Every birthday requires its own share of celebrations and dazzling decorations, and why should Hindu deity Krishna’s be any different? On Janmashtami 2020, we’re dreaming of these five Indian cities that celebrate Vishnu’s eighth avatar’s birthday with utmost fun! By Bayar Jain
1. Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Any mention of Janmashtami is bound to have Mathura thrown into the mix. Justifiably so, considering it is touted as the very place of birth of this Hindu deity. Situated on the banks of river Yamuna, this ancient city leads up to the actual day with two-day long celebrations. Colourful jhankis (tableaus) throng the streets, while every corner has its variation of the Rasa lila (a dance-drama narrating Krishna’s life) to enthral audiences. However, what truly separates the celebrations here from the rest of the country is jhulan utsav, or the festival of swings, where devotees decorate their backyard swings to lure Krishna into their homes.
2. Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
Another temple-town intrinsically linked to Krishna, this riverbank place is believed to be Krishna’s childhood and teenage home. Naturally, then, Janmashtami celebrations here also are like no other. Picture 10 days of town-wide partying with professional Rasa lila artists, elaborate ritualistic cleaning (abhishek) of the idol, and jhankis innumerable. Ordinarily, Vrindavan invites hundreds of people from all across the country to partake in these celebrations.
3. Mumbai, Maharashtra
Being a cosmopolitan city, almost every festival celebrated in Mumbai is given its due share, and Janmashtami is no different. Straying away from the ritualistic temple prayers and rasa lila—which is also found in abundance here—Mumbai’s celebrations are all about fierce yet friendly competition! Every neighbourhood forms teams of various sizes and competes with another for the famous dahi handi (an earthen pot filled with buttermilk and dry fruits—believed to be one of Krishna’s favourite food) competition. Teams form a pyramid, taking turns to smash a handi suspended high above the grounds on poles or between buildings. The team to break it first wins. Excitement, nail-biting suspense, and infectious cheering sum up these celebrations.
4. Dwarka, Gujarat
Juxtaposing the loud celebrations of its neighbouring state, Maharashtra, Janmashtami in Dwarka is a rather solemn affair. Literally translating to ‘the Door of Moksha (salvation)’ Dwarka is considered one of the four major pilgrimage spots (char dham) of Vaishnavite Hindus. During this time of the year, The Dwarkadhish temple, also known as the Jagat Mandir, begins the celebrations a day before with a mangla aarti (an auspicious Indian ceremony undertaken during prayers), followed by offering utsav bhog (similar to Christian sacrament). When the clock strikes 12, devotees begin to sing hymns all night long.
5. Imphal, Manipur
In Manipur, Janmashtami is a day to celebrate not just Krishna, but also his consort, Radha. Places such as the Mahabali temple, the Shri Shri Govindaji temple and the ISKCON temple here light up floral decorations and waves of devotees who wish to hear stories from Krishna’s childhood gather here to listen to the priests’ narrations. In Imphal, collectivity paints the space. Community service in the form of feeding poor, irrespective of beliefs and religions, is one of the highlights.