Krishna Ashtami, the Birthday of Lord Krishna

I recently visited the famous Krishna temple in Udupi, India. Legend has it that once Kanakadasa, a great devotee of Lord Krishna was denied entrance into the temple. Determined to see his beloved Lord, Kanakadasa kept praying hard from outside the temple. Impressed by his devotion, it is believed that Lord Krishna’s idol turned to face Kanakadasa and a small hole formed on the wall so that Kanakadasa could get a glimpse of Lord Krishna. This spot is now known as Kanakana kindi (window of Kanaka).

Krishna is omnipresent.  Our Sai Krishna is verily that Krishna!

Mr. Soundararajan, a famous South Indian playback singer once visited Swami in Brindavan, Bangalore. During darshan Swami looked at him lovingly and through gestures, gently asked him if he was ready to sing. The famous singer nodded in affirmation. Swami then looked at the ladies’ side and indicated the singers to pause. ‘Start!’ Swami indicated to the maestro. Immediately his powerful voice jubilantly erupted into a beautiful alaap (alaap in Indian classical music is usually the opening section of the song that starts with a slow tempo). Everyone was in awe. Ten seconds into his song Swami said, ‘Stop!’ He instantly toned down. It was an abrupt end. There was pin drop silence. No one had any clue what went wrong. Completely lost, Soundararajan stared at Swami searching for an answer. Swami looked straight into his eyes, and asked, “Why are you singing ‘O Lord! You are like Krishna!’ Then who am I?” Soundararajan, whose mind was tuned to the Divine, realised his folly instantly. Then and there he altered the lyrics and began again in his thunderous voice, “O Lord! You are verily Krishna!” Bhagawan now was in bliss. So were the thousands who were basking in His Love and music that momentous evening - a day the Lord had chosen to part the curtain between Sri Krishna and Sai Krishna.

The word Krishna has three meanings: Swami says:

(1) “Krishithi-ithi Krishna” - The man who ploughs is Krishna. The heart is the symbol of a field. The heart should be cleared of weeds (evil qualities). It should be filled with love. The seeds of the Lord's name should be sown in it. Krishna encourages the devotee to do all this.

(2) "Karshathi-ithi Krishna” - Because He attracts, He is Krishna. Krishna has the supreme power of attraction. By His words, His sport, His music, and all His actions He attracts all people. This power of attraction is present in everyone. Hence, everyone is potentially Krishna.

(3) "Krushyathi-ithi Krishnah” - Because He imparts bliss, He is called Krishna. Everyone seeks happiness. The Divine, who is the embodiment of happiness, is in you. God wants you to be happy, but you do not realise it. Try to recognise the source of bliss within you. It is not the true nature of man to be unhappy. When anyone is not happy, people around him are concerned about him. You should always be happy, because you are Divine.”(Summer Roses on the Blue mountains, 1976)

Krishna was born on the 20th of July, 3228 years before the advent of Christ. Krishna was born on Ashtami meaning the eight day of the Lunar month He was born at 3.00 am after the midnight. (Summer Roses on the Blue mountains, 1976)

Fasting is observed on the first day of the festival until midnight, when Lord Krishna was born. People spend the day at temples, offering prayers, singing, reading the Bhagavatham recollecting and reciting His leelas. At midnight, a traditional prayer is offered. Special baby cradles are installed in temples and a small statue placed in them.

I remember we would decorate our house to welcome the Lord. My mother would prepare various sweets and butter and offer them to the Lord. From the doorways to the inner temple of the house the floor is marked with child’s footprints, using some flour mixed with water. This was to create a feeling that the Lord’s own feet have made the mark. Towards midnight there is a grand worship of Lord Krishna which would go on till the early hours of the morning when Krishna was born.  

As a child, the highlight of the Krishna Janmashtami festival, which takes place on the second day, is the Dahi Handi meaning Curd Pot. Clay pots containing butter, curd, and money are strung up high from buildings and young devotees of Lord Krishna known as Govindas form a human pyramid and compete with each other to reach the pots and break them open. This celebration represents Lord Krishna's love for butter and curd, which were the foods He most often enjoyed eating. Lord Krishna was quite mischievous and would take curd from people's houses, so the housewives hung it up high which they thought was out of His physical reach. Krishna would nevertheless steal the butter for there is really nothing outside the Divine reach as He is present everywhere. He would run away leaving footprints marked by the spilt milk on which He has trodden, in His hurry to be beyond anyone’s reach. Swami says, “the lesson that Krishna wanted to teach was to recognise His footprints in everything and discover Him in our heart” (Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 9, Sept 3, 1969). Dahi Handi brought out the Krishna in every child involved in the game.

To me personally, Lord Krishna as the eighth Avatar (incarnation of God) of Lord Vishnu, had a threefold objective:

First, to destroy the wicked.

Second, to play a leading role in the war against adharma (unrighteousness) where He delivered His wonderful message of the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield which is the Knowledge of the Universal Self or Atmavidya. That is what the Sai Avatar has also come to give us and that really is what we must seek earnestly from Him. And once we have that, our lives too, just like the Avatar’s, will transform into a saga of perennial bliss. (Avatar on Himself, Radio Sai).

Third, by taking a form to which devotion and supreme love can easily pour from the hearts of countless devotees.

Krishna Janmashtami to me is a reminder of the Lord Sai Krishna within me, who helps me destroy all the wicked qualities within me and thereby make me pure. I should, like the faithful Arjuna, put into practice His message and achieve success in the battle called “life”, finally merging in Him. We, like the Gopikas who lost themselves seeing the beautiful form of their Lord Krishna, should lose ourselves in the beauty and grandeur of our dear Lord Sai and pour out our devotion to Him by loving all and serving all.

Mr. C. Nandakumar,                     

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates