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Janmashtami – Symbols and Customs – A Hindu Religious Festival

Janmashtami - Symbols and Customs
Janmashtami – Symbols and Customs

Janmashtami – Symbols and Customs – A Hindu Religious Festival

Origins of Janmashtami – Janmashtami is a festival celebrated mainly in Hindu religion, which many scholars refer to as the world’s oldest living religion & Civilisation. The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu (or Indus), That means river. It referred to people living in the Indus valley in the Indian subcontinent.

Hindu has no founder, one universal reality (or god) known as Brahman, many gods and goddesses

(Sometimes referred to as Devtas & Devis), and several scriptures.  Hinduism also has no hierarchical structure like other religions, such as Christianity. Hindus practice a broad range of philosophies and writings but there is no single, uniform pattern to follow. The oldest of the Hindu writings are the Vedas. The word “Veda” is derived from the Sanskrit word for knowledge. The Vedas, which were accumulated from ancient traditions, contain instructions, hymns, explanations, chants for sacrifices, magical formulas, and philosophy. Another set of sacred books includes the Great Epics, which illustrate Hindu faith in practice. The Epics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita. The Hindu pantheon includes approximately thirty-three million gods.  Some of these are held in higher esteem than others. People of the Hindu religion believe in Brahman. Although he is above all the gods, he is not worshipped in popular ceremonies because he is detached from the day-to-day affairs of the people. Brahman is impersonal. Lesser gods and goddesses (devtas) serve him. Because these are more intimately involved in the affairs of people, they are venerated as gods. The most dignified god in Hinduism varies among the different Hindu cast. Although Hindu adherents practice their faith differently and worship different deities; they share a similar view of reality and look back on a common history.

The Hindu gods appeared in both human and animal forms at certain times in history so they could perform great deeds. Each time when a god went through another incarnation, it became the occasion for a new Hindu festival. Vishnu appeared first as a fish, then as a tortoise and a boar. Later he appeared as a man-lion, a dwarf, the son of a great sage, and a prince. His most memorable incarnation, however, was when he appeared as Krishna, whose life and heroic deeds are described in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.

Read another article on 10 Famous Festivals of India

The birthday of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, is one of the most important among Hindu festivals.  Born in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, Krishna’s mission on earth was to get rid of the demon Kansa, who had seized the throne, imprisoned the real king, and prosecuted good people while making life easy for the wicked. His evil ways became so unbearable that Vishnu decided to incarnate himself as a man and bring Kansa’s wicked empire to an end.

Krishna grew up among the herdsmen of Gokul. As a child, he was adored for his mischievous pranks as well as his miracles. As a young cowherd, he became renowned as a lover, and the sound of his flute lured the wives and daughters of other cowherds to leave their homes to dance with him in the forest. When he finally returned to Mathura to slay the wicked Kansa, he found the kingdom unsafe and led the people to the western coast of India, where he reestablished his court in what is today the state of Gujarat.

Janmashtami-the name comes from Janma, birth, and Ashtami, the eighth-is celebrated on the eighth day of  Bhadrapada by Hindus of all sects and castes throughout India, particularly in and around Mathura. The celebrations there include dancing, in imitation of the young Krishna’s moonlight dances with the cow-girls, the singing of religious songs and hymns, and recitations from the great Hindu epics.  Everyone, even children, fasts for twenty-four hours. The floor from the doorway to the inner meditation room of the house is often marked with a child’s footprints, made by mixing flour and water, to create the impression that Krishna himself has walked through the house. Pilgrims from all over India visit the temple of Shri Rangji, where Krishna is known to have spent his childhood. When the fast is broken at midnight, the ringing of temple bells, the jingling of cymbals and the blowing of conch shells are ongoing. The image of Lord Krishna as a child is bathed in milk while his name is chanted, and at the hour of his birth, the image is rocked in a cradle decorated with garlands of flowers.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Curd Pots

Dairy products are usually served on Janmashtami because Lord Krishna was very fond of milk and butter as a child. In some parts of India, the celebration includes the competition for shattering of curd pots(unglazed ceramic pots containing sour milk), which are hung up high over the streets and then shattered by young men forming human pyramids, or suspended from a pole supported by two uprights. The pots are knocked down and broken in imitation of the young Krishna, who was so fond of milk that he used to steal, with the help of his friends, curds, and butter that had been hung in earthen pots from the kitchen ceiling to keep it out of the reach of children. After the curd pots are broken, the celebrants’ dance as Krishna danced during his stay among the herdsmen of Gokul.

Type of Holiday: Religious (Hindu)

Date of Observation: August-September; the eighth day of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada

Celebrated in: India

Symbols and Customs: Curd Handi

 

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Tag- Origins of Janmashtami, Symbols, and Customs of Janmashtami, Why celebrate Janmashtami? Indian Festival, Hindu tradition 

 

August 22, 2019

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