Mathura/Vrindavan, Aug 25 (IANS) After good monsoon rains, pastures and fields of Braj, the land of Lord Sri Krishna, looked appropriately verdant on Thursday, providing a great setting for the celebration of Janmashtami.
Braj area lies around Mathura and Vrindavan towns in Uttar Pradesh, to which millions gravitate round the year to soak themselves in Sri Krishna ‘bhakti’.
And Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, is the culmination of their devotions, observed with fasting, special pujas and prayers until midnight, when the god is believed to have been born.
Mathura and Vrindavan presented a dazzling spectacle on Thursday: Thousands of Krishna devotees hailing not only from India but also abroad, many in their traditional dresses, chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ and ‘Radhey Radhey’ as they go through the worship, prayers, paying obeisance to the god, and performing other colourful rituals.
The most venerated site in Mathura is the Sri Krishna Janambhoomi temple, where the god is believed to have been born. The temple will host the mid-night puja of Lord Krishna, to be presided over by Ayodhya’s Mahant Nritya Gopal Das.
At Mathura’s Dwarkadheesh temple preparations are in full swing for the gala around mid-night.
The Bankey Bihari temple in Vrindavan is also attracting thousands of pilgrims with hardly an inch of space left.
Public devotion to Lord Krishna has always been characterised by not just spirituality but also colour, show and tinsel — what could be best termed in modern lexicon as the “Krishna merchandise”.
Manufacturers and traders in Mathura and Vridavan do business worth millions of rupees in such products. Thousands of units, many employing Muslims, make dresses and decorations for Lord Krishna.
Demand for flowers has soared with suppliers from as far as Kolkata and Bangalore chipping in.
The temples across the Braj area — whose boundaries go across districts of Mathura, Agra, Hathras (all in Uttar Pradesh, Bharatpur (Rajasthan) and even beyond — and much of north India are all decked up.
Despite the Yamuna flowing to the brim, the ghats of Mathura have been overflowing with crowds of pilgrims who started to arrive here days before the festival.
The whole season around Janmashtami witnesses a series of programmes: Kirtans, Satsangs and ‘Ras Leelas’ which are enactment of Lord Krishna’s dalliance with his companion Radha and other gopis with dance and drama.
“Around Krishna’s birthday, there is such divine ambience that fills your heart with the spirit of devotion and celebration,” says Vrindavan’s musician Acharya Jaimini.
“There’s song in the air, the colourfully decorated boats in Vrindavan and Mathura’s Vishram Ghat, the crowd of bhakts at the Gokul and Mahavan ghats…” Jaimini rhapsodises.
He adds: “I imagine it’s only after Janmashtami, when Sri Krishna’s father Vasudev transports the newly born across the river, that Yamuna will start receding.”
The legend has it that Krishna was born on the eighth night of the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapad. On that rainy night, Vasudev had escaped from a prison in Mathura, carrying the infant Krishna in a basket on his head, and crossed the flooded river to prevent the baby from being killed by his uncle Kamsa.
This is but one of the chapters in LOrd Krishna’s life that comes alive on Janmashtami.
At the Sri Krishna Janambhoomi campus, additional companies of police and Provincial Armed Constabulary have been deployed alongwith personnel of the bomb disposal squad and specialised security agencies.
Barricades have been raised to regulate the flow of traffic, and CCTV cameras have been installed to keep an eye on any suspicious activity, senior officials said.
The Uttar Pradesh Roadways is to run extra buses to ease passenger rush at Mathura and Vrindavan. The Railways are running a set of extra trains for the pilgrims on a temporary basis.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)