LORD KRISHNA, The Eighth Avatar of Lord Vishnu was born in the Duapar Yug which came just before Kal Yug (the yug in which we find ourselves today’s). His birthday falls on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon (eight days after Raksha Bandhan), some time in July or August, according to the English calendar. This is during the rainy season and is known as Janam Ashtami.
This festival is celebrated on two days, once on the actual day of his birth in prison at Mathura, and then on the very next day on his being discovered in the house of Nand and Yashoda at Gokul.
According to Hindu mythology, Naradmuni, had told Hans, the cruel king of Mathura and maternal uncle of Krishna, that he would be killed by the eighth child of his favourite cousin Sister Deviki, who had just got married to Vasudev. Kans vowed to kill the eighth child as soon as it was born, but Narad wanted the godchild to come soon. it is said that a nursing mother does not conceive, and if Deviki nursed each child for a number of months, the eighth one would take long to come. Narad took a lotus with eight petals and began counting from one of the petals, one by one to the last, and then counted from the next petal and ended at the one that he had taken as number one previously, thereby telling Kans that in certain situations, one does not know which one is the first and which one is the last. Consequently, Kans was full of anger and decided to kill all the children born to Denki. He locked up Vasudev and Deviki in the palace prison.
So it came about that Devaki gave birth to a child every year, and Kans came to the prison and killed each one. This happened seven times, but when the eighth was born, a miracle happenecl. All the guards went to sleep, the floors of the prison flew open, and the shackles of Vasudev and Deviki burst open. The child was a beautiful boy beyond compare, and very dark in complexion. There was a voice from the sky (akashvani): ‘Take this child O Vasudev, to your friend’s house at Gokul – Nand and Yashoda. They have had a little girl just born to them, bring her here in place of this little boy, they will not know about the exchange. Go now, or else Kans will destroy this one, born to get rid of evil from this world.’
Gokul where Nand and Yashoda lived, was across the river Yamuna, which flowed near the city of Mathura. Vasudev found a chhaaj (freed contraption by which ah foreign matter is removed from any lentil, rice, wheat, etc) in which he put little Krishna and took him to the banks of the great river Yamuna. It being the rainy season, the river was in full spate, and it was still raining. On stepping into the river, poor Vasudev tried to save the baby from the rising river by holding him higher and higher. He was getting very frightened and anxious, but then he remembered the akashvani, which is the voice of angels, and he was reassured. Ike Krishna knew of the dilemma facing his father, and quietly put one foot out and touched the water, and behold, the water after touching the foot of the Lord, started to sub ire and soon the river split up making a dry path for Vasudev to walk upon.
At Gokul, Vasudev entered the house of his friend Nand, who was asleep and so was his wife Yashoda, and so were all the attendants. He saw a sweet baby near Yashoda and quickly exchanged the babies and carried away the little girl. Back at Mathura, he placed her beside his wife. Soon the shackles were back in place, the doors shut and the guards woke up. The attendants on seeing the baby, rushed up to their master Kans, to give him the news. Kans came in a great hurry, because it was the eighth child. He picked up the baby and threw it against the wall, but the little girl flew up into the sky, and a voice was heard: ‘O Kans, your destroyer has already been born, and is elsewhere’, and, along with laughter, the child suddenly turned into lightning and an shed. This little girl has come to be worshipped as Deviji ever since, taking various names like Durga, Tara, Ishani and Mandakini.
Janam Ashtami is celebrated with great pomp and show in temples and homes. Krishna is the one who has given us the life-enduring message of the great Bhagavad Gita.
Incidents of his childhood are depicted through cribs and other decorations made in homes and temples. Such items display his childhood antics and sober moments, and can be arranged with dolls dressed up as kids, men and women, with lehangas, chunnis, dhotis and kurtas. The flute of Krishna can be made out of reed. Radha, his childhood sweetheart, or the Gopis going for water to the river or carrying butter and milk in small earthen pots one on top of another, can be depicted. Raas leelas of every type are arranged. Vishnu and Shiv (with the river Ganga flowing from his head) also present an attractive feature. The layout looks very nice with freshly mowed green grass spread out, and pathways created in the midst, with red gravel. It is great fun planning and executing the decoration, as the whole family is occupied for the entire day. Little children get very much involved in cutting the grass, bringing the mud gravel, leaves and plants, and watch, bright-eyed, as elders dress up the dolls with sari, gold and other shining material. It is best to decorate the crib in a room where it can be displayed for a few days, as people can admire the effort and the beauty.