Ramesh Savaikar NT NETWORK
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 August 23. Krishna puja is performed with religious rituals including shodashopachara 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 the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu and is incidentally the eighth child of Vasudev and Devaki.
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 the next day is celebrated as ‘Gopalkala’ or ‘Dahi Handi’. Krishna Janmashtami is a significant event in most temples dedicated to Krishna and homes. Thus the structures are decorated and illuminated beautifully.
A day-long fast by devotees worshipping Balkrishna (the toddler form of Krishna) is observed. This is broken at midnight with devotees offering prayers and 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 also known as Gopalkala is celebrated on the following day. This year it will be celebrated on August 24. 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 and Mahalaxmi Temple at Panaji.
Devotees here too observe a daylong fast and at midnight bathe the Balkrishna idol which is then seated in a cradle. 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 with religious rituals, consume dry fruits naivaidya and seek blessings of Lord Krishna and pray for a happy and prosperous life. Devotees pay obeisance to God Kaloba and God Tirthar (Mahadev or Shiva). They offer bilvapatra tulsi and flowers after performing puja. During the puja, unmarried girls pray for their marriage.
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 the sale of various items in the fair held here. Various items used for Ganesh Chaturthi festival like wooden seats ‘pattas’, ‘chaurang’, ‘makkaras’ are also sold here. Devotees and people from Bicholim taluka, Old Goa, Marcel, Divar, Chorao, Panaji, Mapusa and other parts of the 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. People throng to the Narve Ashtami feast for offering prayers to Lord Krishna and also to make purchases of different materials used for the Ganesh Festival.