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Gokulashtami – the celebration of Krishna

Janmashtami is popularly known as Gokulashtami in Goa or simply Ashtami as it is celebrated on the eighth day, following the full moon of Shravan, the fifth lunar month of the Hindu calendar. Thus, this year Janmashtami is celebrated on August 24 and Dahi Handi on August 25

NAGUESH RAO SARDESSAI

Lord Krishna is one of the most popular and revered God from the Hindu Pantheon. Janmashtami, which marks the celebration of his birth, is a significant day laced with festive and spiritual nuances.

Janmashtami, is popularly known as Gokulashtami in Goa or simply Ashtami as it is celebrated on the eighth day, following the full moon of Shravan, the fifth lunar month of the Hindu calendar. Lord Krishna, born on this day, is the eighth Avtar (Incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, and is incidentally the eighth child of Vasudev and Devaki. Devaki’s brother, Kamsa, imprisoned Lord Krishna’s parents for fear of getting killed by his own nephew as foretold to him. Divine intervention played a significant role and Vasudev successfully ferried Krishna to Gokul and handed the new born child to Nand and Yashodha.

This day marks the significance of spreading the message of love and peace with an aim of developing oneness. The Bhagavad-Gita explicitly states that whenever there will be predominance of evil and decline of religion, the Lord will incarnate to annihilate the evil and protect the righteous. This day also signifies the need for encouraging unity and developing faith.

The only Radhakrishna Temple in Panaji, situated near Shree Mahalaxmi Temple at the base of Altinho hill, celebrates the festival with pomp and gaiety. The head priest Shridhar Bhat explains: “Here, at the Radhakrishna temple, the devotees gather from the previous evening to sing the praises of Krishna only to break at the stroke of midnight. Then, an idol of Lord Krishna is bathed with water, milk, honey, curd etc before being placed in a small but tastily decorated cradle at the centre of the congregation. This marks the beginning of celebration of Gokulashtami.’

Devotees swing the cradle whilst reciting prayer hymns and singing devotional songs. The entire temple complex gets charged with the divine vibrations on the rhythmic ringing of temple bells and cymbals, with large numbers of faithful visiting the temple.

Beautiful rangoli patterns are drawn just outside the main entrance of the house of each devotee and lamps are lit. Dahi-handi (pot of curd) competitions are held where teams of young enthusiasts form human pyramids to reach the pot of curd tied at a considerable height. Breaking this is a symbolic recreation of Lord Krishna’s childhood pranks.

‘Devotees in Goa prepare sweet dish of parched rice, banana etc,’ states Shridhar with the glee of a true follower.

If Lord Brahma is revered for his powers to create and Lord Shiva aids in instilling the quality of renunciation then, Lord Krishna encourages his devotees to enjoy the worldly pleasure with unattached involvement.

This is the only major Hindu festival that is celebrated in the dark half of the moon phase. This practice indicates and preaches to the world, currently enveloped in the gloom of violence and hatred, to hold on to faith and hope for a better world, free of negativity just as Lord Krishna who was born against all odds.

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