Janmashtami is one of the most popular festivals of Hindus,which celebrates the birth of the beloved God, Shri Krishna.Janmashtami ie Krishna Janma festival falls in the month between August and September. The most common ritual observed all over during Janmashtami is fasting by devotees on the day of the festival (Saptami, seventh day).Devotees fast for the entire day and break it after the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight.
People prefer only milk and milk products as they were the favourite of Lord Krishna.Some devotees of Lord Krishna go to the extent of keeping 'Nirjal' fast.that is fasting without having a single drop of water.
At midnight, the idol of the child,Bal Krishna is bathed, adorned in new clothes and ornaments,placed in a cradle and worshiped by singing lullaby(Lories).
In many families fast is observed,however, one meal is allowed. This is known as phalhar, which consists of fruits, singhare ki puri, mithai, curd etc. Generally the devotees prepare those food items which are considered to be the favorite of Lord Krishna. At the midnight all these scrumptious items are placed in front of Lord Krishna and this called as the ritual of "bhog" Later all these scrumptious items are distributed amongst his devotees as "Prasada"
Devotees chant all day long the mantras and shlokas to please the lord,creating the religious atmosphere. Chanting of 108 names of Lord Krishna is another ritual that takes place in various temples. Chanting of names is accompanied by showering of flowers on the idol of Lord Krishna.after the Aarti,the fast is over.At dawn,children's footprints,walking towards the house are drawn with "Rangoli". This indicates the divine entry of God Shree Krishna in the house.
Janmahtami in Mathura
Mathura,about 150 kms from Delhi,is the birth place of Lord Krishna,where Janmashtami is celebrated in a bigget way.Lord Krishna is said to have been born around 5000 years back to finish the evils of demons. The city of Mathura is full in festive look and the devotional mood reaches its pinnacle.The main celebration takes place at 'Krishna Janma Bhoomi Mandir',which is the actual place of birth.krihna's idol is placed in a room,known as the 'Garbha Griha'.
Devotees observe a full day fast and end it at midnight after the birth time of Bhagwan Krishna.However, through out the day, the devotees remain engrossed in chanting of Shlokas and name of the Lord.Bhajans are sung in the glory of Shri Krishna.
The Birth of Lord Krishna at midnight is followed by performance of pooja and other ceremonies.The idol of Lord Krishna is given a divine bath with milk and curd and then rocked in the cradle.It is strongly believed that any wish made while rocking the cradle is fulfilled on this day.The entire Mathura echoes with the sound of the conch (shankh) and ringing of bells.Devotees pray and welcome the lord with slogans of 'Jai Shri Krishna'.
After the pooja is complete, a mixture of honey, gangajal, curd, ghee,called "Panchamrut",is distributed to the devotees.The Lord is offered the customary prasad of "Chhapan Bhog"(Fifty six dishes). Devotees break their fast with 'Prasad' of the Lord.Kheer, Laddoo, Butter, Shrikhand and Singhare ki Poori are some of the main dishes prepared on the day.
Ras-leelas,a kind of dance is performed at various places in Mathura city.The person acting as Krishna dreses himself as Lord Krishna for devotees,who touch his feet in reverence.Jhankis(Tableau), cribs or scenes depicting the various stages of Life of Lord Krishna are exhibited all over Mathura city.Jhankis depict various important activities of Lord Krishna right from the childhood.It is like- Janmlila, Shankarlila, Putanalila and Naglila.
Jhulanotsav and Ghatas Another important feature of celebrations,which are specially held only in Mathura City.During Jhulanotsav,swings decorated with flowers, are put in courtyards of temples and houses to welcome Lord Krishna's birth,which symbolizes cradling of Lord Krishna. A month prior to Janmashtami,as per a theme, all the temples of Mathura City are decorated with the same colour and the idol of Lord Krishna is adorned with the clothes of same colour.
Lakhs of devotees are engrossed heart and soul, in decorating the temples and their house to welcome the birth of Lord Krishna.
Govinda Dahi - Handi
Dances like Garba,Dandiya,Raas-Leela or dramatic enactments based on the life of Shri.Krishna are performed in so many regions of India.Rasa-Leela is the rememberance of Krishna's youthful days.
Govinda Pathaks celebrate Krishna's's playful and mischievous side of entering the houses of Gopis and breaking the buttermilk Pots(Matki) and eating the "Maakhan"(buttermilk).
Janmaashtami, popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as Dahi Handi is celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm.The "Handi" or " Matki" is a clay pot filled with buttermilk and coconut, that is roped at a convenient height.Govinda Groups from different areas come and form human pyramids and try to break the Handi by hitting it with Head or coconut placed inside it.
After breaking it, the buttermilk is spilled over the group people,who then sing and dance to celebrate the victory.Many Handis bear prescious rewards in cash to the tune of Rupees 25 laks.Some popular Handis are tied at very high altitudes with highest rewards.Nowdays the Handis are accompanied with Musical shows,in presence of the celebrities from political front,TV programmes and films.