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Celebrating the birth of Balkrishna

Ramesh Savaikar | NT

Lord Shrikrishna Jayanti, also known as Gokulashtami is a Hindu festival celebrated all over India in the month of Shravan according to the Hindu calendar on the ‘Ashtami’ tithi or the eighth day of Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight).

This year the Gokulashtami festival falls on Sunday, September 2. Krishna puja is performed with religious rituals including Shodashopachars at midnight to mark the birth of Lord Krishna to Vasudev and Devaki.

It is believed that Krishna was born in the dark of midnight and thus is a light that removes the darkness. He is eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu and is incidentally the eighth child. Krishna performed miracles, mesmerised the people right from his childhood. He has shown his ‘Vishwarupa’ at many occasions in his life to various people.

This day spreads a message of love and peace with an aim of bringing oneness and unity among people. In many parts of the country it is a two-day festival filled with many festivities. On the first day Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated, while next day is celebrated as ‘Gopalkala’ or ‘Dahi Handi’. Krishna Janmashtami is a significant event in most of Krishna temples and homes and thus the structures are decorated and illuminated beautifully.

A day-long fast by devotees worshipping Balkrishna (toddler form of Krishna’s idol) is observed. This is broken at midnight, offering prayers, seeking blessings. The faithful visit Krishna temples, cook sweet dishes made of milk, recite hymns, devotional songs and prayers. It is a day for bhakti, prayers, and fasting with the blessings filling up the body, mind and soul.

Dahi-Handi

Dahi Handi also known as Gopalkala is celebrated on following day. An earthen pot is filled with dahi (curd) and hung at a certain height. Young people, called ‘Govindas’, form a human pyramid to reach the pot and then break it.

It is a public spectacle and is based on the legend of Lord Krishna stealing butter, curd and other milk products as a child. Legend tells us that the community began hiding the food by hanging them high out of his reach but he always found creative ways to reach what he wanted.

Gokulashtami in Goa

In Goa Gokulashtami is celebrated in Krishna temples at various places like Shri Saptakoteshwar Temple Narva; Radhakrishna Murlidhar Temple at Sankhali, Devaki Krishna at Marcel, Mahalaxmi temple at Panaji.

Devotees here too observe a daylong fast, and at midnight bathe the Balkrishna idol, is then seated in a cradle, and puja is performed with religious rituals, prayers and a Naivaidya of milk products are offered, and his blessings are sought. Thereafter the fast is broken.

The Ashtami feast at Narva “ponne tirthar” on the banks of river Panchganga (Mandovi) is very popular. The Panchganga River formed out of confluence of five rivers including Valvanti of Sankhali, Mhadai, Khandepar, Zuari and Bicholim is paid due respect. Devotees take a holy dip, perform puja, seek blessings of God Kaloba and God Tirthar (Mahadev or Shiva). They offer bilvapatra and tulsi, flowers after performing the puja.

Palanquins of Shri Shantadurga deity of Pilgaon and Bicholim, Chamundeshwari of Vargaon – Pilgaon, Lord Rama of Gimone, Kankadevi of Narva, Saptakoteshwar of Narva, Masandevi of Narva, deities from Mayem are brought in procession at the Ashtami feast celebration spot.

Stalls are set up for sale of various items in the fair held here. Various items used for Ganesh Chaturthi festival like wooden seats ‘pattas’, ‘chaurang’, ‘makkaras’ are sold here. Devotees and people from Bicholim taluka, Old Goa, Marcel, Divar, Chorao and other parts of state throng to Narva to participate in the festival. Special ferries are put into service for the convenience of the people who flock to the banks of River Panchganga in large numbers.

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