Janmashtami is one of the most important Hindu festivals and marks the birth of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is considered to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was born to Vasudev and Devaki in Mathura on the eighth day of the month of Shravan at 12 midnight.
The festival is celebrated mostly in Maharashtra and Gujarat with ‘dahi handi’ being an integral part of the celebrations. Boys get together in groups and form human pyramids. They then break earthen pots that are fixed at a height of over 30 ft from the ground.
The story behind dahi handi
It was believed that Lord Krishna would be the cause of the downfall of Kansa and needed protection from his wicked uncle. Therefore, his parents took him to Yashoda and Nanda in Vrindavan.
Krishna was a very naughty child and loved eating white butter or makhan, milk and curd. He was also quite often seen stealing butter from other people’s homes and many times Yashoda would have to tie him up to stop him from stealing it. He was also called ‘Maakhan Chor’ for this reason.
Even other women in the town had to tie the butter in their pots at a height Krishna would find difficult to reach. So, to reach the pots, Lord Krishna along with his friends would form pyramids and then take the butter that was hidden in them.
The dahi handi celebration denotes this act of Lord Krishna and the boy who breaks the handi is called ‘Govinda’ and the groups are called handis or mandals. Girls surround the pyramid and sing songs and celebrate the festival. The crowds gather and sing the song ‘Govinda ala re ala’ that means Krishna has come.
Many people in India fast on the day of Janmashtami till 12 midnight which the time for Lord Krishna’s birth. They eat fruits or grain-free food throughout the day and some even starve through the day.
Temples are adorned with beautiful decoration and visited by people throughout the day with sweets, fruits and money which is kept in Lord Krishna’s swing. The cradle of Lord Krishna is gently rocked by the people.
Many ladies and other older people sing bhajans and celebrate the festivals and folk dances and songs and performed within localities and communities.