It’s Sunday, September 2nd, 2018 as I post this. It is the birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Called Janmashtami, it is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shravana (August-September) according to the Hindu calendar.
Considered one of the most powerful human incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Krishna was born more than 5,200 years ago in Mathura. Lord Krishna is the god of compassion, tenderness, and love in Hinduism, and is one of the most popular and widely revered among Indian divinities.
On this auspicious day of Janmashtami, a lot of devotees of Lord Krishna observe a fast, worship him and listen to his tales, recite hymns from the Bhagavad Gita, sing devotional songs, and chant mantras. In India, Krishna temples are decorated and lit up on this day, attracting many visitors, while devotees hold bhakti events and keep night vigil.
In the northern states of India, Janmashtami is celebrated with the Raslila tradition, which literally means “play (lila) of delight, essence (rasa)”. This is expressed as solo or group dance and drama events at Janmashtami, wherein Krishna related compositions are sung. One common scene involves Krishna playing flute in rasa leela, only to be heard by certain gopis (cowheard maidens), which is theologically supposed to represent how the divine call is only heard by certain enlightened beings.The childhood pranks of Krishna, and love affairs of Radha-Krishna are particularly popular.
Radha, also known to be an avatar of Goddess Shakti, is believed to be the most ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. Although they were not joined in union on this earth, it is said that Lord Krishna derived his strength from Radha. There were so many gopis who were ready to fall on Lord Krishna’s feet, given the choice. But, Lord Krishna lost his heart to Radha, who constantly was at his side during his entire stay at Vrindavan.
When Lord Krishna had to leave Vrindavan, he knew he had to leave everything from his childhood behind, including his love, Radha. It did not matter to Radha that Krishna would not be able to marry her or be present with her in physical form. She knew they were together always on a spiritual level. Their love was above this physical world and beyond the realms of the universe.
From the Vaishnava point of view, the divine feminine energy or shakti implies a divine source of energy, God or shaktiman. As Sita relates to Rama; Lakshmi belongs to Vishnu; Radha has Her Krishna. As Krishna is believed to be the source of all manifestations of God, “Shri Radha, His consort, is the original source of all shaktis” or feminine manifestation of divine energy. According to Christian Roy and other scholars, these Radha-Krishna love stories are Hindu symbolism for the longing and love of human soul for the divine principle and reality it calls Brahman.
May Lord Krishna fill your life with peace, love, light, joy and prosperity. Happy Janmashtami 2018!
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