Lord Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.
This month, 11th August, Vaishnavite Hindus across India and the world celebrated one of the holiest festivals in the tradition, Janmashtami.
It is the birthday of the holiest and most popular Hindu god, Lord Krishna, the main figurehead of Hindu epic Mahabharata and the giver of Hindu holy book Bhagwat Gita. He is regarded as an avatar of one of Hindu trinity, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe.
The Birth of Lord Krishna
According to the Hindu lunisolar calendar, on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) and in the month of heavy monsoon (Shraavana & Bhadrapad), Lord Krishna was born.
Krishna was born in an era of chaos when persecution was rampant; freedom was denied and evil was everywhere. Krishna was born in his own uncles’ prison. His uncle, Kansa was the ruler of Mathura, upon hearing the prophecy that the child born to his sister Devaki will kill him, he jailed Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
He arranged to kill all of the newborn children of the couple and was able to kill 6 of her newborn but when Krishna was born Vasudeva was secretly able to carry the infant Krishna away across the Yamuna river and was able to exchange him with another child. This day is celebrated as Janmashtami.
Krishna is one of the main avatar of Vishnu, thus a very important god for Vaishnavite.
His importance is compounded because he is the guru and the most revered character in Mahabharata, the Iliad of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is the philosophical religion and Krishna importance in Hindu philosophy can be attributed to the simple fact that Bhagwat Gita, the essence of Indian philosophy, is attributed to him.
Historically, the Greeks who came to India with Alexander the Great, thought of Krishna as a version of Hercules. He is also regarded as the patriarch of many Indian Jatis (tribe).
Krishna was a famous deity in the South-East Asian Hindu and Buddhist kingdom as well. He is still widely regarded as a god among Balinese, who are the last remaining Hindus left in South-east Asia.
Krishna popularity outside Aisa in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century was boosted by first the orientalist like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Annie Besant, Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, etc and then by the popularity of Yoga and rising interest in Indian spirituality.
An organization like ISKCON has played its role as well and has gained massive popularity in a place like Russia, Eastern Europe, USA, Latin America, etc.
Janmashtami at the time of COVID
This year, because of COVID, all the fanfare regarding Janmashtami didn’t happen in India.
Usually, in Janmashtami, the huge gathering happens, accompanied by Dahi Handi, temple celebration, elaborately decorated tableaus etc went missing due to COVID restriction. Krishna dances, dramas, community plays etc were minimal and restricted.
The festivities were also relatively low-key in the main temples of Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, Mahaban and Baldeo, which are usually visited by lakhs of pilgrims on the occasion.
Instead of celebrating Janmashtami with festive, people carried out health and social welfare drives, like blood donation camps and removal of plastic.
The mantras and pujas were performed virtually and it was live broadcasted to the devotee. In someplace, the temple was sealed as well after few groups were identified and tested COVID 19 positive.
Across India, the celebration was dampened. Prominent Hindus across the world wished Happy Janmashtami to their followers.