Today is the god Krishna’s birthday, Krishnashtami. Krishna is a beloved God. It is difficult to explain who is Krishna, as he is a warrior, supreme being, writer, lover, and prankster. It is generally accepted that Krishna was a real person, who was alson an avatar, or prophet, of the God Vishnu. Worship of a deity or hero named Krishna dates back to 4th century BC. He is a favorite subject in theatrical works.
According to the Indian calendar, the day of his birth goes across two days. Each family must decide when to celebrate, the night before, or the morning of. So, following the laws of physics, the north of India celebrates it on the 21st, and the South on the 22nd.
The traditional way to celebrate Krishnashtami is to set out a cradle for Krishna, with baby footprints leading up to it. Then you must sing a lovely lullaby to put Krishna to sleep. The idea is to invite Krishna into your home on the day of his birth. Sound familiar? It’s also common to make sweets, or some sort of special food.
Another tradition that celebrates Krishna’s mischevious side is called dahi handi, or uriadi in Tamil, where young men build a human pyramid, trying to reach a high-hanging pot of butter or curd. This event is very popular in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry’s neighboring region. As a child, Krishna worked herding cows, and would connive to steal butter, thus the significance of the butter-stealing pyramid.
Boy Krishna, the butter thief
Baby Krishna getting a bath
(This is the very, very abridged version. For more, you can google Krishna stories for hours.)
King Kansa, brother of Prince Duvaki, (Krishna’s father) was afraid of a prophesy that proclaimed that he would die at the hand of Duvaki’s child. Thus, the king locked up his own brother and his wife. After Kansa killed the first six of his children, Luckily, Krishna was born and snuck out of the jail to go live with his foster parents.
Krishna was raised with his cow-herder relatives, and then came back to fulfill his true destiny as a prince and warrior. And you guessed it, he killed evil uncle King Kalsa, restoring the proper king on the throne.
Krishna apparently married 16,100 maidens who were held captive by the demon Narakasura. Krishna killed the demon and then married them all. At this time, captive women were degraded in society, and were unable to marry. By marrying them all, Krishna performed a symbolic ceremony to save their honour.
Krishna dictating the Bhagavad Gita to his cousin Arjuna
Krishna is traditionally considered the author of the holy Hindu text, which he dictated from God right before he went into the great battle of the Mahabharata.
According to the Mahabrata tradition, Krishna died abruptly, given his many victories in battle. Krishna retired into the forest and sat under a tree in meditation. While the Mahabharata narrates the story that a hunter named Jara mistook his partly visible left foot for a deer and shot an arrow wounding him mortally. While Krishna’s soul ascended to heaven, his mortal body was cremated by Arjuna.
Happy Krishna Ashtami!