know of any Janmashtami celebrations taking place in your area? eSense Translations would love to hear your news. Why not comment in the thread below or share pictures to eSense Translations’ Twitter or Facebook page.
Happy Krishna Janmashtami!
By Lorna Paice