Rituals and Customs of Janmashtami

Variously known as "Janmashtami", "Gokulashtami" or "Gupt Vrindavan", the sacred occasion marks the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. Various customs and rituals are duly associated with the celebration of janmashtami. Go through this article to know more about the rituals and what kinds of traditions are observed with the celebration. Make sure you follow these rituals whole heartedly so that your prayers are answered and you are being blessed by Lord Krishna’s divine blessing. And if you want to refer this page to your loved ones, click here and person concerned will as well be able to acquaint himself with the related customs and rituals.
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Janmashtami Rituals and Customs

Almost every Hindu household witnesses the festival of Janmashthami in their own personal ways. Many customs and rituals are duly associated with the celebrations but variations do prevail in all these customs for some rituals might be common to all while others are unique and restricted to a particular region or city. But the vigor and passion with which the devotees of Lord Krishna observes this festival remains the same and almost identical. Here are the common rituals and customs that are followed by almost every devotees of Lord Krishna.

Fasting:

Observance of a daylong fasting is a common site amongst the households of all devotees. They break their fast only once with the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight. But however many people prefer to have only milk and milk products as these are considered to be the favourite of Lord Krishna. But there exist some ardent devotees also who go to the extent of keeping 'Nirjal' fast which involves fasting without having a single drop of water. Moreover there exist many followers who prefer keeping the fast for two days in the honour of Lord Krishna and celebrate the occasion of the birth of Lord Krishna.

Chanting:

Chanting of devotional songs all day long is a common norm in the celebration of Janmashthami. Devotees chant special shlokas and mantras so that they could please the Lord and seek his blessings. Singing of Bhajans along with offering of aarti is prevalent norm in the celebration. Apart from chanting of mantras, there also exists a ritual when 108 names of the Lord need to be chanted following which the idol of the Lord is showered with flowers. Thus a devotional atmosphere prevails everywhere.

Swings:

Another traditional ritual that is followed at many places in the country is of tying swings on the trees for the child god love to swing in a jhula. Thus devotees thus make sure they tie a on the occasion of Janmashtami for it considered to be auspicious. However this ritual is popular mainly in the rural parts of the country.

Staging of Plays or Dramas of Lord Krishna:

Preparation for enactment of play

Along with chanting of mantras, many plays are also enacted where various events and accomplishments of Lord Krishna during his lifetime is truly depicted. Both professional artists as well as amateur actors stage these plays, which are duly witnessed with devotee audiences.

Preparation of Sweets

As per legends and stories, we are quite acquainted with the fact that Lord Krishna was very fond of milk and milk products like that of butter and buttermilk. He loved eating these sweet products so much that there are many relevant stories where we are told how he used to steal butter from different households. Therefore to satiate his taste for sweetness, devotees all over make sweets on order to offer the Lord.

Ceremony of dahi-handi:

Dahi-Handi

Popularly followed in the cities of Mathura, Dwarka, Vrindavan and Mumbai, the ritual of Dahi-handi is an enactment of Lord Krishna trying to grab butter from the pot (handi), by young boys. As Lord Krishna was fond of butter (Maakhan), thus this tradition of Dahi-handi brings lot of fun, frolic and emotions with it.

How is it performed?

Milk well mixed with some ghee and dry fruits are poured in an earthen pot, and then the pot is suspended on a height of some 20 feet.

Then according to customs, some group boys form the shape of a pyramid, and they try to break the pot in an organized manner, and the people gathered below, throw loads on water on these boys so that they could be stopped from getting hold of the pot.

Religious significance:

The act of Dahi-handi is practiced for the whole act is believed to throw away all the negativities and bad-omens way and in return bring in prosperity and happiness.

Raslila:

Rasalila

The word Raslila is derieved from two words ‘rasa’ meaning "aesthetics” and ‘lila’ meaning "act," or "play".  Thus the term roughly means "play (lila) of aesthetics (rasa)," or more broadly as "Dance of Divine Love". Thus according to the the ancient legends and folklores, Gopis (Sanskrit word meaning a group of cow-hoarding girls), were considered to be in intense and divine love with Lord Krishna. Thus the Rasleela is a traditional depiction of their love which is now enacted as a sport, fun activity or a play that Krishna performed with Gopis. As Krishna wanted to give every Gopi equal importance, he always stood in the middle of a circle surrounded by Gopis.

There are many types of Rasleela that enacted, some amonst them are-

Janamleela

Shankarleela

Putanaleela

Nagleela

Janmashthami Prasad

The most important as well famous form of Prasad that is prepared and offered at different temples during Janmashthami is “Panchamrit” (“Panch” means five and “amrit” means nectar). This Panchamrit is the mixture of

*Milk
*Honey/sugar
*Ghee/oil
*Curd/yoghurt
*Tulsi leaves.

Along with panchamrit, many fruits and sweets that are offered to the Lord during Prayer are also served as “Prasad” to the devotees.

Rituals in South India during Janmashtami

The houses in South India are beautifully decorated by women on the occasion Janmashthami. Various sweet dishes are prepared and offered to the Lord. Butter which is one of the favourite dishes of Lord Krishna is offered so that He remains at peace and showers his blessings over everyone. Apart from preparing sweet dishes, everyone deck their entire house with the footprints of a child, thus epitomising the birth of the Lord. These footprints are drawn with the mixture of water and flour. This whole custom creates a feeling of joy among the people as they feel that the Lord himself has entered their house to shower His blessings upon His devotees. The day is marked with the ritual of chanting of the holy Bhagavatam, which is accompanied by singing of devotional songs and dances.

Ritual in Gujarat during Janmashtami

The state of Gujarat witnesses celebrates the festival of Janmashthami, with certain peculiarity. Yet the traditions followed are interesting in their own kinds. The rituals are mainly performed by the folk women. Women give up all their household chores in order to play cards. Though the exact history of this peculiar tradition is not known but according to sociologists, this custom may have begun as a pass-time for women in the joint family system, it is believed as the women observed fasting all day long, thus to kill time as well to keep them awake the entire night, they engaged themselves in playing cards.

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