Janmashtami 2019: All you need to know about the festival

Updated: Aug 22, 2019, 15:48 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Janmashtami doesn't just revolve around Dahi Handi and Govinda. Read on to know the significance of the festival

Youths topple over after a pyramid at a celebration in Dadar falls. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Youths topple over after a pyramid at a celebration in Dadar falls. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Whenever one thinks about Janmashtami, all one can picture is Govindas forming a human pyramid to break the handi (earthen pot) filled with yogurt amidst a crowd looking upon them and cheering, “Aala re aala! Govinda aala!” But Janmashtami festival is much more than that as its spiritual aspect makes the festival worth celebrating.

According to mythology…

As the name suggests, Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, one of the most powerful avatars of Lord Vishnu which is one of the important events in Hindu mythology. Come August 24 and one can anticipate seeing scores of children dressing up as the deity. Mythology has it that Lord Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudev in a prison in Mathura. Fearing a threat to the child’s life under the regime of wicked king Kansa, Vasudev took the baby immediately he was born and crossed the Yamuna river and head to his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda at Gokul.

Customs and Traditions

Devotees spend the night before the Janmashtami festival in fasting and vigil. They sing praises of Lord Krishna through prayers and devotional songs till midnight when the deity’s birth is declared. At that time, the idol of Lord Krishna is washed and placed on a cradle symbolic of welcoming the deity into their homes, after which the devotees break their fast by distributing food and sweets. A platter of fruits and sweets are offered to the deity. Many communities, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Tripura, stage Krishnalila, also known as Raslila, a play depicting the events of the birth at this time. Many temples are also known to organise recitations of Bhagwad Gita before Lord’s Krishna’s birth is declared at midnight.

Pyramids of Excitement

Mimicking Lord Krishna’s act of stealing butter with his friends, devotees calling themselves ‘Govindas’ form a human pyramid to 'steal' the earthen pot filled with butter, that is hung at a certain height. For a typical Dahi Handi, one would find a team of boys form the pyramid in order to break the pot as the women and girls gather around to cheer for them. Running up to the Janmashtami 2019 festival, one can see Govinda pathaks across the city practicing their balancing act that begins months in advance. Breaking the barriers of gender and physical disabilities, teams of Govindas representing social clubs, housing societies or even families, try to achieve new heights. Every year, competitions are organised across the state where a pot is hung at a fixed height and many teams of Govindas are up for the challenge to achieve the feat.

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