In India, Janmashtami is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Krishna who is adored by everybody. On this day, people decorate the whole house with lit lamps, colorful rangolis and also draw little footprints with rice flour from the main door of their house to the shrine inside, symbolizing Krishna’s visit to their home. Little children dress up as Krishna or like his other companions Radhe or the gopikas (milkmaids). Friends and neighbors are given lots of sweets, snacks and hang pots full of butter — Krishna’s favorite food. The day is not complete without fun traditional games like “DahiHandi.” In this game, a clay pot filled with buttermilk is hung at a convenient height, and enthusiastic youngsters form a human pyramid to break the pot, while onlookers make it challenging by throwing water on them. Later in the evening there are bhajans(devotional songs), and the culmination is RasLeela. “Ras” means “joy” and “Leela” is “play.” This is an ancient dance form which Krishna used to take part in with his companions, the gopis. The whole day is an overwhelming experience.
Janmashtami was celebrated at the Isha Yoga Center on 21st August. Krishna is known for his special blue complexion, so everybody decked themselves in blue to make this an unforgettable occasion. In the afternoon, Ashram residents threw themselves into lively games. For dinner, the entrance to Biksha Hall (the dining hall) was decorated with beautiful rangoli and there were little footprints from the entrance leading to the Biksha hall. The dining ambience was amazing and was matched by the special dinner which included all of Krishna’s favorites like butter and South Indian snacks like seda, murukku and sweets. Late in the night, Sounds of Isha treated the audience to some beautiful Krishna bhajans. Everyone glimpsed Krishna in Sadhguru’s words as we watched a video from the Leela program (conducted in 2005). And of course, in the end everybody was on their feet and lost themselves in the Ras. The whole evening was remarkable, and indeed, it brought back memories of the Leela program six years ago.
I have watched the Leela CD so many times over because every time I feel so much of joy just seeing the participants, the costumes, the music, the colors, the dance, and of course Sadhguru – but each time I also feel a tinge of jealousy wishing I could have been a part of this wonderful celebration. Krishna was a God that people prayed to; this is what I had managed to gather during my growing up years. But listening to Sadhguru speak about Krishna has made me fall in love with the character. Oh … to be so joyful, playful and touch people’s lives!
This was my first time in Isha for Janmashtami Celebrations. During the night when all of us were a part of the Rasa Leela, with the music and dance the whole place was vibrating. Unusually, I was able to let go of myself while I danced. And in those moments, I felt that I belonged to the crowd, to the music. I loved the evening, the beauty and joy. Truly irresistible!
-Archana Anand, PGH
I’ve never known much about Krishna in my life. Initially it was very odd for me to be a part of the organizing crew in setting up things for the splashing birthday party of this blue hoaxer. We had a lot of plans to bring back the ambience of Brindhavan in the ashram. Right from the posters to the dining arrangements, everything was done so meticulously.
The games were just so highly spirited that no one felt like holding back anything. Everyone in the ground was just overflowing with ebullience. Biksha hall was totally decked in blue with tipsy euphony of the cowherd’s flute, the taste of mysorepak, the crispy seedai and the round, big, crispy murruku, and the nectarous payasam… The dinner was just an exuberant party in a blue gleam.
And then in RasLeela I just danced and danced and danced like there was no one other than Krishna. Leela filled the air, soaking us in and out, and leaving us intoxicated and inebriated. After sometime I was no longer moving my hands and legs, but just about everything in me was dancing… Leela just happened.
-Subiksha Vivekanandan, Archives