Gokul Ashtami is the
birthday of Lord Krishna in Hindu mythology. One of the many avatars
(incarnations) that Lord Vishnu appeared in the mortal world to destroy
evil, was Lord Krishna. This festival is celebrated as per the Hindu
calendar and falls on the 8th day of the dark half of the month of 'Bhadrapada'
(August-September as per the Julain calendar).
Lord Krishna was born
at midnight and hence most devotees observe a twenty-four hour fast
which is broken at midnight. The festival is also known as "Janma
There is fascinating
story associated with the origin of the festival in Hindu mythology.
Lord Krishna was the child of the chief of Shooras ie Vasudev who was
married to Devaki.
The kingdom was ruled
by the wicked and cruel king Kansa, who had no respect for law, human or
divine. Kansa was once told by the divine sage Narada, that the eighth
child born to Vasudev and Devaki would slay him, if he continued his
wicked and evil ways.
Kansa decided to foil
the prophecy in his own way by confining Vasudev and Devaki in his
palace dungeons. There they languished for years as every child born to
them was handed over to Kansa who mercilessly killed the newborn.
The seventh born was a
boy and with some outside help he was spirited away to nearby Gokul to
be brought up by Rohini, the elder wife of Vasudev who was staying as a
guest of Nanda, the chief of the Yadavas of Gokul. Kansa was shown a
newborn dead girl as the seventh child of Devaki.
The child grew up to
be Balaram, the brother of Lord Krishna. Soon Devaki was expecting her
eigth child, the one who was supposed to slay Kansa and end his evil. On
the eighth day of the dark half of the month of 'Shravan' amidst
thunder, lightning and torrential rains Devaki gave birth to a child.
According to the "Barhaspatyamana",
the date for this is thought to be in the year of 'Visvavasu', 5,I72
years ago around 3227 BC.
Thanks to the divine
intervention from the Gods, Vasudev was able to escape from the prison
along with the child. He carried the holy child in a small basket across
the river Yamuna and handed over the child, with the basket to Ganga
Charya, the family priest and Nanda, the chief of Yadavas, waiting on
the opposite bank.
A new born daughter of
Nanda was carried back to the prison. The next day, Kansa assumed that a
daughter was born as the eighth child of Devaki and was happy that the
prophecy of Narada had proven false.
Lord Krishna grew up
in Gokul as the child of Nanda and Yashoda and later played a leading
role in the great war fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where he
delivered his wonderful message of the Gita.
Gokulashtami is a
community celebration with people visiting local Krishna temples, which
are specially decorated and lit for the occasion. A special ritual of
the day is enacted by the local youth who form human pyramid to reach
the pot full of curds (dahi-handi) tied to a rope high above the road
and break it.
A little before
midnight, devotees pour into temples to participate in the special 'Arati'
and to relive the birth of Krishna. Till midnight, devotional songs are
sung in anticipation of the holy birth. Special cradles are installed at
temples and a small statue of the "Balgopal" (child image of Krishna) is
placed in them.
Hindu Festivals Celebrated in Goa:
Chovoth | Diwali |
Gokulashtami | Holi |
Lairai Jatra | Nagpanchami |
Gudi Padwa | Raksha
Bandhan | Ram Navmi |
Vasco Saptah |