Gokulashtami or Sri Jayanthi or Janmashtami or Krishna Jayanthi is the birthday of our Unni Kannan or Krishna or Gokula Kannan, how ever we call him with love, affection, devotion and bhakti. This day falls on the eighth day or Ashtami Tithi of the Krishna Paksham or dark half of the Hindu month of Bhadra or of the Malayalam month of Chingam. Most often the date for Gokulashtami is decided on the occurrence of Ashtami Tithi along with the Rohini Nakshatram. Sometimes when they do not occur together, then the Tithi is considered. Sometimes different calendars give two consecutive dates for Gokulashtami. The first date is according to the Smartha Sampradaya and second date is according to the Vaishnava Sampradaya; the latter is the date celebrated by ISKCON. Sometimes both days can fall on the same date as well. The Vaishnava Sampradaya date is the date that begins with Ashtami, that is, the day never has any part of Saptami Tithi on it. The Smartha Sampradaya takes into consideration the Ashtami Tithi during the night time, along with the occurrence of Rohini Nakshatram, as Krishna was born in the night. No matter which day you choose to follow, the devotion and purity of mind and spirit are of the prime importance. Others are secondary, as our little Krishna will accept our love, any day, any time!
In 2017, Gokulashtami is celebrated on Monday, August 14th according to Smartha Sampradaya in India, Middle East, and UK and the United States, and on Tuesday, August 15th according to Vaishanava Sampradaya.
On this day, several things are done to celebrate the occasion, apart from the dishes cooked.
The decorations at home include:
- Little Krishna’s footmarks from the front door to the pooja room or pooja place, with maavu kolam mixture.
- Big colorful rangoli or pretty kolam in front of the house.
- Decorating the Krishna idol at home with flute, peacock feather, tulasi garland etc. Or having a little Krishna in a cradle, etc.
- Anything creative – Krishna will be happy however you celebrate him!
The pooja is usually done in the evening at 6pm when we light the lamp at home. The slokas include:
- Ashtothram archanai with flowers like lotus, thechi, tulasi, and jasmine
- Krishna Avatar Dashakam and the Rasakreeda Dashakam from the Narayaneeyam
- Geetha Govindam
- Any Krishna sloka or bhajan you know!
The pooja is done by showing karpoora harathi and the mangala harathi and we offer the neivedhyams.
On this day, all the things that little Krishna is fond of, are offered as Neivedhyam. The Neivedhyams usually include:
(Little Krishna -> baby -> like milk!)
(No introduction necessary for Krishna’s fondness for butter.)
- Vellam Avil (Flattened rice)
(Krishna likes Avil or flattened rice very much because his friend or sakha Kuchela could only afford to give this to him as a present while visiting him.)
- Nei Appam
(We make appam and cool it and place it on the navel of the new-born baby on the 11th day after the baby is born in our tradition; typically after the umbilical cord falls off, and it is called “thoppil appam”. Since little Krishna is a baby, we make nei appam on this day.)
- Sweet/Vellam Cheedai
- Uppu Cheedai
- Adai (to go along with the butter, made with raw rice)
- Thamboolam – betel leaves and areca nut
- Different fruits
Note: In my in-laws place, they also offer “puli-avil” on this day, along with “vadai” and “payasam”. Most people from Tamil Nadu also offer “Uppu Appam” in honor of Uppiliappan. Many people generally does whatever Bakshanams or snack items like Murukku, Thattai etc. that they would like to make as well. The sentiment is that a little tiny tot is coming home, so you would make whatever you can to welcome the kid.
Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated in a very grand manner in most Northern India states and among South India, people in Kerala celebrate it as a huge celebration, as he is their little Unni, compared to other southern states. Krishna is a very important lord in Kerala; that is evident from the fact that little kids are always called “kannan”! And also the fact that Guruvayoorappan resides there itself explains the Krishna-Bhakti-craze. Most families dress up their little kids like little Krishna on this day; “Krishna Vesham” for little kids. Even in Tamil Nadu, some families do the Krishnar vesham. In some places in North India, they enact the Rasa Lilas as a way of celebration. In Maharashtra, this day is also called “Dahi-Handi”, dahi meaning curd or buttermilk and handi meaning clay pot. Typically, pots filled with buttermilk are hung from high places and young men form human pyramids to reach the pot (like how Krishna stole butter) and the one on top hits the pot with a coconut. This re-enactment is also done in some places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, called “uriadi”, and the pot is filled with yellow water. Some people also observe fasts on this day. In the south, people fast by not having rice for dinner and having tiffin items – whatever was made for neivedhyam, especially the adai and vennai, which serves as a filling dinner item.