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.
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.