Monday, September 6, 2010

Janamashtami- Celebrating B’ Day of Lord Krishna

Krishna Janmashtami is a joyous occasion which is celebrated by Hindu's all over the world; we celebrate Krishnajanmashtami to commemorate the birthday of Lord Krishna, the birth of one of our most enchanting and beloved God, Lord Krishna.

Janamashtami is a very important Hindu holy day. The festival of Krishna Janamashtami takes place during the month of Sravana, eight days after Raksha Bandhan. When I dig deep in to my memory, I am reminded of the various jhankis (exhibits) used to be part of the long winding procession that was taken out through the streets to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, jhankis depicting Krishna in a novel way and in the best of attire. Till date the celebrations of the festival remains quite similar.

For two days, worshipers will not rest, but instead will dance and sing traditional Hindu songs known as bhajans. These songs are an important form of worship, used to celebrate the memory of Krishna- supreme God. It is believed that Vishnu was reincarnated as Krishna at midnight and thus it is at this hour that the Janamashtami festivities really begin.

To understand the importance of Janmashtami, one has to learn how Krishna takes birth. It is not an ordinary birth. It is Divine, Transcendental. Krishna is believed to have descended on Earth at midnight so devotees celebrate the anticipation by keeping strict fasts. Some keep a nirjala fast where nothing not even water is consumed. Many observe partial fast eating milk, fruits and nuts. Breaking of the fast usually occurs at midnight with prasadam – sanctified food offered first to Krishna. Fasting is accompanied by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and kirtan, as devotees join together and sing about Krishna with music and dance.

Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight which is the darkest moment of the night, symbolizes that the Lord manifested Himself from the prison cell, thus vigorously illuminating the universe, dispelling the darkness of ignorance. Krishna's advent signifies the dispelling of darkness, the removal of troubles, banishing of ignorance and teaching mankind the Supreme Wisdom.

Worshipers also act out plays, which are based on scenes from Krishna's early life. Idols of Krishna are bathed and placed in cradles to the sound of ringing bells and the song of the conch shell (shankh).

The word, “Krishna” means, “one who is always in the transport of joy”. Let us understand the meaning of the term Krishna. The word has three meanings. One is: "Krishyathi iti Krishnah" (The one who cultivates is Krishna). What is it that has to be cultivated? The Hridayakshetra (field of the heart). Krishna cultivates the field of our hearts by removing the weeds of bad qualities, watering it with love, ploughing it with the use of sadhana, and sowing the seeds of devotion. This is how Krishna cultivates out hearts.

Krishna is known by many other names according to the characteristics he had and the feats he accomplished. He is known as “Makhan Chor” as he was fond of makhan (butter) and used to steal it with his friends. The incident of lifting Govardhan Mountain to save the people from rain made him famous as Girdhari. Also known as Banwari - the one staying in the groves of Vrindavan.

Today when we are celebrating the Birthday of Krishna, we are attaching importance to His body, but not to His teachings. We can celebrate Krishna's Birthday in the true spirit of the term only when we put His teachings into practice. Remembering few of the lessons taught by Krishna:

All the actions that we undertake must be sacred. There should be harmony in your thought, word and deed. The proper study of mankind is man. "Work is Worship", "Duty is God". This was the teaching of our ancient seers. Consider all activities as an offering to God and all work as God's work. Just as two wings are essential for a bird to soar high in the sky, two wheels for a cycle to move, Prema (Love) and Seva (service) are essential for man to reach his destination. No benefit accrues from rendering service devoid of love. Do not expect any returns for the acts of service. The satisfaction which one derives from rendering service is itself a reward.

Never lose your song – Krishna’s flute and his ability to attract people by music were legendary. Many times, when we become focused on our careers or family, we lose sight of our hobbies and real interests and this makes life drudgery! Krishna taught us to put music into life and life into music!

Work sharper not just harder – Krishna always worked sharper rather than harder! There were many times during the Mahabharata war, where it was his intelligence that helped to defeat powerful adversaries. Brute strength is ok, but brain strength is far superior!

Happy Janmashtami to all, and may the blessings of Krishna bless all of us.