janmashtami-festival

Janmashtami is celebrated all over India with much fervour and energy to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna in the months of August/September. The celebrations in Delhi have a unique character, with most offices and institutions declaring a holiday on this day.

The festivities in the capital begin almost a week before the festival. Shobha Yatras, or processions in the glory of Lord Krishna, usually organized by temples, can be seen on the streets. Members of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), an institute involved in spreading the teachings of Krishna, sell copies of Bhagwad Gita at traffic intersections across the city. Many foreigners are also involved in this activity.

The day of Janmashtami begins on a religious note with special prayers being offered to God in various temples and households. The deity is bathed in milk and dressed in new clothes. Deities of Bal Gopala, or Krishna as an infant, are placed in miniature cradles made of gold or silver and worshipped. The sound of Shankhas (conches) and chants in praise of the Lord fill the air.

The temples are brightly decorated with flowers, shimmering streamers of golden and silver coloured paper and multi-coloured lights etc.

Krishna is believed to have been born at midnight, so the Puja (prayer ceremony) for Janmashtami is also performed late at night. Devotees fast throughout the day (some even do so without consuming a single drop of water) and offer prayers at night. They congregate at local Krishna temples. Offerings of milk, Kheer, sweets, fruits and also gold jewellery are made to the Lord, after which the devotees break their fast by consuming the Holy Prasad (sweet food).

During the evening, to enhance the experience of the festival, a number of stalls are set up where young children are seated and dressed up as Lord Krishna or other mythological characters, some of them are coloured blue all over (representing the skin colour of the Lord). Even infants dressed up as baby Krishna are placed in cradles.

Plays are staged in some colonies of Delhi based on Krishna’s birth in King kansa’s jail; his mischievous childhood; but most are about the pranks he is believed to have played on Gopis (his female friends); of how he used to steal butter which he loved dearly etc. The characters are usually enacted by children of various ages.

The most famous temples to visit for witnessing Janmashtami celebrations are the ISKCON Temple in East of Kailash and Akshardham Mandir on the eastern bank of the river Yamuna.

If you are keen to visit these temples, it would be best to take the metro. Get off at the Kailash Colony station on the Violet Line and the Akshardham Station on the Blue Line respectively (both temples lie at a close distance to each other).

ISKCON Temple | Hare Krishna Hill, Sant Nagar, East of Kailash, New Delhi

Akshardham Temple | National Highway 24, Near Noida More, New Delhi

At the household level, people clean their houses and decorate the main doors using decorative paper displaying “Shubh Janmashtami”. If you are enthusiastic enough, you may also plan a one-day trip to Mathura and Vrindavan (about 200 kms from Delhi), where the Lord is said to have spent his childhood.