Krishna Janmashtami Date 2013
28 August 2013
Krishna Janmashtami (कृष्ण जन्माष्टमी) is one of the very dear festivals for people of India. It is the birthday of their favourite Lord Shri Krishna. Janma (जन्म) means birth and Ashtami (अष्टमी) is the eighth day. Janmashtami, thus, is the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Shravan (August-September). There are many names of Janmashtami festival just like the numerous Shri Krishna names. The festival of Janmashtami is known by the names of Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti and simply Janmashtami. As it was Rohini Nakshatra when Sree Krishna- the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu- took birth about 5,227 years ago, this day is also called Rohini Ashtami. Rohini Nakshatra is a star constellation as per Indian astrology.
When is Janmashtami?
As is most clear from its name, Janmashtami falls on the eighth day of Krishna Paksha of Shravan month. However, because Rohini Nakshatra and Ashtami may not fall on the same day, many a times Janmashtami is celebrated over two days. The first day is called Krishnashtami which falls on the eighth day after Raksha Bandhan and the second day is called Kalashtami.
There is another aspect while deciding the date of Janmashtami. This involves two ‘Sampradaya’ (सम्प्रदाय) or sects of Hindus- Vaishnava (वैष्नव) and Smartha (स्मार्त). Most of the times, Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated on two consecutive days where the first day is Krishna Jayanti for Smarta Sampradaya and the latter date is for the followers of Vaishanava Sampradaya. Only sometimes there is a single date for Janmashtami when both Sampradaya observe the Krishna festival on the same date. Interestingly, most of the people in India these days do not research much about the two different dates of Janmashtami and follow the one which is made popular by the leading organizations devoted to Krishna Bhakti (कृष्ण भक्ति) like ISCKON and temples of Swaminarayan Faith. These organizations follow the Janamshtami date of Vaishnava Sampradaya and thus most people celebrate Shri Krishna Janmashtami on the latter date even if a member of Smarta Sampradaya.
Janmashtami in 2013- This year, Vaishnava Krishna Janmashtami will be celebrated on 28 August 2013. Krishna Janmashtami for Smarta Sampradaya will also be celebrated on 28 August 2013.
Birth of Shri Krishna Lala on Janmashtami
Janmashtami celebrates the divine birth of Shri Krishna whose childhood form is dearly called as Krishna lala (कृष्ण लला) and Balgopal (बालगोपाल). Lord Krishna was born to end the rule of evil forces on the earth. It was decided by fate that Lord Vishnu- the Protector of Earth in the Trinity of Gods- will incarnate in form of Sri Krishna to grant people emanicipation from the sins committed by the evil rulers on earth. One of such evil rulers was Kamsa (कंस), the King of Mathura whose sister Devaki was married to Vasudeva. It was also a fate that Devaki’s eighth son would destroy Kamsa. Therefore, Kamsa improsoned Devaki and Vasudeva and used to kill their children as soon as they took birth.
Vishnu appeared before Devaki and Vasudeva before he was about to take birth as Krishna and told Vasudeva to carry his newborn son to Gokula and exchange the girl child born to his friend Nanda and his wife Yashoda with his own son. He assured Vasudeva that nothing could stop him from taking his son to Gokul. When Krishna took birth at midnight on the eighth day ‘ashtami’ of Shravan Krishna Paksha, Vasudeva took him and went to Gokula. All the obstacles in his way were removed as if magic and he exchanged the two kids and came back to the prison.
In the morning when Kamsa got the news of a daughter born to Devaki Vasudeva, he came to kill her but as soon as he got hold of her and was about to slaughter the child, she skipped his hands and flew in the sky transforming herself into Goddess Yogmaya. She laughed and told kamsa that his destroyer was already born somewhere else!
Read the detailed Birth Story of Krishna
Krishna Janmashtami Celebration
On Janmashtami festival, the devotees of Lord Krishna celebrate the moment when Lord Krishna took birth in the most grand manner. They observe fast for whole day and night and their festive spirit touches its zenith at midnight when Krishna takes birth! In all Krishna temples and even at home, the idols representing child Krishna ‘Bal Gopal’ are placed on cradles and fasting devotees take turn to rock the cradle of their dear god.
Mathura- the birthplace of Krishna- and every other place associated with life of Krishna- Vrindavan, Dwarka, Gokul- burst with joy and enthusiasm. The temples of Krishna here witness millions of visitors from all over the country. The whole day of devotees is spent in telling and listening to tales of Lord Krishna, reciting hymns from Bhagwad Gita, chanting the mantra ‘Om Namaha Bhagwate Vasudevaya Namah!’ Women prepare special sweets and other dishes to offer to Lord Krishna at night when he takes birth. Jagaran (जागरण) or night vigil is observed. Everyone stay awake the whole night of Janmashtami engaging themselves joyfully into singing the Krishna Janmashtami songs and dancing to the tunes of ‘Krishna Ras Leela’ songs.
At midnight, when Krishna takes birth, people just make the whole surrounding deafening by shouting the names of Krishna in a most devoted tone. The statue of infant Krishna is bathed and placed in a cradle, rocked by the priests and people amidst the blowing of Shankha (शंख) or conch shells and ringing of bells. The whole atmosphere becomes ‘Krishnamaya’ (कृष्णमय- overwhelmed with the feeling ‘Krishna’)
In Maharashtra, Krishna’s childhood act of stealing butter and curd is enacted by his devotees. It is called ‘Dahi Handi’ (दही हांडी) where a clay pot filled with buttermilk is hanged at a height and a human pyramid is made to reach it. The person who is able to get at the top of this human pyramid breaks the ‘handi’ or the pot spreading the buttermilk all over. The person who breaks the handi is called ‘Govinda’, one of the many Krishna names. When the act of ‘Dahi handi’ is in progress, all the gathered people sing, dance and motivate the Govinda by shouting ‘Govinda ala re ala’ (Govinda has finally come!) This tradition is known as Uriadi in Tamil Nadu where on Gokulashtami, the devotees of Krishna break the pot filled with butter.
Krishna Janmashtami is, in true sense, a pan India festival celebrated by all people from all the states of India. Some of the traditions, customs, worship rituals may differ but the spirit of joy which is expressed on the birth of Shri Krishna remains the same in the hearts of all Indians on Shri Krishna Janmashtami!