||Date of Observance: Eighth day of waning moon of
Janmashtami commemorates the earthly appearance of Krishna, who
is described in India’s sacred writings as God Himself. One of the
biggest religious festivals in the world, it is celebrated by nine
hundred and thirty million people around the world--and two million
in the US alone. To devotees, it’s Christmas and New Year’s in one,
a day of deep spiritual renewal and celebration that effectively
finishes an old year and begins a fresh one.
But why Janmashtami, you may ask? What’s so special about Krishna,
as opposed to any other form of God? It’s His personable-ness. He
reciprocates in unique, personal ways with every devotee who offers
Him love—He is the most adorable, mischievous son, the most romantic
lover, the most compassionate friend. And on Janmashtami, devotees
celebrate Krishna in all of these aspects. For just as Krishna
reciprocates individually with His relatives and confidantes, he
responds to the distinct feelings and desires held most deeply in
the heart of every single worshipper.
So remember that whatever way you worship Krishna on Janmashtami, He
will reciprocate with you accordingly. It’s a meditation that makes
for an extremely rewarding devotional experience.
How is Janmashtami Celebrated?
Where Vaishnava temples exist, festivities begin before dawn and
extend all day until midnight, the exact moment of the anniversary
of Krishna’s appearance. Events include kirtan, singing the Lord’s
name along with other devotees; and japa, private, more intimate
prayer. Some devotees cook a feast of over one hundred dishes, while
others perform drama and dance. Some clothe and decorate the deity
of Krishna while others string enormous flower garlands and other
decorations for the temple. Incense burns, scriptures are read, and
all but the young and the infirm fast all day. The deities are also
bathed with a variety of auspicious liquids in a kind of ablution
ceremony called abhisheka. Sometimes taking over two hours, this is
performed with great pomp.
Finally, at midnight, priests pull apart the curtains to reveal the
freshly dressed deity of Krishna on a creatively festooned and
colored altar. The excitement builds, and a rousing kirtan ensues.
How to Celebrate Janmashtami at Home
But what if you don’t live near a temple? What if you can’t make
it to a major celebration Does that mean you can’t observe
Janmashtami? Of course not. It is our sincere devotion that pleases
Krishna most, and this can be offered anywhere. So to help you feel
more connected to the Lord and His devotees on this special day,
here are Krishna.com’s tips on how to celebrate Janmashtami at home:
Invite all your friends and family to participate in the
Decorating your home for Krishna can be fun, particularly for
children. Encourage them in helping to make garlands, hanging
balloons and festoons of leaves, and generally making the house
beautiful for Krishna’s appearance.
Get a copy of the Vaishnava Songbook and choose some of your
favorite bhajanas(devotional songs in praise of God) to sing.
Krishna, also known as Murlidhara, or “one who holds the flute,”
loves music. And so will your friends and family, as you take turns
singing and playing instruments. Alternatively, play bhajan CDs and
heighten the spiritual atmosphere.
You can also chant extra rounds of the Hare Krishnamaha-mantra on
your japa mala (prayer beads). This is an intimate one on one
exchange with Krishna, and makes you feel much closer to the Lord.
Read the story of Krishna’s advent and other exciting pastimes from
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead or Srimad Bhagavatam,
Canto Ten. Pass the book around, and try dramatic readings to bring
the story to life. Janmashtami is all about completely immersing
yourself in thoughts of Krishna in a festive way.
If you have Radha-Krishna deities, get extra special new outfits for
them. Exercise your creativity and pay special attention to
decorating their altar.
Recreate the temple program and hold an abhisheka bathing
ceremony for your deities. Simply buy different liquids like yogurt,
honey, ghee and fruit juices and bathe the deity with them while
singing devotional songs.
Temples prepare at least one hundred and eight different food dishes
on Janmashtami. Of course, you don’t have to go that far, unless
you’re feeling particularly energetic! But it’s always nice to cook
some very special preparations to offer to the Lord. Imagine that
Krishna was actually right there, in your house—what would you offer
Him? This makes for a wonderful meditation while cooking on
Have a midnight arati (worship ceremony) with a
kirtan. This is the exact time that Krishna appeared on this
planet, so it is most auspicious and spiritually inspiring. If you
have arati paraphernalia, then you can do a full offering. If
not, don’t worry–Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, “If you
offer Me with love a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept
So offer whatever you can—it’s your love and devotion that matters.
Tune into Krishna.com’s webcams and watch the festivities going on
at some of ISKCON’s major temples.
Buy a special gift for the Lord. You can wrap it and write a card to
Krishna. Here are some gift ideas:
If you have Deities you can buy or make jewelry, new clothes,
garlands, peacock feathers, turban pieces, flutes or water cups
New picture frame if you worship a picture of Krishna
Brand new aratiset
If you are able to fast from food, fasting until midnight is
recommended. If fasting is too difficult, then try to eat only light
foods during the day. By putting our own needs aside and
concentrating more on Krishna’s, we show our love for Him.
You can engage your children in many of the above activities.
Depending on your children’s ages, they can help cook, make
garlands, design a birthday card, play musical instruments, dance
and chant Hare Krishna. There are many children’s books about
Krishna as well as DVDs of Krishna pastimes at the Krishna.com
Children also enjoy dressing up as Radha, Krishna and their
associates, and re-enacting Krishna’s pastimes. This helps to create
a very festive mood.
As you celebrate Janmashtami, remember that just as we enjoy the
attention and fun on our birthday, so the Lord also enjoys our
attention and gifts on His appearance day. The difference between us
and Krishna is that He is able to reciprocate perfectly with each
one of us. In the transcendental realm, everything that we offer to
the Lord with love and devotion will benefit us unlimitedly, and
those benefits will stay with us for eternity.