A Hindu festival, ‘Shri Krishna Janmashtami/Jayanthi’, is the celebration of the birth of Hindu deity Shri Krishna. This annual event is celebrated with great pomp and show across our country, here in India. If the celebrations at Mathura, Vrundavan and Dwarka or for that matter the festivities in Mumbai as dahi handi on this day is well written about and known more, the celebrations at Udupi (Karnataka), isn’t much publicised. Udupi, a temple town, houses of one of the most popular Shri Krishna temples. It is here in Udupi that the dwaita acharya and founder of dwaita philosophy, Shri Madhwacharya was born. It is believed that the idol of Shri Krishna, now in worship in the Krishna Temple/mutt was discovered by this revered Acharya. Hence, the celebrations are as grand as anywhere else in the country.
An invite to witness the festivities of Shri Krishna Janmashtami in Udupi turned out to be an awesome experience; travel and photography wise as well as spending a few days with friends. A well planned itinerary handed down by my friend, a resident of Udupi for more than 20 years now and all the arrangements including that of our stay, travel and permissions to visit the Shri Krishna mutt was made well in advance.
This festival is celebrated on 2 consecutive days and the festivities within the Shri Krishna mutt and the roads of Udupi apart from the celebrations at the residences are worth a watch. The first day’s celebrations started with the ratha beedi (also known as the car street or chariot or the temple street) being readied for the events to take place the next day. The ratha beedi is a circular street around the Chandramouleeshwara/Ananteshwara temple and the entire street on the other side is dotted with various mathas/mutts like Sode mutt, Palimar mutt, Raghavendraswamy mutt etc. All these mutts and the Krishna temple is decorated with fresh flowers on this auspicious day.
A temple tour of Shri Krishna Mutt on the eve of Janmashtami was an eye-opener. The grandeur of the poojas, the pious atmosphere with devotional songs being rendered by classical singers, devotees praying in every corner and queuing up for the darshan and busy priests managing the devotees thronging inside and security personnel keeping a watchful eye – scene from within the mutt.
The huge kitchen is stocked up with veggies and the cooks and helpers walked around busily. Temple kitchen serves free lunch/prasadam to all the devotees visiting the mutt for the festival. It was but natural that the cooks and the helpers had no time to while away especially on this particular day.
We march ahead and visit another huge hall where yet another interesting activity was in progress. The prasadam laddus and savouries like chaklis are prepared in huge quantities and packed. These packets of prasadam are distributed among the devotees and also to the students in a few schools around the vicinity. We ended up spending almost an hour watching the people go about their packing work, and even lending a helping a hand in between our photography session. The smiles on their face lit up the hall!
The scene on the ratha beedi was changing and seemed more active and colourful as the day progressed. People dressed up in their best traditional attires and with matching accessories, conveyed the mood of festivities. Families visited the temple, strolled along the streets, made some purchases and it was happy faces everywhere! The shops and stalls on the street could be seen brimming with visitors from all over and the general excitement about the next day’s events is very much palpable.
In the evening, a grand pooja is conducted to mark the birth of Shri Krishna. The pooja in and around the Shri Krishna mutt can be witnessed. After having spent the entire day on the street and visiting the temple, we chose to offer our prayers at my friend’s residence. It was a pleasure and honour to be a part of my friend’s family and her extended family, this time during the festival. The traditional ceremony at her place was an elaborate event. The priest performed the pooja and the entire family took part in it.
The chanting of mantras, the grand aarti, naivedyam (offerings) to the lord was all part of the pooja. The young and the old of the family took turns to offer prayers to the lord.
I could only consider myself fortunate and blessed to be a part of this family in this joyous event. The night came to a close with lots of laughter, a traditional sit-down dinner with the entire family.
A very interesting day thus came to a close! But the curiosity about the jubilant procession and the activities on the ratha beedi grew further. Just a little wait and we would be there, too!
Read about the concluding part of the Janmashtami experience here.