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Janmashtami is one of the most vibrant festivals celebrated in India. Typically falling in the months of August/September, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami celebrates the birth of Krishna. Krishna is one of the most celebrated gods in the Hindu pantheon and he is believed to be Vishnus eighth incarnation. Janmashtami celebrations are characterized by ostentatious decorations, animated rituals, and rigorous prayer sessions and above all, a practise called dahi handi in which an earthen pot with curd (dahi) is tied at a height of around 20 feet and participants make a human pyramid to reach and break the pot. This is the enactment of a legend associated with Krishnas childhood where he was believed to break such earthen pots containing butter by forming pyramids with his friends. Also Read - Highlights,1st T20I From Colombo: India Beat Sri Lanka By 38 Runs
If you wish to witness Hindu culture, traditions and rituals at their very best, Janmashtami is your best bet. The enthusiasm, love and devotion for Krishna, and the sheer joy of breaking from the routine to indulge into competitive dahi handi events make Janmashtami not just a religious festival but also a big cultural event all across India. So, if you wish to let yourself in on Indias predominant Hindu culture, here are some of the best places to witness Janmashtami celebrations in India and also perfect for a vacation during Janmashtami: Also Read - Rain Fury: Death Toll in Maharashtra Rises to 149, IMD Predicts Heavy Showers in Several States on Monday
Mathura is Krishnas birthplace. It is therefore obvious why it is one of the most happening places in the country to be at during Janmashtami. It was here in Mathura that on a stormy night, Devki gave birth to Krishna in a prison cell.
Mathura celebrates Janmashtami with great zest. Celebrations here take place in two parts Jhulanotsav and Ghatas. Juhlanotsav is the custom wherein people put swings in their homes for Krishna idols. Krishna idols are bathed with milk, curd, honey, and even ghee early in the morning in a ceremony known as Abhishek (anointment). After the bath, the idol is decorated with new clothes and ornaments and placed in a swing (jhulan). These swings are put out in courtyards of houses and temples all across Mathura and idols of Krishna are swung on them to celebrate his birth.
Ghatas is the custom wherein all temples of the city are decorated with the same color scheme. Pujas are performed in various temples to mark the time of Krishnas birth. The whole of Mathura gets all decked up on the occasion of Janmashtami and reverberates with the sound of the traditional shell, temple bells and prayer hymns.
HOW IS JANMASHTAMI CELEBRATED IN INDIA
Mathura is home to some of the best Krishna temples in the world. You can witness Janmashtami rituals in any of these temples. The Bankey Bihari, Dwarkadhish, Krishna Janmabhoomi Mandir and the ISKCON temple are famous landmarks here and great tourist attractions even on a regular day.
Another great spectacle worth witnessing here during Janmashtami is the Raas Leela — a dance drama performance that acts out various phases of Krishnas life. Performers, especially 10-13 year old kids, prepare for weeks with great fervour to perform in these Ras Leelas. Every place where such Ras Leelas are performed has hundreds of people in the audience getting emotional at every scene.
Mathura is an excellent holiday spot for those interested in Hinduism and the life of Krishna. There are various spots in Mathura which stand as reminders of milestones during Krishnas childhood. Most prominent among them are Potara Kund where Krishnas clothes were washed and Vishram Ghat where Krishna relaxed after his battle with Kamsa. Mathura is also famous for its chaat and a sweet delicacy named Mathura Peda. Chowk Bazaar is a good place to try out some of the best food in north India.
Just around 15 km away from Mathura is Vrindavan, another place associated with Krishna. It is believed to be the place where Krishna grew up. Vrindavan is most famous for being the venue of Krishnas famous raas leela with Radha and the gopis. It is believed that Krishna performed the raas leela in the forests of Vrindavan.
In Vrindavan, the festival of Janmashtami begins 10 days prior to Krishnas birthday. Like Mathura, raas leelas are performed all over Vrindavan too. Temples are decorated during Janmashtami and the whole city lights up making it obvious that it is in the middle of its biggest event.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
The Govind Dev temple in Vrindavan is one of the oldest shrines in India and should not be missed. Another place of interest is Nidhi Van, a sacred Krishna temple in the middle of a dense forest of trees. The park surrounding the temples is full of Vana Tulsi (basil) trees.
There are over 4000 temples in Vrindavan. Some of the most important ones worth visiting are Ranganathji temple, Radharaman Temple and the ISCKON Temple. All of these celebrate Janmashtami with great enthusiasm and devotion. This is what makes Vrindavan a tremendous tourist attraction this time of the year.
Gokul is the place Krishna was taken to immediately after his birth in Mathura. Krishna grew up in Gokul under the direction of his adopted parents Yashodha and Nanda making it the most important place associated with Krishnas childhood. The entire stretch of Mathura-Vrindavan-Gokul is the best trip to take during Janmashtami in India. Not only will it introduce you to the life and devotion around Krishna, it will also give you a taste of the culture, tradition and hospitality in various, lesser-known parts of India.
Janmashtami which is also known as Gokulashtami is celebrated in Gokul one day after the rest of the country as Krishna was brought here from Mathura after midnight. Since residents of Gokul learnt of Krishnas existence only one day after his birth, they choose to treat that day as his birthday. Gokul residents celebrate Dadhikana or Nandotsava in which people drench each other with curd and turmeric to celebrate their joy.
Two most prominent temples for pilgrims in Gokul are the Radha Raman temple and Radha Damhodar. Janmashtami celebrations are characterized by Janmashtami Pooja, ringing chimes, blowing shells and conches and several religious and social gatherings. Sanskrit mantras and praise sings are also chanted till midnight at which point, the Krishna idol is bathed with curd, buttermilk and nectar.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
Gokuls rustic charm is its biggest attraction when it comes to tourism. A visit to Gokul not only gives you an insight to Krishna devotion, it also perfectly depicts rural and traditional life in the interiors of India. Since it is located so close to Mathura, Gokul is worth a visit just to see the place which was the quaint town of cowherds where Yashodha raised Krishna.
Dwarka is a city that holds great religious significance. Not only is it one of the char dhams (the four sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites), it is also one of the Sapta Puri – the seven most ancient religious cities of India. The name Dwarka is derived from dwara meaning door and ka referring to Brahma. Dwarka, therefore, means the gateway to Brahma or moksha. It is widely believed that Dwarka was the first capital of Gujarat. Dwarka is popular primarily on account of its identity as Krishnas kingdom. It is said to be the dwelling place of Krishna for around five thousand years after he left Mathura. After leaving Mathura, Lord Krishna established his kingdom here. According to legend, the city was formed by Krishnas sibling Balram and after Krishnas death, it submerged under the sea. Dwarka is said to have been rebuilt six times and the present city is the seventh.
Janmashtami celebrations in Dwarka are quite famous. All through the month of Shravana, aficionados from all over India visit Dwarka to witness the month-long rituals and celebrations. The Aboti Brahmins of the city perform the the daily Janmashtami pooja here known as “nitya kram” of the master. Janmashtami celebrations are characterized by ‘mangla aarti’ performed in all parts of the city. Banta Bhog and Utsav Bhog are offered at temples and the rituals begin around 11 pm and the aarti is performed at 12 am. There are night-long celebrations with bhajans, garba events and raas dances.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
The most prominent attraction in Dwarka is the five storey Dwarkadish temple. One of the most marvellous temples in the country, Dwarkadish has 60 carved columns and a spire that towers above the city. The inner sanctum sanctorum is believed to date back to 500 BC. The Rukmini temple, dedicated to Krishnas wife Rukmini is another place worth checking out. For Krishna devotees, a place that must not be missed is Bet Dwarka, where Krishna is believed to have died
Excavations carried out between 1983 and 1990 revealed that a township was built in the Dwarka region in six sectors. A fortified wall that extended more than half a mile was also unearthed revealing some more facts about this ancient city. Today, Dwarka is a prominent pilgrimage site and boasts of several shrines. Besides the 2000-year old Dwarkadish temple, Dwarka is home to many other temples with beautiful architecture. Once you have enough of its temples, you can explore Dwarkas beaches. Scuba diving is a popular activity here and a great way to witness remains of Dwarka is a popular activity here and a great way to witness the aquatic life in this region. If you like shopping, Dwarka will be your paradise. From patola silk sarees and bandhni fabrics to ethnic footwear and embroidered handicraft items, you will be spoilt for choice.
If you wish to witness the pomp with which Janmashtami is celebrated in India, then Mumbai is the place to be. Mumbai is known for its nightlife, its parties, Bollywood and generally as one of Indias best metropolitans. You may not however associate it with religious festivals. The exceptions are Ganesh Chaturthi and Janmashtami, two festivals Mumbai celebrates like a boss. It helps that Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures where there is a high level of tolerance and acceptance for all kinds of festivals, rituals and celebrations.
Several enthusiastic groups participate in the ritual of dahi handi, which involves a huge number of people forming a pyramid to reach and break an earthen pot tied high up in the air. And Mumbai is the best places to watch this ritual. Thanks to the active dahi handi culture in Mumbai, several groups called Govinda mandals participate in events held all across the city. You will see trucks full of people wearing their respective group costumes and visiting one dahi handi venue after another to try and break the pot and claim the cash prizes and rewards offered. The dahi handi celebrations in Mumbai have become so popular that they have are now a huge business affair involving sponsors, politicians, and tourists. The major political players in this arena are NCP, Shiv Sena and MNS. Over the past couple of years, several restrictions have been imposed including the 20 feet cap on the height. However, dahi handi celebrations are likely to be held with the same amount of fervour with millions of people watching.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
Some of the best dahi handi celebrations take place in Worli, Thane and Jogeshwari. The ISKCON temple in Juhu is a great place to be during Janmashtami as it celebrates Krishnas birthday in a big way. You cannot afford to miss the famous Marine Drive, Gateway of India and Colaba Causeway. If you are religious, then the Siddhivinayak temple and Haji Ali are also worth a visit. Crawford market and Dharavi will let you in on the daily life in Mumbai and Leopold Cafe or any of the pubs near Bandra will give you a taste of its social life. From art to entertainment and history to nature, Mumbai has a bit of everything to offer.
Most popular for the cuisine named after it, Udupi is a city in Karnataka. It has a famous Krishna temple. The Sri Krishna Mutt located here is believed to have formed after the city of Dwarka submerged under water. The temple is known for its astonishing architecture and location. Surrounded by eight monasteries, the viewing deity is installed on a beautiful golden chariot.
Janmashtami is celebrated in Udupi with great artistic and cultural finesse. Street performers perform their versions of the famous raas leela portraying various episodes from Krishnas childhood. These performances are characterized by folk singing, dancing and skits. Local meals kottige or gunda which is idli steamed in jackfruit leaves are prepared during Janmashtami. Clay idols of baby Krishna are taken around the city with several devotees accompanying the procession. From puppetry troupes to Yakshagana performances, the whole to festival takes the form of a major cultural event in Udipi.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
You cannot go to Udipi and not try the local Udipi cuisine here. The origin of the cuisine is quite interesting. Krishna was to be offered different varieties of food on a daily basis. In addition, during the four months of monsoon or Chaturmasa, there are further restrictions on what can be offered. These requirements and restrictions led to an innovative kind of cuisine based on materials available locally during the season. Developed by Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins who were Krishnas cooks, this cuisine came to be known as Udipi cuisine. Even now, at the Krishna Mutt, you can taste this cuisine free of cost. Apart from the Sri Krishna temple, you can also visit the Kapu beach and St. Marys island here. The Kudlu falls are a delight for nature lovers.
One of the lesser known places in Rajasthan is the Jhunjhunu district, just about 200 km from Jaipur. And it is perhaps the only place in India where Muslims celebrate Janmashtami. Located here is the Dargah of Narhar, one of the most marvellous places to be at during Janmashtami. This place becomes a hub of cultural activities during Janmashtami as a three-day festival is held here. During these days, there are skits, dance dramas and traditional qawwallis which are performed to entertain the crowd. It is one of the most historic celebrations of Janmashtami as the annual celebrations are believed to have started 400 years ago. The main aim of this festival here is to celebrate unity among all religions and cultures in India. The locals take pride in the festival as this is a time when you see Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and people of all other religions celebrating with each other.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
While the main reason to visit Jhunjhunu should be the three-day Janmashtami festival, you can also visit some of the historic monuments while you are here. The Khetri Mahal and Sone Chandi ki haveli is a delight for art lovers. The Rani Sati temple is a must-visit for its beautiful architecture. What will catch your eye is the magnificent havelis in this region. Prominent havelis in the area are the Modi and Tiberwala haveli, Aath havelis and Ganeriwal haveli.
Kerala is one of Indias biggest tourist attractions. From calm and serene backwaters to lush green hills, Kerala is nature at its best. And when it comes to temples, Kerala has some of the best structures in the country. One of the most prominent temples of Kerala is the Guruvayoor temple which comes alive during the festival of Janmashtami. Also called the Bhuloka Vaikunta, which means the Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth, the Guruvayoor temple is located in Guruvayur town of Kerala. Krishnas idol installed in this temple has four arms carrying a lotus, the mace kaumodaki, Sudarshan chakra and the conch Panchajanya respectively. The temple is often called Dwarka of South India. The interesting thing about the Krishna idol here is that it represents the form of Vishnu that was seen by Krishnas parents Devaki and Vasudev when he was born on earth.
Janmashtami is celebrated on a grand scale in Kerala. Special south Indian dishes like palpaysam and appam are prepared and offered to Krishna. The Guruvayoor Sri Krishna temple becomes the centre of major rituals and celebratory acts. It begins with poojas and aartis performed all through the day at the temple. A golden idol of Balakrishna is taken around in a procession accompanied by the Guruvayoor temples elephants. Classical dance and music performances make the whole celebration feel like a cultural fest that one cannot afford to miss.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
Apart from the Guruvayoor temple, there is a whole bunch of places you must visit in Kerala. The backwaters of Alleppey are perfect for an outing amidst nature. It is also the best place to have a great houseboat experience. If you like greenery, Munnar is your place to be! Rolling green tea plantations will make you want to stay and never leave!
Located in the lesser explored northeast region of India, Manipur is as beautiful as you would expect a hidden gem to be! Abundant in natural beauty and rich in culture, Manipur is a delight for tourists who like to travel off the beaten path. Manipur celebrates its festivals with a lot of excitement and Janmashtami which is known as Krishna Janma here is no exception.
You may find it surprising that the state of Manipour celebrated Janmashtami in a grand manner. The celebrations begin on the eight day of the new moon in the Thawan month (July-Aug). Celebration of Janmashtami is characterized by a fast and a visit to the famous Mahabali temple or ISKCON temple. The devotees offer prayers to Krishna and pay their respects at the temples. They offer sweets to the lesser privileged. Manipur is known to have a strong history of Vaishnavism and therefore you can see a lot of devotion for Krishna here as Krishna is believed to be Vishnus eighth incarnation. What is interesting about Manipuris though, is that they worship not just Krishna on Janmashtami but also his consort Radha. Vaishnavism is followed to such an extent in Manipur that despite a large Christian population, almost every village has a Krishna temple.
It all started when the King of Manipur, Kyamaba, received an image of a Vishnu chakra (Vishnus disc) as a gift in the 1470s. The king then began worshipping Vishnu and so did the the rest of his subjects. Due to this, Brahmin priests of the Vaishnava sect from all over India were attracted to Manipur and they eventually settled here. In fact, a Vishnu temple too was commissioned by Kyamaba which laid the foundation for many more temples and the rise of Vaishnavism as the state religion. By the early 1700s, Vaishnavism gained popularity after the kings began to follow it thus making Krishna an extremely famous deity all across the state. Like all other parts of India, dance dramas are performed in Manipur too depicting various episodes from Krishnas life that have now become legendary. However, the Manipuri dance form is quite unique making these raas leelas a rare cultural performance worth witnessing.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
There are several Krishna temples worth visiting in Manipur. Imphal, the capital of Manipur, is a must-visit for its nightlife and temples. Shri Shri Govindajee temple of Imphal is quite popular among tourists. The Loktak lake in Manipur is the largest fresh water lake in northeast India and known to be one of the best in the country. The Keibul Lamjao National park is a delight for wildlife lovers.
Assam in northeast India is one of the best places to visit in the country for nature and wildlife lovers. It forms a gateway to the rest of the northeast Indian states thanks to its geographical location. From river islands to wildlife sanctuaries and magnificent temples to archaeological sites, Assam has it all. Its tea is famous all over the world and visiting a tea plantation here is an experience of a lifetime. What also makes Assam amazing are its unique culture and festivals, Janmashtami being one of them.
The Assamese celebrate Janmashtami in the month of Bhadra. Located at Ulubari of Guwahati, the Shilanyas Iskcon temple of Assam is the best place to witness Janmashtami celebrations in the state. The temple is known for its white marble architecture with carvings of Krishna and Rukmini. Aartis, bhajanas and chantings from the Bhagvada gita characterize Janmashtami celebrations in Assam. Add to that the raas leelas enacting Krishnas life episodes in the traditional Assamese dance forms and what you have is a great experience.
THINGS YOU MUST NOT MISS
Ancient pilgrimage sites of Hajo and ruins of a temple complex in Madan Kamdev, are totally worth checking out. The Kamakhya temple in Guwahati is a must-visit for anyone travelling to northeast India. The Kaziranga National Park with the worlds highest population of one-horned rhinos is one of Indias best parks to visit for wildlife lovers. The river island of Majuli is the most spectacular serene getaway you will come across.
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