Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Celebrate Janmashtami at your Home?

Janamashtami is one festival which is celebrated in almost all states of India with same vigour, energy and enthusiasm. And why not, after all it marks the birthday of most loved deity Krishna, who is adored as Baal Gopal in his childhood, Kanha or Kanhaiya in his romantic avtar in adolescence and Shri Krishna in his adulthood as the Supreme Teacher. Janmashtami is celebrated in the month of Shravana. The festivities start at midnight when, it is said that Krishna was born and they last for two days. It is really remarkable that this is 5000 years old festival and yet observed with such dedication and enthusiasm.

Raaslila, dahi handi, swings decorated with fresh flowers are integral part of this celebration. And we get to see them quite often, thanks to TV shows and Hindi movies. In Mathura- the birthplace of Lord Krishna and Dwarka, his abode festivities are organized to the maximum. Dance, bhajan and kirtan are performed for two days. But Janmashtami is quite a popular festival to be observed at home, very much like Saraswati Puja, a veneration of Goddess Saraswati who presides education and arts. In household, observance of Janmashtami is quite different from what is portrayed in screens and pictures.

A Famous Hindu Festival Janmashtami 
The main ingredient required for Janmashtami Puja at home is sincere devotion and heartfelt thoughts. Homes are decorated to welcome Lord Krishna. Usually people install swings in garden or hall and decorate it with fresh flowers but these days space is sparse so small cradles are brought and idol of baby Krishna or Baal Gopal is made to sit on it. Children dress like Krishna and Radha. Idols of these two deites are dressed in niceties. The home and especially the Puja aasan is adorned with flowers and beautiful clothes. Bhajan and kirtan dedicated to the Lord are sung and played.  Ladies and kids make preparations whole day and finally puja starts at midnight. It is called Nishitha Puja because of its time. The first phase lasts for at most 45 minutes. The second phase starts in morning, after sunrise.

Abhishek is important part of Janmashtami puja. The idol is bathed in milk, curd, honey and water and ghee is applied to it. Then comes the most important part of this occasion- prasad or offerings. In temples, a total of 108 favourite dishes of Lord Krishna are prepared and offered but it is an impractical, if not Herculean, task to be done at household level. But that does not stop the true devotees to pour their heart out to please their beloved and revered God. In many households, 56 items are prepared to offer 'chhappan bhog'- a celebrated feast among Hindus. Most of the common offerings of Janmashtami are makhan (butter), misri (candied sugar), seasonal fruits, laddoos of different types like sesame seeds, flattened rice, coconut etc. One of the most common form in which Lord Krishna is remembered is makhan chor. His love for milk products is celebrated by the devotees so on His special day, sweets made of milk are must.

There are different foods offered according to the geographical location. Desserts made of pureed palm, shrikhand or flavoured and sweetened hung curd, murukku, aval etc are some of the foods that are especially prepared for this occasion in different states. Not everyone can prepare chhappan bhog at home. Sometimes finance do not allow us to make such spread, sometimes the basic infrastructure at home and sometimes health issues. But God asks for unconditional love, a pious heart and a pious ambiance to accept everything offered. If you have that, your offerings will be wholeheartedly accepted by the Supreme One. 

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