The Krishna Janmashtami festival marks the birth of Lord Krishna, this year being celebrated over August 18-19. His birth, dating back many thousands of years, is celebrated with an abundance of joy and fervour by Indian communities around the world.
Krishna Janmashtami, Krishnashtami, Sri Krishna Jayanti, Gokulashtami, or simply Janmashtami, is the annual celebration of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu to deliver the world from evil and restore balance.
Prophecy and the Divine Birth
In Hindu traditions, Lord Krishna is the eighth son of Vasudeva and Devaki, the sister of Mathura’s brutal king Kansa. When Kansa learned about the prophecy that Devaki’s eighth son would be the cause of his death, he locked up both Vasudeva and Devaki in a prison cell and killed all seven children that Devaki gave birth to until Krishna was born.
On a dark, stormy night, as soon as Krishna was born, Vasudev, Krishna’s father, secretly handed Krishna over to his dear friend Nand. Krishna grew up in Gokul in the loving embrace of Yashoda and Nand and later went on to fulfil the prophecy.
With the beautiful pastures and simple lives of the people of Vrindavan as the backdrop, Krishna’s childhood tales of heroism, mischief, his Makhanchor Avtar and mother Yashoda’s unconditional love for him form the core of Janmashtami celebrations around the world to this date.
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Devotees celebrate Janmashtami in different ways, including fasting and staying up until midnight, when Krishna is believed to have been born. Likeness of an infant Krishna can be found in swings and cradles across temples and homes.
At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and chants and readings from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Also, food forms an integral part of the celebration and many of little Krishna’s favourite dishes are cooked as a sacred offering or prasad.
Other significant cultural rituals around Janmashtami are Dahi Handi (Pot breaking ceremony), Raas Leela and Jhulanotsav (swing festival), celebrated with great enthusiasm.
In India, ancient cities such as Mathura, Vrindavan, Dwarka and Gokul, associated with Lord Krishna, are the focal point of Janmashtami celebrations with outstanding decorations and illuminations.
In the UK, many small and big temples participate in the celebrations. Here are some highlights from what’s in store this year…
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ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor
The Bhaktivedanta Manor, or the Radha Krishna Temple of Watford, is the most prominent in the UK. Every year the temple receives around fifty to seventy thousand visitors on this auspicious occasion.
This year the celebrations are to be held from August 19 to August 21, which include Darshan, Kirtan, Prasadam (Vegetarian Meals), Cultural Programs, Drama, Kids Activities, and more.
There is a £1 bus service for all visitors from Stanford Station to the temple and back. Thousands of pilgrims are expected to attend the special occasion over the two days. Entry to the temple is free but needs to be booked from the website.
Shri Venkateshwara Balaji Temple
Shri Venkateshwara Balaji Temple of Birmingham will be celebrating Janmashtami on August 18. Programs will start at 10:30 am and end at 8 pm, and celebrations will include Balaji Abhishekam, Pooja, and Ghatachedanam or Uriyadi (pot breaking).
Like every year, ISKCON Manchester will celebrate Janmashtami with overnight Kirtan and several other festivities on August 19.
“This Friday, we will celebrate the auspicious appearance day of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krishna! Come and join us for an evening of joyous dancing, chanting and more as we welcome the lord at midnight,” the temple informed.
The event will be held at the Jain Samaj, Longsight, Manchester. Devotees will celebrate with Live Kirtan, Pastimes of Lord Krishna, Drama and dance, Baby Krishna Jhulan (swing), Pandava Sena Exhibition, Face paiting/Henna and Free Prashadam feast.
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Celebrations like that of Janmashtami, above everything else, nurture human relations, bonds, positive energy and love towards nature and self – the things the world needs right now.
And to conclude on a more auspicious note, here’s a quote from the Vaktivedanta Manor that beautifully explains the limitless Krishna Consciousness: “Krishna means “the all-attractive one”. He is the cause of all causes, the Supreme Personality of the entire creation, both material and spiritual.
“He is the God of all gods and the Lord within everything and separate from everything at the same time. This is the day devotees celebrate His presence in their lives, taking time to remember their eternal loving relationship with Him and His presence within all of our heart.”