What is Gokulashtami?
14h August this year is Gokulashtami or Krishna Janmashtami. Gokulashtami is a very auspicious day for the Hindus across the world. Gokul is the name of the place where Lord Krishna was brought up. It is the birthday of Lord Krishna – the most widely recognized Hindu gods, worshiped as the eighth incarnation of Vishnu and as the supreme deity.
‘Krishna’, apart from the well-known meaning ‘ the dark one’, also has another meaning – ‘the attractive one’. Krishna comes from the sanskrit root word ‘karsh’ which means ‘to pull’, ‘to attract’. According to Adi Sankara’s commentary, Krishna is the 57th name of Vishnu and means the “Existence of knowledge and Bliss.” Many scholars have accepted that Lord Krishna lived on earth 500 years ago in the period between 3200 BCE and 3100 BCE.
How is Gokulashtami celebrated?
On the auspicious day of Gokulashtami, Hindu households and devotees decorate their houses as if there is a birthday party, imprint a child’s footprint from the door to the prayer room signifying the coming of Baby Krishna into their homes and prepare sweets as offering to the Lord. Butter which is believed to be Lord Krishna’s favorite is also offered. Seekers of truth observe fast throughout the day and break the fast at midnight when the Lord is believed to have been born. This is followed by devotional songs on the Lord.
The Lord’s childhood pranks and leelas are made popular in the western state of Maharashtra by people enacting the Krishna’s childhood attempts to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach as mentioned in the Lord’s biography the Srimád Bhagavatam. A butter filled pot is suspended high above the ground and groups form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and break it. There is also a cash prize attached to the event. The prize depends on the height of suspension of the pot.
Significance of Lord Krishna
The incarnation of Krishna represents the descent of the infinite to the finite material world. Even his costume has a deep significance for the devotee. The symbolism of Lord Krishna in his costume as found in many artistic images around the world is described by H.H.Swami Chinmayananda as ‘The ever smiling Lotus – eyed Krishna, with a garland of flowers around His neck, is described as being blue in colour and wearing yellow clothes. Blue is the colour of the infinite and whatever is immeasurable can appear to the mortal eye only as blue, like the sky and the ocean. Yellow represents the earth. Anything buried in the earth gathers a yellow hue; and fire earth (mud silica) emits a yellow hue. Hence, the finite blue form of Krishna clothed in yellow appropriately suggests the pure infinite Consciousness. The one infinite Reality has become the world of endless forms. Therefore, every form in the universe, in a sense, is but a representation of a primeval Truth.”