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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Holiday: Krishna Janmashtami

We are about to head into the Hindu holiday season. Although there are holidays all year round, a lot of major ones happen in the Fall, leading up to and culminating with Diwali.

September 2nd this year is Krishna's birthday.

Let me tell those who don't know a little about Krishna's background.

Krishna was born more than 3,000 years before Christ in Mathura. His mother was a princess named Devaki and his father was her husband, Vasudeva. Her brother, Kansa, had wrongfully imprisoned their father, the king, and seized the throne.

But there was a prophesy that Devaki's eighth child would kill Kansa. So Kansa had his sister and brother-in-law imprisoned also and each time she had a child, Kansa would murder it (except the seventh child escaped). When Devaki gave birth to the eighth child, Vasudeva managed to carry baby Krishna out of the prison, through a rainstorm and across a raging river (all this with the help of various gods) and brought Krishna to the village of Gokula where he was exchanged with a baby girl there and Krishna was raised by his foster parents, Yashoda and Nanda. The girl child was brought back to the prison where Kansa attempted to kill her, but she became an angel.

Years later, Krishna does come back to fulfill the prophecy and kill his evil uncle. Another interesting part of the story is that many believe that Krishna was conceived without sexual union, again much like the stories about Jesus that came thousands of years later.

Krishna and his foster family moved to Vrindavana nearby (all these places are in Uttar Pradesh)

Krishna was known as a mischievous child. He loved butter and would often find ways to steal it from the butter pots of the women in the village. They would try to put them up high, but Krishna always found a way. He got the nickname the Makhan Chor, meaning The Butter Thief.

At various times Krishna showed his specialness. He killed demons, for example. Also, his mother discovered some strange qualities of his. When he was being naughty, Yashoda attempted to tie him to a tree, but found that even though he was a small child, no rope was long enough to tie him. Once she found him eating sand and she pried open his mouth to get the grit out, but found that she could see the entire universe in the back of his throat.

As a teenager he herded cows and played a flute. Gopis (milk maids) adored him and vied for his attention. In particular, he had a close relationship with one named Radha.

Much love poetry is written about Krishna at this age.

Later Life
As a young man Krishna returned to his place of birth to kill his evil Uncle and reinstate his grandfather as king. He continued to live in the palace and at this time befriended the Pandava brothers.

Krishna takes on an important role in the Mahabharata, where he is the spiritual advisor to the Pandavas, particularly Arjuna. It is within the Mahabharata that Krishna teaches Arjuna the lessons that are called the Bhagavad Gita, the song of the Lord.

There is disagreement about Krishna's death. According to Vyasa's telling of the Mahabharata, Krishna retired to the forest to meditate for the rest of his days and ascended into heaven. However, according to another telling of the Mahabharata, while Krishna was in the forest meditating, a hunter mistook his foot for an animal and shot and killed him.

Either way, Krishna's disappearance/death marks the transition of the world into the final age, the Kali Yuga.

Different people are drawn to different stages of Krishna's life and worship different aspects of him.

To celebrate the birthday one fasts the day before and stays up all night to observe the time when Krishna was born at midnight. At that time a statue of baby Krishna is bathed, clothed, and placed in a cradle, and aarti is performed (worship with light).

Women often paint footprints in rice powder outside their homes at dawn, indicating Krishna entering his foster home.

Many places put on plays, or lilas, about the life of Krishna. In some areas young men form huge human pyramids to knock down jars of butter that are suspended high in the air.


(all of these beautiful paintings are all over Google images and I can't seem to figure out where they originated and whose work they are, but each one, if clicked, will take you to the website where I found it) Update: Apparently, they belong to ISKON and that is not really a surprise! So, thanks to ISKON and its members for these beautiful works of art.


  1. Actually, those paintings belong to the organisation also known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) which is notoriously popularly known for bringing Westerners into the Vaishnava fold, Bengali style. :D

    They produce some of the most exquisite Vaishnava art I have ever seen... their painting of Their Lordships Sita-Ram is very beautiful!


  2. Oh, I see! They are very beautiful paintings.

  3. Another Voice{Thursday, June 10, 2010}- in this blog indian hindus r criticized n my reply for criticism is as below:

    rituals r very important. we indian(hindus) follow & respecect culture of our ancestors thats why hindu indian culture has flourished to this day & will continue to flourish. western/white hindus should be thankful to indian(hindus)coz without them then they would have been chritian & would have never known this great alternative path 2 god.(c i dont say greatest n only path 2 god)

  4. I'm not able to understand your comment, Anonymous. Are you saying that my blog is criticizing Indian Hindus or are you referencing another blog?

    I personally have a lot of love and respect for Indians and I am very grateful for the amazing thinkers of the past, both Indian and others.

  5. YEAH i was talking ur blog published on Thursday, June 10, 2010 with the tittle of "Another Voice" in which u published some views on indian comment was actually for that blog. link is below:

  6. AMBA have ya read thr book AGHORA by robert subbhoda. i really recommend it. its amazing

  7. Ah, I see. I posted a view point from someone who was feeling frustrated. I think her frustration was valid and deserved to be expressed. My comments and hers were not intended to be insulting of Indian Hindus at all. I think we can all be proud to be Hindu, regardless of how we came to it.

    I know that she loves and respects Indians because she's married to an Indian man!

    Her frustration is not against Hinduism or against Indians, but only against feeling shut out by people who don't know her. That's a very hurtful feeling for any of us to experience.

    I shared her comments so that she could see what a wonderful and supportive community we have here, with Indian and non-Indian Hindus examining and discovering and loving Hinduism together.

    I have not read that book, I'll look for it!

  8. amba n idont think u should even read any book about aghoris
    aghori practices r quite dark(as i've heared it).
    better not get into it.

  9. Oh, but I get so curious! :) I love to learn new things. Perhaps I'll wait until my mental state is a little more stable, as I've been struggling with sadness since the death of my friend.