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Janmashtami is celebrated throughout the country with immense zeal and fervor in order to commemorate the birth of Lord Krishna. It is also known as Gokulashtami or Krishnaashtami or Sri Jayanti.. The celebration of Janmashtami is at its apex in Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna. This year Sri Krishna Jayanti is marked on August 21 in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and is some parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. In North India, it is marked on August 22. The Smarta Tradition observes the festival on August 21 and the Vaishnava Tradition on August 22.

The festival, which falls on the eighth day (Ashtami) of Savan month, marks the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu- one of the Hindu trinity. He was born under extraordinary circumstances on the day.He is widely revered and most popular of all Hindu Gods. He, unlike other Gods, can be regarded as a lover, friend, Divine Guru or one’s own child. It is commonly believed that he took birth for killing Kansa, the unreligious demon king of Mathura and other demons, to establish a kingdom of peace, prosperity and religion on earth and to spread the message of brotherhood and humanity. He was the ever smiling god and that smile continues to conquer millions of hearts. Throughout, his life there was music and just before getting killed by the hunter’s bow he was playing the flute. Music and that immortal smile were present in his death.

People enjoy in the merrymaking at the midnight of a Ashtami, by singing devotional songs and dancing to the tune of bhajans. Apart from honoring the day with a special puja, people relish on lip smacking delicacies that are prepared especially for the festival. Cultural programs are also part of the celebrations.

It is said that it was one of the midnights of a Sharvan day, when Lord Krishna was born in the Rohini Nakshatra as the savior of humanity. He is considered to be the Lord's most glorious incarnations (purna avatar). Historians calculate that the birth of Lord Krishna goes back to the Dwapar Yug. It is in the year of Visvavasu around 3227 BC (i.e. 5237 years before) Lord Krishna was born in the prison of the Demon King Kansa in Mathura. However, the holy land of Mathura still commemorates this pious and fortunate incident by grand celebration on this occasion.

The grand celebration at Mathura takes place at the actual birth place of Lord Krishna, which has now been rechristened into a grand temple known as Krishna Janma Bhoomi Mandir.The celebration goes on for two days, in which they celebrate their first day by keeping day-long fast and celebrations and feast at midnight after the birth time of  Lord Krishna. The second day is also the day of celebrations and feasting. The entire city of Mathura is immersed in the devotion of Lord Krishna by singing, dancing and chanting in the names of Lord Krishna. Small children are dressed like the young Krishna and his playmate Radha. Every year about 8 lakhs devotees turn up in Mathura on this occasion and the number is increasing year after year.

Great indeed are his many Leelas and the way in which he charms one and all. Several sages and seers have paid homage to him. Narada, Sri Kulashekara Azhwar, Andal, Tirumangai Azhawar, Nammazhwar have sung glorious verses in praise of Lord Krishna who embodies Shudda Satvam. The Bhagavad Gita coming from the Lord is the absolute truth which has withstood the test of time and has formed the basis and inspiration for many Acharyas and Azhwars. The Bhagavad Gita is translated into many world languages. It is also chanted daily by millions and millions of pious Hindus.

According to the legends, Kansa was a mighty and discourteous prince of Mathura. His father Ugrasen had chosen Vasudev, one of the highly ranked officials in his army, as the groom for his daughter - Devki (Kansa's sister). Agreeing to the decision, Kansa arranged a lavish wedding for his only sister. When Kansa was riding on a chariot along with the newly wed couple - Devki and Vasudev - a heavenly voice interrupted the journey. It predicted that Devki's eighth son would kill Kansa. Upon hearing the prophesy, the self-centered Kansa imprisoned the newly married couple.

Apart from imprisoning Devki and Vasudev, Kansa also put his own father (the King of Mathura) behind bars. Consequently, Kansa took over as the King of Mathura. He waited until the arrival of the Devki's first child. The moment Kansa heard the news of the birth of Devki's first child; he headed towards the prison ferociously, got hold of the newborn and killed the child. The following six newborns of Devki were killed by Kansa in similar manner. When she was about to give birth to her eighth child, a heavenly voice commanded Vasudev to take the newborn to Gokul and exchange it with the newborn girl child of Nanda and Yashoda.

The guards of the prison had fallen into deep slumber. They were unable to inform their master about the birth of Devki's eighth child. The shackles and the prison gate opened miraculously and Vasudev stepped out of the prison with the newborn, carried in a small basket. In the midnight, Vasudev carried the newborn in the basket and traveled through the waters of stormy Yamuna River. Since it was raining heavily, a huge snake known as Adisesha with its 2000 hoods, glided behind the father and the newborn, in order to act as a protective canopy for the divine child. When Vasudev returned from Gokul, the shackles fastened automatically, the doors of the prison closed and the guards woke up.

Upon hearing the news of the birth of Devki's eighth child, Kansa went to the cell and got hold of the newborn. Ironically, the child slipped out of his stranglehold and appeared as Goddess, laughing at him. She vanished after telling that the eighth son of Devki (Lord Krishna) had already born and was safe elsewhere. Lord Krishna grew up at Gokul as a mischievous prankster who was the heartbeat of Gokul and the favorite of Gopikas. He grew up as a lovable brat, who played around mischievously and looted fresh Makhan (homemade butter) from every household of Gokul. Year by year, people in Mathura, Gokul and elsewhere in India celebrate the birth of the favorite deity - Lord Krishna on the eighth day (asthami) of Shavan month and name it as Janmashtami or Krishnashtami.

Lord Krishna temples situated at Vrindhavan, Mathura, Dwaraka are the most popular for the celebrations of Janmashtami, as it is believed that Lord Krishna lived there. In some part of the North India, Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated for three days. The first two days are celebrated in a colorful manner. Dance drama, known as Raslila, is performed. Incidents from Sri Krishna's life, especially his childhood, are depicted in the drama.

On the second day of the festival, a popular ceremony known as 'Dahi Handi' takes place wherein the pot containing curd or butter or milk is broken by the youth. The ritual of Dahi Handi is carried out with religious observance, in the northern parts of India. Maharashtra is especially popular for the ritual, wherein human pyramid tries to break the Handi (earthen pot filled with buttermilk) that is suspended from top, with the help of a rope. Onlookers throw water on the pyramid of boys in order to stop them from reaching the earthen pot. The process involves a lot of excitement. During Janmashtami, every other street of Mumbai organizes the Dahi Handi, as a part of the celebrations of the festival.

The midnight celebration is the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. It comprises of Pooja and other rituals. During the Pooja, the idol of Lord Krishna is bathed with milk and curd (panchamrit) and then rocked in the cradle. It is said that if you make any holy wish while cradling Lord Krishna with full heart, it is certain to be fulfilled. The entire Mathura city of Mathura gets immersed in the devotion of Krishna and the echoes of Krishna bhajan and bells. Lord is here fed with prasad of ‘Chhapan Bhog’ (Fifty six dishes). Later the devotees break their fast with these ‘bhog’ and panchamrit.

Performance of Rasleelas:
The entire city of Mathura is then flooded with performance of the Rasleelas of Krishna by professional and amateur artists. Some of them are so mesmerizing that the devotees get overwhelmed with their devotion for Lord Krishna.

Jhanki (Tableau):
A Jhanki is a series of scenes depicting the various phases of one’s life. In a Krishna Jhanki, the different stages of the life of Lord Krishna are shown all over the Mathura. They include interesting incidents like - Janmlila, Shankarlila, Putanalila and Naglila.

It is only in the Mathura City that during Jhulanotsav, the swings are hanged in courtyard of temples and all the houses to welcome baby Lord Krishna. The swings are decorated with beautiful flowers and bells to give a festive look.

The celebration of Sri Krishna's birth in Mathura is incomplete without Ghatas. It is a month-long exclusive feature, wherein all the temples of Mathura are adorned with the same color as per the selected theme. Even the idol of Lord Krishna is decorated with the same color.

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