FestiveTrip: Janmashtami

The ISKCON Temple in Mathura.
Image courtesy: Amit Raj

The festivities surrounding the birth of Lord Krishna on Janmashtami allow for celebrations, sampling of heritage cuisine and experiencing varied regional flavours.

Some of the best places to visit during Krishna Jayanthi include:

Mathura & Gokul: A visit to the Kasava Deo Temple at this bustling pilgrim town will awaken the many myths surrounding Krishna’s janmabhoomi. During this time, the city attracts floods of pilgrims and the temples are swathed in decorations. Musical dramas about Krishna are also performed. Make sure you sample the delicious peda and lotas of buttery lassi while here. A detour to Gokul from Mathura across the Yamuna can be enjoyable for kids for its rustic and pastoral charm.

Dwarka: The Dwarkadhish Temple in Gujarat is deemed as the holy spot where Krishna’s kingdom flourished. Janmashtami is celebrated with great fervour and special pujas.

Ujjain: Experience Krishna consciousness at the Janmashtami Mahotsav in Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan Temple. Midnight kirtan and dances, performances by kids led by the devout Krishna bhakts mark the celebrations. A jostle and wait in the milling crowds is worth the prasadam and meal at the ISKCON temple.

Puri: Special midnight prayers set in tandem with the midnight birthing of the god are held at the Jagannath Mandir. The deity of the infant Krishna is set in a jhoola decorated with flowers. There’s a big rush for the temple’s prasad on the occasion.

Mumbai: This cosmopolitan city thrums to the birthday of Lord Krishna. Mumbai’s neighbourhoods like Dadar, Worli, Thane, Lalbaug, among others, are famous for Dahi Handi feats. Groups of young and lithe men called Govinda Pathaks scale to the top of a human pyramid to break a handi filled with Govinda’s favourite drink, buttermilk. This sporty event can be a crowd rouser. Rice flakes mixed with dahi are made at homes invoking Krishna’s friendship with Sudama.

Guruvayur: At Kerala’s Guruvayur temple, the Ashtami Rohini celebrations of Sri Krishna Jayanthi include a procession of the golden idol of Balakrishna accompanied by the temple’s elephants, making it a grand affair. The prasadam of nei appam and pal payasam taste divine. Cultural programmes including traditional and classical dance and music are held.

Udupi: The Sri Krishna Temple’s Gokulashtami utsava has a procession of a bedecked clay idol of the infant Krishna and street performers add to the folksy element to Krishna Jayanthi at Udupi. The idol is immersed in Madhav Sarovar after the festivities come to a close.

Butter Fingers & Tippy Toes

  • Butter, peda and milk sweets in north India and jaggery sweets, milk puddings, savouries like seedai and murukku in south India, are popular offerings across temples and homes during Janmashtami.
  • Across several regions of India, rice flour paste is used to mark the floors of homes with tiny footprints, to evoke the blessed magic of Krishna’s baby steps into homes.