Celebration: The Birthday Of Lord Krishna
Falls On: August – September
About Gokul Ashtami
Maha Vishnu took various avatars to protect the mortal world from
the evildoers and sinners. One such incarnation was his birth as
the child of King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki Devi. Gokul Ashtami
is the birthday of Lord Krishna. It falls on the 8th day of the
dark half of the month of 'Bhadrapada' (August-September) and is
one of the greatest of all Hindu festivals. Lord Krishna was born
A twenty-four hour fast is observed on this day, which is broken
at midnight. The festival is called in different names as "Krishna
Jayanti", "Janma Ashtami", "Krishnaashtami"
, "Gokul Ashtami", and as "Sri Jayanti".
Birth Of Lord Krishna
The myth connected to the birth of Lord Vishnu is as follows. Vasudeva
was the chief of 'Shooras' and married Devaki one of the seven daughters
of Devaka. They were very happy, for none had ever seen so fine
a man and a wife matched in such perfect harmony.
'Kansa' (also known as 'Kamsa') was
the son of Ugrasena. Though his father Ugrasena was the King, Kansa
himself ruled the kingdom. He was more wicked and had no respect
for law, human or divine. The divine Sage Narada once, came to Kansa
and advised him not to disregard the law of 'Dharma' and foretold,
that the eighth child of Devaki would slay him, if he continued
to be wicked and revengeful.
Frightened at the prophecy of Narada,
Kansa confined the newly married Vasudeva and Devaki in Gajaraja
palace with a condition that every child of Devaki, as it was born,
should be handed over to him. In obedience of the promise Vasudeva
handed over six of his children one after one whom the cruel Kansa
killed mercilessly. Devaki again became pregnant, and she gave birth
to a boy.
With the help of 'Ganga Charya' and
'Akura' he was saved by showing a dead body of a new-born girl beside
Devaki. Kansa did not take it seriously, as this was seventh child
of Devaki. The seventh child of Devaki was stealthily sent to Gokul
and was growing under the great care and affection of Rohini, the
elder wife of Vasudeva. Rohini was living as a guest of Nanda at
Gokhul. They named the boy as "Balarama". During the course
of their nine years confinement, Vasudeva and Devaki never failed
in their devotion and always talked of the Lord and his Grace. Devaki
was expecting her eighth child. Surely, the prophecy of sage Narada
and the promise of Veda Vyasa began to show the signs of coming
true. It was the eighth day of the dark half of the month of 'Sravana'
(also spelt as Shravan) and there was a thunder and lightning pouring
torrential rains and the roads were blocked with water.
Devaki tingling with ecstasy gave
birth to a child when the moon entered the house of 'Vrishabha'
at the constellation of the star Rohini on Wednesday the 8th day
of the second fortnight of the month of Sravana, which corresponds
to the month of "Bhadrapada Krishnapaksha" according to
the "Barhaspatyamana", in the year of 'Visvavasu', 5,I72
years ago (from I945), which means 3227 BC.
In the pitched darkness, Vasudeva
wrapped the child in a woollen garment, kept it in a basket and
lifting the basket on his shoulder crossed the river Yamuna and
handed over the child, with the basket to Ganga Charya, the family
priest and Nanda, the chief of Gokul Yadavas waiting on the opposite
bank. In return, Ganga Charya gave another basket of a new born
daughter of Nanda to Vasudeva who carried back the baby to the place
of his confinement, as was pre-planned.
Kansa was unable to sleep the whole
night due to the anxiety to have a look at the eighth child of Devaki
and drove to the palace where Vasudeva and Devaki were in prison.
After assuming that the eighth child of them being a daughter, the
prophecy of Narada proved incorrect and Kansa was very happy.
Nanda's wife Yashoda who had fainted
at the time of her delivery never knew, what all has happened in
the night and when she came to her senses, Rohini handed over the
child to her. Since Nanda and Yashoda were not having any children,
quite for some time, the birth of the boy made the people of Gokul
with wild delight and joy and the boy was named as Krishna with
Kansa was constantly haunted by the
fear that some child might have overlooked by 'Putana', a close
confidant of Kansa. He came to know the belated birth of a boy to
Nanda and Yashoda and summoned Putana to kill him. But Putana could
not succeed in her deed and was later killed by Krishna. Kansa therefore
summoned 'Trinavrit', a bird catcher to kidnap Krishna.
When, Trinavrit reached Gokul, there
was a storm of sand and it was very difficult to anybody to withstand.
Taking advantage of the storm, Trinavrit caught hold of Krishna.
Krishna too held him tightly leaving him dead. Various brave acts
during the childhood days of Krishna are depicted in the holy books.
The eighth Avatara, Krishna, who
has become the Beloved of India and the world at large, had a threefold
objective: to destroy the wicked demons to play the leading role
in the great war fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (where
he delivered His wonderful message of the Gita) and to become the
centre of a marvellous development of the Bhakti schools of India.
A Peculiar Feature
On the holy day of Gokul Ashtami, the ladies in South India decorate
their houses beautifully, ready to welcome the Lord. They prepare
various sweetmeats and offer them to the Lord. Butter was Krishna's
favourite, and this is also offered. Shrikhand is specially prepared
on the occasion of Gokulashtami festival. From the doorway to the
inner meditation room of the house the door is marked with a child's
footprints, using some dour mixed with water. This creates the feeling
in them that the Lord's own Feet have made the mark.
People treat this day as one of very great rejoicing. There is recitation
of the "Bhagavatam", singing and praying everywhere. Temples
are decorated for the occasion, Kirtans are sung, bells are rung,
the conch is blown, and Sanskrit hymns are recited in praise of
Lord Krishna. At Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, special
spiritual gatherings are organised at this time. Pilgrims from all
over India attend these festive gatherings.
People observe a daylong fast, which is broken only at midnight,
the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. The festival
is a community celebration, and people visit Krishna temples, which
are specially decorated and lit for the occasion. On the occasion
of 'Gokulashtami', we can find kids forming a human pyramid to reach
the pot full of curds (dahi-handi) and break it, milk-sweets and
cash are strung from tenement balconies.
A little before midnight, devotees
pour into temples to participate in the special 'Aarti' and to relive
the birth of Krishna. Till midnight, devotional songs are sung in
anticipation of the holy birth. Special cradles are installed at
temples and a small statue of the "Balgopal" is placed