Journey to India for the Janmashtami Festival
Celebrate Krishna’s Birthday In The Heart Of India
As much a huge birthday party as a religious festival, Janmashtami offers a unique opportunity to explore Hindu culture in an atmosphere likened to Christmas and New Year all rolled into one.
If the bustle of Delhi and the majesty of the Taj Mahal are a little too mainstream for your visit to India, then why not join one of the biggest birthday celebrations in the world? Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, possibly the most popular of the Hindu deities. Devotees celebrate his compassion, warmth and mischievousness in a festival that is unlike any other.
When and Where to Go?
Janmashtami is celebrated in the lunar month of Bhadrapada. The exact dates varies each year, but falls in late August or early September. The festival is celebrated throughout India and the Hindu world, but with the most fervour and enthusiasm in Uttar Pradesh, Krishna’s birthplace. Direct international flights are few and far between, but the major Indian airlines, including Air India and Jet Airways fly regular services to Lucknow and Varasani from the main hubs of Mumbai and Delhi. For the more adventurous, western cities can be reached by road or rail from Delhi with relative ease.
Crime rates are low, but as with travel to any major event, exercise caution in crowded places, keep personal possessions safe and take out appropriate family travel insurance.
The spiritual centre of Janmashtami is the village of Mathura, in the western part of the state. This is celebrated as the birthplace of Lord Krishna and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
Those wishing to enjoy the Janmashtami experience without the difficulty of finding somewhere to stay could consider combining the festival experience with a cultural visit to Varasani, India’s oldest city. Situated to the South East of the state, Varasani combines the bustle of the galis (ancient market places in a network of narrow alleys) the mystique of the Ganges, one of the most famous and evocative rivers in the world, and the spiritual wonders of literally hundreds of temples dedicated to Hindu deities.
Who Was Krishna?
Krishna is described alternatively as a son of Vishnu or as the incarnation of the Supreme God himself. However he is defined, what is certain is that he is among the most revered deities in Hinduism.
Famed for his playful, flirtatious and mischievous personality, it is little wonder that devotees celebrate his birthday with such a festive atmosphere of fun and happiness.
While areas of Krishna’s later life feature strongly in India’s sacred texts, it is the youthful, flute-playing and fun-loving Krishna who is celebrated during the festival of Janmashtami.
The Janmashtami festival really can be likened to the Christmas festivities in the Western world. Devotees chant hymns and read psalms from the sacred texts, and those who are fit and healthy fast all day.
But after the serious business, the party can begin. In southern states, kites fill the sky; in northern regions, young men stand on each other’s shoulders to form human pyramids and try to reach a suspended earthenware pot in the tradition of Dahi Handi, commemorating the legend of the child Krishna stealing butter; in temples everywhere floors are decorated with tiny footprints to give the impression that the baby Krishna has really paid a visit.
Indian culture is famed for the warm welcome offered to visitors, and this is especially true during festivals. Non-Hindus are welcomed to the celebrations as much as devotees. No special knowledge is needed, just a sense of enthusiasm and a willingness to join in and enjoy the fun. After all, it is what Krishna would have wanted.