Writing about the changing perspectives of our major festivals is one of my favourite subjects. My childhood was spent in Delhi and Janmashtami was celebrated with great gusto and fervour there. A matter of special attraction was the painstaking efforts by households to recreate the scenes of Lord Krishna’s birth in Mathura prison, where Lord’s uncle Kamsa had held Krishna’s parents in captivity as there was a forecast that the baby born to his sister Devaki would be the cause of his death. He in fact killed several children born to Vasudeva and Devaki till the birth of Lord himself when all the guards fell asleep and the gates of the prison opened automatically facilitating escape of Vasudeva with new born Krishna, whom he dropped at the place of Nanda and Yashodhara, the foster parents of Krishna. This story was created with much fanfare, devotion and dedication by the households using simple materials and decorative stuff. Temples would see huge queues for Lord’s darshanam on this auspicious day.
Of course, Janmashtami was celebrated with fervour in all parts of the country albeit in different styles. While Janmashtami at Krishna’s birth place Mathura and where he spent his childhood, Vrindavan, was understandably grand, Mumbai was famous for its Dahi Handi festival, popularised even more by the Bollywood. “Govind aala re ” and “Mach gaya shor ” with iconic stars Shammi Kapoor and Amitabh reprising the role of Govinda are unforgettable.
Like any religious festival, while the devotion, especially amongst the seniors may not have come down, fasting and queues outside temples are still common sights and Mumbai may still be loving its Govindas, somehow our tight schedules, plethora of problems, tensions, competition, ambition and the new world obsession with gadgetry, have resulted in the spirit of the festival waning considerably. We feel by forwarding received WhatsApp messages to our acquaintances, we have played our part in remembering them and greeting them on the festival day. This makes this pure, significant and sprightly festival like any other special day (friendship, teacher’s, parent’s, valentine’s etc.), which we love to take cognisance of in the today’s world ruled by social media. For me, Janmashtami is not merely about Krishna’s birth, but it’s deep rooted philosophy of victory of good over evil and spreading the message of happiness and goodwill amongst the citizenry of this country.
Happy Janmashtami and Jai Shri Krishna to all the readers of my blog.