Janamashtami is celebrated to honour the birth of Lord Krishna in human form. It is believed that he took birth on the 8th day of Krishna Paksha, which is also known as the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Shravan. This day is considered highly auspicious, and is observed with great enthusiasm nationwide, especially in Vrindavan and Mathura, Lord Krishna’s birthplace. Since his birth is associated with the sole objective of freeing the world from evil, singing and dancing mark the celebration of this festival.

Legend has it…

It was a time when the atrocities of King Kamsa had crossed all limits and all good deeds were admonished and it was declared that the eight child born to Devaki and Vasudev would put an end to Kamsa and his evil deeds. After killing the first six children of Devaki and King Vasudev mercilessly, the seventh child was miraculously transferred to Rohini’s womb, king Vasudev’s second wife. When the eight child was born, in hope of protecting him, Vasudev placed his queer looking new-born into a basket and carried him across the town to Yashoda’s house, and quietly exchanged his son for Yashoda’s daughter and brought her back to the prison at Mathura. When Kamsa arrived, the couple pleaded to let the child live, but to no avail. As Kamsa was about to kill the child, the child took form of goddess Kali and chided Kamsa saying,”The one destined to kill you is safely away at Gokul”. Hence, the story of Krishna’s birth is recounted during the festival, not only to mark the birth of the deity, but also to highlight the success of good over evil.

Common Rituals

Ardent devotees usually start the day with fasting, some of them even refrain from taking a single drop of water throughout the day, while others consume milk and milk products only – as it is believed that they were Krishna’s favourite. Chanting of mantras, and singing religious songs of his birth is a common sight at temples dedicated to Lord Krishna.

People make hammock like swings and tie them to trees where the idol of Lord Krishna is placed to represent his birth. Doing this is considered to be auspicious.

Another popular practice is of acquiring the dahi-handi. Dahi or curd is mixed well with milk and dry fruits in an earthen pot, and suspended at a height of 15 to 20 feet off the ground. The goal of this activity is to lure young boys into obtaining it. As young boys clamber overeach other in a bid to get to the earthen container, people gather around them, soaking them in water to slow them down. This is one tradition that is followed with great excitement in the cities of Mathura, Dwarka, Vrindavan and Mumbai.

Puja Vidhi

The Janmashtami puja celebration is a two-day festival, of which the first day is observed as Krishnashtami, and the next day as Gokulashtami. According to Hindu mythology, lord Krishna was born at midnight, in the midst of heavy rain and loud thunderstorms. For this reason, Janmashtami Puja is performed at night.

Midnight Pooja

The midnight puja of Janmashtami is said to be the essence of this religious festival. People observe a fast for an entire day and eat once the midnight puja is completed.

Method

To start off with, you can chant Hare Krishna maha-mantra on your Tulsi Mala prayer beads

Decorate Radha-Krishna idols

Conduct an ‘abhishek’ or bathing ceremony for the deities with yogurt, honey, ghee and bathe them while singing devotional songs

Organize a midnight aarti at home with a kirtan

Bhajan: Hare Murare

Hare muraremadhukaitabhahare

GopalagovindamukundashaurePralayapayodhijale, dhrutavanasivedamVihitavahitracharitramakhedamKeshava, dharta mina sharira, jay jagadishahare

Chalaayasiwikramane, balimadbhutawamana

Padanakhanirajanitajanapawana

Keshava, dhartawamanarupa, jay jagadishahare

Witarasidikshurane, dik-patikamaniyam

Dasha-mukhamoulibalimramaniyam

Keshava, dhartaramasharira, jay jagadishahare

Nindasiyajnya wider-ahahashrutijatam

Sadaayahrudaayadarshitapashughatam

Keshava, dhartabuddhasharira, jay jagadishahare

Mlechchanivahanidhanekalaayasikaravalam

Dhumaketumiwakimapikaralam

Keshava, dhartakalkisharira, jay jagadishahare

Wedanuddharate, jagannivahate, bhugolamud-bibhrate

Daityamdarayatembalimchalayate, kshatrakshayamkurvate

Poulasyamjayate, halamkalayate, karunyamatanvate

Mlechchanmurchayate, dashakrutikrute, krushnayatubhyamnamah

 Recipes

Butter Muruku

 Ingredients

Rice flour – 1 cup

Besan/ground chana lentil/gram flour – 1½ tablespoon

Groundchana lentils/roasted gram dal flour/Chutney dal flour – 1½ tablespoon

Butter – 2 tsp

Jeera/sesame seeds – 1 tsp

Asafoetida – 2 generous pinches

Salt to Taste

Oil – To deep fry

Method

Grind chana lentils in a mixer. You can powder and keep more than needed and use itlater to makemoremurukus.Sieve it to eliminate coarse particles. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Mix the ingredients well. Then add water to make a smooth dough with a slightly tighter consistency. Not too tight though, as it should be supple enough to be squeezed out of a strainer. We want the butter murukku in bite sized strips, notlong enough to break in between. If the mix is adequately moist, it breaks by itself as we squeeze. You can even make circular-shaped murukkus.

Heat oil and squeeze the murukku using a star shaped colander.

Stir in between to flip it and cook both sides, cook until it is well fried.

Drain in paper towel and cool them down before storing in an airtight container.

MishriMakkhan

 Ingredients

Fresh cream – 250 grams

Mishri – 100 grams

Saffron- 1 pinch

Method

Pour fresh cream in a jar.

Put on the lid tightly on the jar.

Shake it vigorously until it turns into butter.

Take an empty vessel and attach a fine sieve on top.

Now pour the mixture over this sieve.

The butter will remain in the sieve while the liquid will flow and settle down.Add mishri to the butter and blend for a minute.

Makhane Ki Kheer

Ingredients

Full Cream Milk – 1 litre

Ghee – 2 tablespoon

Makhaane – 50 grams

Sugar – ½ cup

ChotiElaichi– 4

Almonds (chopped) – 10-12

Method

Heat ghee in a pan and sauté makhaneon low flame. When sautéed, let them cool and then crush them coarsely.

Put the makhanas and milk in a deep pan, and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer it over low flame, stirring occasionally till the makhanas get cooked and the milk thickens.

When cooked, add sugar and cardamom to the kheer. Stir to dissolve sugar and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.Makhane Ki Kheer is ready; garnish it with almonds before serving.

Serve hot or chilled.

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