Janmashtami Fast - Hindu devotees observe fast on auspicious festival of Janmashtami beginning from sun rise till midnight. Get details on fasting rules on Krishna Janmashtami.
Gokulashtami Fast - Janmashtami or Lord Krishna's birthday is one of the most auspicious days to propitiate Lord Krishna with utmost devotion. The day coincides with Krishna paksha in the month of August/September. The festival is variously known as ‘Krishna Ashtami’ and ‘Gokulashtami’ as symbolically, mankind identifies with Shri Krishna as the divine consciousness within the soul. Lord Krishna's life itself is a veritable example of the different roles he took on to reveal truth to mankind and gives us the wisdom and strength to face the tribulations of life. With a sizeable Hindu population staying abroad, Janmashtami is celebrated with equal fervour and aplomb by the Hindu community.
Rituals of Krishna Janmashtami Fast
Lord Krishna took birth at midnight, so, devotees devotedly fast and carry out the ceremonies of bathing and adorning the 'Baal Gopal' or the infant form of Lord Krishna, to honour the actual moment of his birth. The idol is placed in a swing and rocked, and offered 'bhog' prepared with ingredients like ghee and butter that Lord Krishna enjoyed eating in his childhood. The most endearing image of Krishna crawling humbles the devotees with all-encompassing love as they celebrate his birth by singing of bhajans and chantings 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna' as well as the mantra Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya innumerable times.
Since Lord Krishna propounded the importance of ‘satsang’, the fasting devotees on Lord Krishna’s birthday gather and participate in the reciting of devotional songs and reading of stories that recount incidents from Shri Krishna's life. They exultantly sing paeans to his divine ‘leela’ in mandalis and congregations throughout the day. It goes on beyond midnight.
Significance of Krishna Janmashtami Fast
Fasting (‘Upvasa’ or ‘vrat’) is an important Vedic traditions followed by the devotees fasting on Lord Krishna Birthday. It is believed that Krishna Janmashtami fasting is much more powerful than Ekadasi fasting. Observance of Janmashtami fast has a salutary and spiritual effect on all the devotees. According to the scriptures, Lord Krishna explained to Yudhisthira, the eldest among Pandavas, that devotees observing Krishna Janmashtami fast will always gain wealth and prosperity. The underlying significance of fasting is that it brings the soul closer to the Supreme Being. Thus, Krishna Janmashtami fast is associated with the attainment of ‘nirvana’ or salvation, freedom from the cycles of karma.
Types of Janmashtami Fast
In the Hindu rituals of fasting, two kinds of fast are observed. 'Nirjal' fast refers to a total abstinence from food and water by the devotees to show their complete oneness with the divinity of Lord Krishna and to seek forgiveness for past sins. At midnight, devotees fasting on Lord Krishna’s birthday perform puja and aarti, and offer ‘prasad’ to Lord Krishna, seek his blessings and thus, break their fast by eating the holy ‘prasad’.
On the day of Janmashtami, the followers of Lord Krishna also observe ‘Phalahari Fast’ which involves taking fruits and liquids such as fruit juices throughout the duration of the fast. However, intake of salty food items and grains is strictly not allowed. The fasting devotees are seen in raptures singing the virtues of the awe-inspiring aspects of Lord Krishna throughout the night. Moreover, the vibration of mantras being chanted energizes the atmosphere and fills the soul with divine bliss and deep contentment.
Phalahar Fast - Janmashtami
The 'phalahari' menu includes milk, fruits and 'singhare ki puri'. A partial fasting typically includes dishes prepared with kuttu ka atta and vegetables cooked sans garlic and onion paste. Specific 'vrat' side dishes include ‘murukku’ and ‘aloo/arbi chaat’.
Since legends abound about Lord Krishna’s fondness for butter and other milk products, milk-based kheer, peda, shrikhand, kalakand, Vella Seedai, Neyyappam are some regional variations of sweets offered to infant Lord Krishna. 'Panjiri' made with powdered ginger, sugar and ghee and 'panchamrit' prepared with milk, dry fruits and coconut along with fruits form the traditional 'prasadam'. A thali of 56 dishes is offered to ‘Bal Gopal’. After ‘arti’, the joyous devotees partake of the ‘prasadam’ and break their fast.
However, devotees partake of the holy sweets delicacies only after breaking the fast. 'Parana' which refers to the breaking of the fast itself is extremely sacrosanct in nature and must be done at the most auspicious time, which is generally the next day when the effects of Rohini nakshatra wanes.
Janmashtami Events across India
Lord Krishna's early life is full of interesting tales and some of these are enacted in a dramatic fashion in programs and functions dedicated to the Lord in different colonies. Several traditional drama genres that originated in early times such as Ras lilas or religious plays are performed during Janmashtami with complete devotion to recreate the stories that defy his love for Radha. The allegorical meaning is also brought out completely through the plays. Devotees engage in reading shlokas from the Gita, reciting 108 names of Shri Krishna that throws light on Lord Krishna’s many aspects and by singing kirtans and devotional songs while some read out.
The holy city of Mathura and Vrindavan, Krishna's birthplace, see a heightened level of energy as Janmashtami preparations are made much early on. The Jagat Mandir, Banke Bihari, Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram temple and Gopinath temple which are the main centers for the celebrations draw devotees from everywhere. Birla Temples and ISKCON in most Indian cities are brilliantly decorated and bathed in shimmering light.
Significance of Janmashtami
The essence of Bhagvad Gita is that duties should be performed selflessly, in pursuit of the truth and not rewards. On this day, the President and the Prime Minister greet the nation with a heart-warming message that focuses on this enlightening truth to serve humanity. Overall, a sense of jubilation and solidarity makes the Janmashtami celebration truly and divinely special.