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Why do we celebrate Janmashtami?
Krishna Janmashtami is regarded as one of the most auspicious and important festivals celebrated by Hindus in India in order to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. It is a highly significant festival among Hindus as Lord Shree Krishna was born on this day as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Krishna was born five thousand years ago in Dwapar Yuga in the City of Mathura at midnight. The Krishna Janmashtami is a popular and much-awaited festival and is celebrated across India in diverse names such as Gokulashtami, Saatam Aatham, Sri Krishnashtami, Srikrishna Jayanti and Ashtami Rohini.
As per the Hindu calendar, the occasion of Shree Krishna Janmashtami is observed in the Bhadrapada month on the eighth day (Ashtami tithi) of Krishna Paksha. The festival usually falls in August-September in the Rohini Nakshatra. The devotees celebrate Krishnashtami festival with much devotion and vigor across India as well as in some foreign nations too. One interesting and significant aspect of Shree Krishna Janmashtami is the ritual of Dahi Handi. The celebration of Dahi Handi depicts the most loved activity of Lord Shree Krishna where teams of young people break the earthen pot (Handi) which is filled with curd (Dahi), by forming a pyramid. Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated till midnight because that was when Lord Krishna was born. On the next day of Krishna Janam, devotees celebrate Dahi Handi Festival.
On the eve of Sri Krishna Janmashtami, millions of devotees across India observe a fast for Lord Krishna. People who observe Sree Krishna Jayanthi take a Sankalp before commencing with the a Janmashtami Vrat which they conclude on the following day when the Ashtami Tithi and the Rohini Nakshatra ends. The devotees perform the morning rituals and start with the fast after taking a Sankalp.
Krishna puja is performed during the Nishita Kala (midnight) according to the Vedic Timekeeping. There is a specific Shodashopachara Puja Vidhi which is followed by the devotees for performing the ritualistic puja. The Shodashopachara puja vidhi comprises all the sixteen steps of a complete ceremonial puja. Shuvo Janmashtami puja is accompanied by chanting of Mantras that also includes chanting ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ on a continuous basis.
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As per the Hindu Puranas, it is believed that Lord Shree Krishna was born on Ashtami Rohini i.e. the eighth Lunar Day when there is occurrence of moon in the Rohini Nakshatra. The holy day was marked as the Krishna Jayanthi or Janmashtami as one of the most loved and worshipped Gods of the Hindu Community was born on the day. Lord Krishna is one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu out of his eight incarnations.
There are strict rituals which should be followed by the devotees while observing the Krishna Janmashtami Fast in order to worship and please Lord Krishna and attain his blessings. The people observing the fast should abstain from consumption of any kind of grains till the fast is broken on the very next day after the period of sunrise. The rituals that are performed at the time of Krishna Janmashtami Vrat are similar to the rituals performed during Ekadashi Vrat.
There is a particular time for performing the Parana ritual which is done for breaking the fast. The Parana is performed once the Ashtami Tithi and the Rohini Nakshatra are over after the sunrise. If the Rohini Nakshatra of the Ashtami Tithi continues the next day, then the devotees can conclude their fast if one out of the two is over. The Shuvo Janmasthami fast can be kept for a period of two long days depending upon the Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra. As per Dharmasindhu, the devotees can also conclude their Krishna ashtami fast the following day if they are unable to keep it for the entire two days.
The occasion of Krishna Janmashtami is rejoiced with much devotion, love and enthusiasm by Hindus across the world. The devotees showcase their love and dedication to Lord Krishna by observing a fast on this holy day and listening or reciting the story of Lord Shree Krishna as described in the sacred Bhagavad Gita. The temples of Lord Krishna are decorated with flowers, garlands and ornamental items. Little children dressed as Radha Ji and Krishna Ji perform several acts on the eve of Krishna Jayanthi celebration depicting Lord Krishna’s childhood memories.
The devotees break or conclude their fast after Krishan Janam, i.e. after midnight, by first performing the Aarti followed by offering homemade sweets. Delicious meals are prepared and served to family, friends and relatives after the fast and puja is concluded.
Also See: Aarti Kunj Bihari Ki
Krishna Janmashtami holds much importance and this is the reason that it is celebrated equally in the Southern as well as in the Northern parts of India. The preparations for the Janmashtami festival begins weeks before as it is celebrated at a grand level in some of the places. In different parts of the country, the day is celebrated in diverse ways. When it comes to Southern India, the festival is primarily celebrated in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where Mantapa is set up for placing the idol of Lord Shree Krishna. Special dishes are made such as Bhakshanam which is offered to the deity as well as some special fruits are also offered.
Read Shri Krishna Chalisa.
The most popular places for the Krishna Janmashtami celebrations are Vrindavan (where Lord Krishna was brought up) and Gokul (birthplace of Lord Krishna). Thousands of devotees are present at these places for celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna and performing the Dahi Handi event. Young boys form a pyramid who try to hit the Handi which is full of curd for the event of Dahi Handi. At other places like eastern states of West Bengal and Orissa and cities like Dwarka, the devotees observe a fast and perform the Janmashtami puja at midnight.
Janmashtami basically falls on two successive days as per the Sampradaya. There are particularly two sampradayas comprising the Vaishnava Sampradaya and the Smarta Sampradaya. When the Janmashtami date is common then both Vaishnava Sampradaya and the Smarta Sampradaya follow a similar date and celebrate on the same day. But if the dates are different then Samarta Sampradaya celebrates on the first date and the Vaishnava Sampradaya celebrates on the later date.
People of Northern India observe unanimity and Lord Krishna birthday is celebrated on a similar day. It is grounded on the basis of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) which is a Vaishnava principles based society. Maximum number of the ISKCON followers are Vaishnavism followers too.
The Smarta followers do not follow the Krishna janam date which is based upon ISKCON as they see differences between the Smarta rituals and Vaishnava rituals. The Vaishnava culture is committed to the Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra and they celebrate the festival accordingly but the Smarta culture prefers Saptami Tithi. As per the Vaishnava followers, the festival of Krishna Janmashtami falls on the Navami and Ashtami tithi of Hindu calendar.