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Celebration Months : August/September
Religion : Hindu
Importance : Birth celebrations of Lord Krishna
Janmashtami is a sacred festival of Hindus that is celebrated on Ashtami or eighth day of the Hindu month Bhadrapada. This festival celebrates the birth of one of the avatars of Vishnu, namely Lord Krishna.
Krishna is a sacred God of Hindus and occupies a special place in their hearts. As a child, he was very notorious and became popular for his miraculous deeds as well as for notoriety. Janmashtami festival is the enactment of the popular incident of his life including stealing clothes of gopis, killing of his devilish uncle, Kansa; saving the honor of Draupadi; preaching Arjuna in battle field of Mahabharata. The festival also celebrates his eternal love for Radha, his childhood companion.
Attractions of the Festival :
The festival is celebrated with a great fervor and zeal. It is, in fact, one of the most popular Hindu festivals that carry enormous religious significance. The festival is an epitome of the life of Lord Krishna. At the time of festivities, certain rites and ritual are followed. The temples are adorned beautifully; the idols are embellished with ornaments and lovely clothes. A number of tableaux that illustrate the stories related to Krishna's life are placed in the temple premises. These tableaux or jhankis depict stories like killing of Putna and Kansa, stealing of butter from earthen pots, extreme weather conditions at the time of birth, carrying away of child Krishna by his father Vasudev, and love of the Lord for Radha.
Young children are made to dress like Krishna, Radha, and other gopis; they are made to sit in temples where people come and pay their reverences to them, considering that Krishna has manifested himself in these children.
Raslila : Another significant event that forms part of the festivities is Raslila which is a dance form played by Krishna with gopis. As a teenager, Krishna would dance extensively with gopis who considered privileged to dance with him. As they sung songs and danced merrily, the gopis felt themselves to be immersed in his eternal love. Since then, Raslila is played with gaiety and joy. On the occasion of Janmashtami festival, Brahmin boys are made to dress like Krishna and enact like him. Their dance depicts formative years of Krishna's life. Different types of Raslila are played and performed. These include Naglila, Shnakarlila, Janmalila etc.
Celebrations at Mathura : At Mathura, the birthplace of Lord, celebrates the festival with great enthusiasm. The festival carries a special significance to people of Mathura who make extensive preparations to celebrate it. Dwarkadheesh Temple is the main center of celebrations. Here events like "Jhulanotsava" and "Ghatas" are played during Shravan month. Ghatas involve decorating the temple premises with different colors on different days. Even the idols are adorned with that particular color. There are numerous temples in this sacred city; each one of them is adorned lavishly and devotees visit them to pay their homage to their revered deity.
Rath Mela : At Vrindavan, this special event is organized at Rangaji temple. Lord Rangaji's chariot is taken out and is followed by a number of devotees that accompany the Rath with enthusiasm.
Nag Nathiya : Krishna Leela celebrated at Varanasi involves another episode which is called Nag Nathiya. An artist who enacts Krishna makes a jump into the river at Tulsi Ghat and emerges on a serpent's hood. Thousands of devotees gather at Tulsi Ghat to watch this special event.
Dahi Handi : Celebration of Janmashtami festival is incomplete without the special Dahi handi event. It involves placing a number of earthen pots full of buttermilk at several places. These handis are positioned several feet above from ground. Groups of young men make the shape of pyramid and the man on the top of the pyramid breaks the pots with a rod; the buttermilk gets spilled on all the members of the pyramid.
Other attractions of this sacred festival include reading of religious texts, shaloka and song chanting, and dance performances by artists.