Who is Sri Krishna?
Krishna is God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This fact is stated and corroborated in the Vedic scriptures and by various authorities. Lord Brahma in Brahma Samhita says, "Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes" (BS 5.1). In the Bhagavata Purana Krishna becomes the chief object of devotion. After describing various incarnations of the Lord such as Rama, Balarama, Vamana, Nrsimha, and Vishnu, Srila Sukadeva Goswami states, "All of the above mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead" (SB 1.3.28).

Lord Shiva in Gita Mahatmya, states that "only one God - Krishna, the son of Devaki" (Verse 7). In the Padma Purana it is stated, "By scrutinizingly reviewing all the revealed scriptures and judging them again and again, it is now concluded that Lord Narayana is the Supreme Absolute Truth, and thus He alone should be worshipped". Similarly it is said in the Skanda Purana, "In the material world, which is full of darkness and dangers, combined with birth and death and full of different anxieties, the only way to get out of the great entanglement is to accept loving transcendental devotional service to Lord Vasudeva. This is accepted by all classes of philosophers".

The position of Krishna as God is confirmed by great personalities like Narada, Asita, Devala, Vyasa, Parasara, Brahma and Shiva. Finally Krishna Himself confirms this fact in the Bhagavad-gita to His friend and devotee, Arjuna. He clearly says that He is "the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods" (BG 5.29), that "there is no truth superior to Me" (BG 7.7) and - "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me" (BG 10.8).

What is the position of Krishna?
As God, there is no one equal to or greater than Krishna. He is the original, unborn, eternal person, the most ancient, completely independent, and the cause of all causes. Parasara Muni, the father of Srila Vyasadeva and a great scholar who had himself held the position of Vyasa in a previous kalpa, very nicely defines the position of Bhagavan (God) as one Who is complete in six kinds of opulence namely - wisdom, beauty, fame, power, wealth and renunciation. While there are many great personalities who are very famous or very wealthy, only Krishna as God is replete in all six opulence.

The scriptures not only give us the unique position of Krishna but also give us a detailed description of all His aspects. They tell us that above this temporary material universe is an eternal spiritual world called Vaikuntha, and Krishna lives in the topmost planet of this universe called Goloka Vrindavana which is full of palaces made of touch-stone (cintamani), with trees that are capable of fulfilling all desires (kalpa-vraksha) and cows that are called Surabhi.

Here Krishna eternally resides, served by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune. He sports with His most confidential and intimate devotees, headed by Srimati Radharani. He has a form just like us but His body is spiritual and thus eternal. His complexion is dark-blue, like that of a rain-filled cloud and His eyes are like lotus petals. He is ever youthful, full of bliss and His beauty excels that of thousands of cupids. He likes to play the flute, He sports a crown with a peacock feather and He is adorned by the exquisite kastuba jewel.

What is Krishna avatar?
In Chaitanya-charitamrita (2.20.263-264) it is stated that the "avatar, or incarnation of Godhead, descends from the kingdom of God for creating and maintaining the material manifestation. And the particular form of the Personality of Godhead who so descends is called an incarnation, or avatar. Such incarnations are situated in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. When They descend to the material creation, They assume the name avatar."

The Srimad Bhagavatam states that there are countless incarnations just like the waves of the oceans. They fall in various categories like lila (pastime), yuga (period of yuga), manavantara (period of Manu), purusa (Vishnu expansions) and shaktivesa (empowered). These avatars perform various pastimes based on the time, place and circumstances, but their purpose is always the same - "to attract the conditioned souls back to their eternal spiritual abode".

The incarnations emanate from Vishnu. Maha-Vishnu is the original cause of all material creation and from Him Garbhodakashai-Vishnu expands and then Ksirodakasayi-Vishnu. Generally all incarnations appearing within the material world are plenary portions of Ksirodakasayi-Vishnu (also known as Hari).

However only once in a day of Lord Brahma (which lasts for 4.32 billion of our years), does Krishna descend in His original form, as the avataree, the cause of all avatars. When Krishna appears all the incarnations join with Him. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the complete whole and all the plenary portions and incarnations always live with Him. So when Krishna appeared, Lord Vishnu was always with Him, and while Krishna enjoyed His pastimes in Vrindavan, the killing of the demons was actually carried out by the His Vishnu portion. Since Krishna eternally resides in Vrindavan, when He left Vrindavan at the age of ten, it was His Vasudeva expansion that actually left.

Appearance of Krishna
In the era of the Svayambhuva Manu, prajapati Sutapa and his wife Prsni were instructed by Lord Brahma to have progeny. They performed severe austerities for twelve thousand years of the demigods to have the Lord as their child. Pleased by their austerities the Lord appeared and granted them this benediction. Since He gave them this benediction three times, in Satya-yuga He first appeared as the son of Prsni and Sutapa and was called Prsnigarba. In Treta-yuga they were Aditi and Kasyapa Muni and the Lord appeared as Vamanadeva. Finally in the Dvapara yuga, Krishna in His original form, appeared as the child of Devaki and Vasudeva.

Krishna appeared specifically on the request of Bhudevi, the presiding deity of the Earth planet. Distressed by the burden of many demons who had appeared as powerful Kshatriyas and were ruling the planet impiously, she assumed the form of a cow and pleaded to Lord Brahma for help. Lord Brahma with all the demigods prayed to Lord Vishnu in Svetadvipa by chanting the Purusa-sukta prayers. At this time the Lord informed Brahma that in order to establish religiosity and destroy evil, He would soon appear as His original Self. In the meantime the various demigods were instructed to take birth in various families in the Yadu dynasty and prepare for the appearance of the Lord.

(For more on Advent of Krishna)

Lifeline of Sri Krishna
Historically, Lord Krishna appeared in the Dvapara yuga, on the midnight of the 8th day of the dark half of the month of Sravan. This corresponds to July 19th in the year 3228 BC. ( important NOTE) He exhibited His pastimes for a little over 125 years and disappeared on February 18th 3102 BC on the new moon night of Phalgun. His departure marks the beginning of the current age of corruption known as Kali.

The great scholar Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti neatly outlines Lord Krishna's activities in this way. He was born in Mathura in the prison cell of Kamsa and carried to Gokul. The first three years and four months were spent in Gokula, then equal lengths of time in Vrindavan and Nandagram. At the age of eleven He left Vrindavan for Mathura where He lived for eighteen years and four months (see correction notes), and finally ninety-six years and eight months in Dvaraka totaling about 126 years of manifest pastimes. At the time of Mahabharata, when Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita, He was about ninety years of age.

Pastimes of Krishna
The tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam describes the activities and transcendental pastimes of Sri Krishna. They are also described in the epic Mahabharata, specially in the Bhishma parva which also contains the Bhagavad-gita. The pastimes of Krishna appeal to the liberated souls, those that are trying to get liberated and also to the gross materialists.

The pastimes of Sri Krishna, known as Krishna-katha fall into two categories. Words spoken by Krishna, as the Bhagavad-gita, and words spoken about Krishna, as in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Souls in the liberated stage derive great pleasure in relishing anything and everything related to Krishna. For those that are trying to be liberated, Krishna-katha makes their path of liberation very clear. By studying the Gita one becomes fully conscious of the position of Sri Krishna; and when one is situated at the lotus feet of the Lord, he understands the narration's of Krishna as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Even the gross materialists are attracted by the pleasure pastimes of Krishna with the Gopis and His wives. Even though the loving affairs of Krishna have nothing to do with the gross, mundane sex affairs, they attract the people engrossed in sense-gratification and gradually elevate them to higher levels of spirituality.

Causeless mercy of Krishna
Even though Krishna is completely self sufficient and self satisfied, He descends for the benefit of all the conditioned souls. His most endearing quality is that of "bhakta vatsala". His pure devotees are always trying to please Him, and He is always trying to please His devotees. Just as He lives in the heart of His devotees, His devotees constantly reside in Him.

Krishna is so merciful that He not only helps His devotees, but also those who are envious of Him. Krishna destroys evil by providing them with an opportunity to take up devotion.

On the greatly auspicious day of Krishna-Janamashtami, let us all pray to Sri Krishna for a drop of His causeless mercy, for only that alone is sufficient to take us out from this material word, back home, back to Godhead.

All glories to the appearance day of Lord Krishna ! All glories to Sri Krishna and His devotees !!

Courtesy of http://www.acbspn.com/festivals/janmastami.htm with a few adapted links from us:

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This is time has sometimes led to confusion, and thus is not accepted by all. Many Hindus observe this as the time because the Astami and the Rohini nakshatra fell on that day in that year. However, according to the devotional Vaishnavas and the viddhi as explained by the previous Acharyas - great spiritual masters there are specific astrological and astronomical co-ordinants more important than just the astami falling on a day when Rohini was present.

Astrologically the Lord appeared on the Astami it is true, but it is also noted that it happened at the time when Rohini nakshatra (the 4th of the 27 nakshatras) also appeared in the sky after mid-night (Srimad Bhagavatam 10:3:1-5, Krsna Book chapter 3.), and further more it happened in the month of Bhadra (Hrishikehsa mase - August September), and not Sravan as the article says. So actually it is not singularly the Astami that is the most important factor in the observance as some think.

I know that some Hindus observe Janmastami - Gokulastami sometimes a month earlier because that make it that the Astami coincides with the Rohini nakshatra but it is actually incorrect. Sri Krishna Janmastami falls on the 8th day of the dark half of the month of Bhadra (August/September).

There are slight differences in Calendars. Usually this depends on whether the group begins their month from either the Full Moon (Purnima), the Ekadasi (eleventh day - phase of the Moon) or the Sankranti (cusp where astronomical months lap). One such example is the followers of Sripad Madhwarcharya, their calendar http://www.dvaita.org/misc/almanac_uttara.shtml although observing the same co-ordinates as us, their month begins a little earlier to our Gaudiya month which begins and ends on the Purnima.

From the page http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/bhaktiyoga/vaisnavism.htm
So - What date was Krishna born? Is there information on the details of Krishna's life when He took form on Earth? Did He have an occupation? Why was He manifest on Earth at that time? Did He have a purpose besides the ones listed above? How did He die?

Answer: The date of Krishna's birth is traditionally given as 5201 of Bhadra Krishna Astami, or 3226 BC (or 3227 BC, depends if we consider the year 0 or not). "Bhadra" is the name of a month (corresponds roughly to July-August; Vedic calendar is luni-solar), "krishna" here specifically denotes the dark part of a month (wanning moon) and "astami" means "8th day". If you download the Vedic calendar for your location (http://www.iskcon.org/calendar) you can see when Janmastami ("Krishna's birth day"; janma - birth, astami - 8th day) occurs so that you can take part in its celebration with us in one of our centers. The peak of the celebration is midnight when Krishna appeared.

Swami Bon Maharaja has calculated that Lord Krishna passed away from this world on the Amavasya of Pausa of 5076 i.e. 3101 BC or 3179 before Saka era and that was the beginning of Kali-yuga.

Lord Shri Krishna was born 125 years 4 months before this date i.e. 5201 (2002) of Bhadra Krishna Astami or 3226 B.C.

The War of the Mahabharata started 36 years before Lord Krishna left this world i.e. on Amavasya day of Pausa of 5112 i.e 3136 Pausa Amavasya B.C. (February).

Other scholars who made similar astronomical calculations (but basing them on other historical dates) came to slightly different conclusions, ranging from 3140 to 3100 B.C.

Lord Krishna's life is elaborately described in the Bhagavata Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam, esp. cantos 1,10,11), Brahma Purana (ch. 180- 212), Brahma-vaivarta Purana and other Puranas as well as in the Mahabharata (whose essence is the Bhagavad-gita). He played a part of a cowherd boy in Vrindavan and after His 16th year that of a prince in Mathura and Dvaraka - His "occupation" was that of a ksatriya, or a warrior and a ruler.

The reasons of His appearance are listed in your quote above. He likes to perform such pastimes, or divine play (lila) with His devotees. That is the first and foremost reason of His appearance. He Himself would not have to appear to do those things, He could send someone else (His devotees) to act on His behalf.

He didn't "die" as a human being but disappeared in a supernatural way as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam, canto 11. Everything Krishna does is transcendental to this material world.


It is usually accepted that Krishna left Vrindavan for Mathura around sixteen years of age

krame bälya-paugaëòa-kaiçoratä-präpti
räsa-ädi lélä kare, kaiçore nitya-sthiti

So kåñëa-lélä means beginning from His childhood, up to the age of sixteenth year, when He performed the räsa-lélä, this is actual kåñëa-lélä. And beyond that lélä, when Kåñëa left Våndävana and came to Dvärakä, that is not kåñëa-lélä; that is Väsudeva lélä, Kåñëa in His Väsudeva feature, that lélä. It is stated that Kåñëa never goes out of Goloka Våndävana. When He goes, He goes in His Väsudeva feature. Kåñëa expands Himself—Väsudeva, Saìkarñaëa. Therefore when this is described in the Vaiñëava literature, a great literary novelist, Bankimacandra Chatterji, he misunderstood that Kåñëa of Våndävana is different from the Kåñëa of Kurukñetra or Dvärakä." (Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. 31st December 1966, lecture on Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya-lila 20:367:84

From Nectar of Devotion: chapter 42.

Learned scholars have divided Kåñëa's age into three periods: the age up through five years is called kaumära, the age from the sixth through the tenth year is called paugaëòa, and the age from the eleventh through fifteenth year is called kaiçora. While Kåñëa is spending His days as a cowherd boy, He is in the kaumära and paugaëòa ages. In the kaiçora age, when Kåñëa appeared in Gokula, He acted as a cowherd boy, and then, when He was sixteen, He went to Mathurä to kill Kaàsa.

The kaumära age is just suitable for reciprocating the love of a child with mother Yaçodä. In the Tenth Canto, Thirteenth Chapter, verse 11, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Çukadeva Gosvämé tells King Parékñit, "My dear King, although Lord Kåñëa is the supreme enjoyer and the beneficiary of all kinds of sacrificial ceremonies, He still used to eat with His cowherd boyfriends. This is because at that time He accepted the pastimes of an ordinary boy, keeping His flute under His arm and His bugle on the right side in His belt, along with His cane. In His left hand He would hold a lump of rice paste with yogurt, and in His fingers would be pélu, the king of fruits. When He would thus sit among His friends, it would appear that He was the whorl of a lotus flower and that the friends surrounding Him were petals. As they thus enjoyed joking among themselves, the denizens of heaven would become struck with wonder and would only stare at the scene."
Kåñëa's paugaëòa age can be further divided into three periods—namely the beginning, middle and end. In the beginning of the paugaëòa age there is a very nice reddish luster on His lips, His abdomen is very thin, and on His neck are circles like those on a conchshell. Sometimes, some outside visitors would return to Våndävana to see Kåñëa and, upon seeing Him again, would exclaim, "My dear Mukunda, Your beauty is gradually increasing, just like the leaf on a banyan tree! My dear lotus-eyed one, Your neck is gradually manifesting circles like those of the conchshell. And in the shining moonlight Your teeth and cheeks are competing with the padmaräga jewels in their beautiful arrangement. I am sure that Your beautiful bodily development is now giving much pleasure to Your friends."

At this age Kåñëa was garlanded with various kinds of flowers. He used to put on a silk dress, colored with various kinds of dye. Such beautiful decorations are considered cosmetics for Kåñëa. Kåñëa would wear this dress when He used to go into the forest to tend the cows. Sometimes He would wrestle there with His different friends, and sometimes they would dance all together in the forest. These are some of the specific activities of the paugaëòa age.
The cowherd friends of Kåñëa were so happy in His company that they expressed their transcendental feelings within themselves thus: "Dear Kåñëa, You are always busy tending the cows which are scattered all over beautiful Våndävana. You have a beautiful garland, a small conchshell, a peacock feather on Your turban, yellow-colored silk cloth, decorations of karëikära flowers on Your ears and a mallikä flower garland on Your chest. Appearing so beautiful, when You pretend, just like an actor, to be fighting with us, You give us unlimited transcendental bliss."
When Kåñëa is more grown up, in the middle age of paugaëòa, His nails become finely sharp, and His chubby cheeks become lustrous and round. On the two sides of His waist above His belt there are three distinct lines of folded skin, called trivalé.
The cowherd boyfriends of Kåñëa felt very proud of their association with Him. At that time the tip of His nose defeated the beauty of sesame flowers, the luster of His cheeks defeated the glow of pearls, and the two sides of His body were exquisitely beautiful. In this age Kåñëa wore a silk dress that glittered like lightning, His head was decorated with a silk turban covered with gold lace, and in His hand He carried a stick about fifty-six inches long.* Seeing this exquisitely beautiful dress of Kåñëa, one devotee addressed his friend in this manner: "My dear friend, just look at Kåñëa! See how He is carrying in His hand a stick which is bound up and down with golden rings, how His turban with golden lace is showing such a beautiful luster, and how His dress is giving His friends the highest transcendental pleasure!"
At the end of Kåñëa's paugaëòa age, Kåñëa's hair sometimes hangs down to His hips, and sometimes it becomes scattered. In this age His two shoulders become higher and broader, and His face is always decorated with marks of tilaka. When His beautiful hair scatters over His shoulders, it appears to be a goddess of fortune embracing Him, and this embracing is highly relished by His friends. Subala once addressed Him in this way: "My dear Keçava, Your round turban, the lotus flower in Your hand, the vertical marks of tilaka on Your forehead, Your kuàkum-flavored musk and all of Your beautiful bodily features are defeating me today, although I am usually stronger than You or any of our friends. Since this is so, I do not know how these features of Your body can fail to defeat the pride of all the young girls of Våndävana. When I am so defeated by this beauty, what chance is there for those who are naturally very simple and flexible?"
At this age Kåñëa took pleasure in whispering into the ears of His friends, and the subject of His talks was the beauty of the gopés, who were just tarrying before them. Subala once addressed Kåñëa thus: "My dear Kåñëa, You are very cunning. You can understand the thoughts of others; therefore I am whispering within Your ear that all of these five gopés, who are most beautiful, have been attracted by Your dress. And I believe that Cupid has entrusted them with the responsibility of conquering You." In other words, the beauty of the gopés was capable of conquering Kåñëa, although Kåñëa is the conqueror of all universes.

The symptoms of the kaiçora age have already been described, and it is at this age that devotees generally most appreciate Kåñëa. Kåñëa with Rädhäräëé is worshiped as Kiçora-kiçoré. Kåñëa does not increase His age that although He is the oldest personality and has innumerable different forms, His original form is always youthful. In the pictures of Kåñëa on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra we can see that He is youthful, although at that time He was old enough to have sons, grandsons and great-grandsons. The cowherd boyfriends of Kåñëa once said, "Dear Kåñëa, You need not decorate Your body with so many ornaments. Your transcendental features are themselves so beautiful that You do not require any ornamentation." At this age, whenever Kåñëa begins to vibrate His flute early in the morning, all of His friends immediately get up from bed just to join Him in going to the pasturing grounds. One of the friends once said, "My dear cowherd friends, the sound of Kåñëa's flute from above Govardhana Hill is telling us that we need not go to search Him out on the bank of the Yamunä."
Pärvaté, the wife of Lord Çiva, told her husband, "My dear Païcamukha [five-faced], just look at the Päëòavas! After hearing the sound of Kåñëa's conchshell, known as Päïcajanya, they have regained their strength and are just like lions."
At this age, Kåñëa once dressed Himself up exactly like Rädhäräëé, just to create fun among His friends. He put on golden earrings, and because He was blackish, He smeared the pulp of kuàkum all over His body in order to become as fair as She. By seeing this dress, Kåñëa's friend Subala became very astonished.

Kåñëa played with His intimate friends sometimes by fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball and sometimes by playing chess. Sometimes they carried one another on their shoulders, and sometimes they exhibited their expertness at whirling logs. And the cowherd friends used to please Kåñëa by sitting together with Him on couches or on swings, by lying together on their beds, by joking together and by swimming in the pool. All these activities are called anubhäva. Whenever all the friends would assemble in the company of Kåñëa, they would immediately engage in all these functions, especially in dancing together. Regarding their wrestling, one friend once asked Kåñëa, "My dear friend, O killer of the Agha demon, You are very proudly wandering among Your friends trying to exhibit Your arms as very strong. Is it that You are envious of me? I know that You cannot defeat me in wrestling, and I also know that You were sitting idly for a long time because You were hopeless of defeating me."
All the friends were very daring and would risk any difficulty, because they were confident that Kåñëa would help them to be victorious in all adventures. They used to sit together and advise one another what to do, sometimes inducing one another to be engaged in welfare work. Sometimes they would offer betel nuts to one another, decorate one another's faces with tilaka or smear pulp of candana on one another's bodies. Sometimes, for the sake of amusement, they used to decorate their faces in strange ways. Another business of the friends was that each of them wanted to defeat Kåñëa. Sometimes they used to snatch His clothing or snatch away the flowers from His hands. Sometimes one would try to induce another to decorate his body for him, and failing this, they were always ready to fight, challenging one another to combat in wrestling. These were some of the general activities of Kåñëa and His friends.

Another important pastime of the friends of Kåñëa was that they served as messengers to and from the gopés; they introduced the gopés to Kåñëa and canvassed for Kåñëa. When the gopés were in disagreement with Kåñëa, these friends would support Kåñëa's side in His presence—but when Kåñëa was not present, they would support the side of the gopés. In this way, sometimes supporting one side, sometimes the other, they would talk very privately, with much whispering in the ears, although none of the business was very serious.
The servants of Kåñëa were sometimes engaged in collecting flowers, decorating His body with valuable ornaments and trinkets, dancing before Him, singing, helping Him herd the cows, massaging His body, preparing flower garlands and sometimes fanning His body. These were some of the primary duties of the servants of Kåñëa. The friends and servants of Kåñëa were combined together in serving Him, and all of their activities are known as anubhäva.
When Kåñëa came out from the Yamunä after chastising the Käliya-näga, Çrédämä wanted to embrace Him first, but he could not raise his arms because of his great feeling of respect.
When Kåñëa used to play on His flute, the vibration appeared just like the roaring of clouds in the sky during the constellation of Sväté. According to Vedic astronomical calculation, if there is rain during the constellation of the Sväté star, any rain falling on the sea will produce pearls, and rain falling on a serpent will produce jewels. Similarly, when Kåñëa's flute roared like a thundercloud under the Sväté constellation, the resulting perspiration on Çrédämä's body appeared to be just like pearls.
When Kåñëa and Subala were embracing one another, Çrématé Rädhäräëé became a little envious, and hiding Her hot temperament She said, "My dear Subala, you are very fortunate because even in the presence of superiors you and Kåñëa have no hesitation in putting your arms on each other's shoulders. I think it must be admitted that in your previous lives you have succeeded in many kinds of austerities." The idea is that although Rädhäräëé was accustomed to putting Her arms on Kåñëa's shoulders, it was not possible for Her to do such a thing in the presence of Her superiors, whereas Subala could do so freely. Rädhäräëé therefore praised his good fortune.
When Kåñëa entered the lake of Käliya, His intimate friends became so perturbed that their bodily colors faded, and they all produced horrible gurgling sounds. At that time all of them fell down on the ground as if unconscious. Similarly, when there was a forest fire, all of Kåñëa's friends neglected their own protection and surrounded Kåñëa on all sides to protect Him from the flames. This behavior of the friends toward Kåñëa is described by thoughtful poets as vyabhicäré. In vyabhicäré ecstatic love for Kåñëa there is sometimes madness, dexterity, fear, laziness, jubilation, pride, dizziness, meditation, disease, forgetfulness and humbleness. These are some of the common symptoms in the stage of vyabhicäré ecstatic love for Kåñëa.

When there are dealings between Kåñëa and His friends which are completely devoid of any feelings of respect and they all treat one another on an equal level, such ecstatic love in friendship is called sthäyé. When one is situated in this confidential friendly relationship with Kåñëa, one shows symptoms of love such as attraction, affection, affinity and attachment. An example of sthäyé was exhibited when Arjuna told Akrüra, "My dear son of Gändiné, please ask Kåñëa when I shall be able to embrace Him in my arms."
When there is full knowledge of Kåñëa's superiority and yet in dealings with Him on friendly terms respectfulness is completely absent, that stage is called affection. There is one brilliant example of this affection. When the demigods, headed by Lord Çiva, were offering respectful prayers to Kåñëa, describing the glorious opulences of the Lord, Arjuna stood before Him with his hand on His shoulders and brushed the dust from His peacock feather.
When the Päëòavas were banished by Duryodhana and forced to live incognito in the forest, no one could trace out where they were staying. At that time, the great sage Närada met Lord Kåñëa and said, "My dear Mukunda, although You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-powerful person, by making friendship with You the Päëòavas have become bereft of their legitimate right to the kingdom of the world—and, moreover, they are now living in the forest incognito. Sometimes they must work as ordinary laborers in someone else's house. These symptoms appear to be very inauspicious materially, but the beauty is that the Päëòavas have not lost their faith and love for You, in spite of all these tribulations. In fact, they are always thinking of You and chanting Your name in ecstatic friendship."

Another example of acute affection for Kåñëa is given in the Tenth Canto, Fifteenth Chapter, verse 18, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam. In the pasturing ground Kåñëa felt a little tired and wanted to take rest, so He lay down on the ground. At that time, many cowherd boys assembled there and with great affection began to sing suitable songs so that Kåñëa would rest very nicely.
There is a nice example of the friendship between Kåñëa and Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra. When the fighting was going on, Açvatthämä, the son of Droëäcärya, unceremoniously attacked Kåñëa, although according to the prevailing rules of chivalry one's chariot driver should never be attacked by the enemy. Açvatthämä behaved heinously in so many ways that he did not hesitate to attack Kåñëa's body, although Kåñëa was acting only as charioteer for Arjuna. When Arjuna saw that Açvatthämä was releasing various kinds of arrows to hurt Kåñëa, he immediately stood in front of Kåñëa to intercept all of them. At that time, although Arjuna was being harmed by those arrows, he felt an ecstatic love for Kåñëa, and the arrows appeared to him like showers of flowers.
There is another instance of ecstatic love for Kåñëa in friendship. Once when a cowherd boy named Våñabha was collecting flowers from the forest to prepare a garland to be offered to Kåñëa, the sun reached its zenith, and although the sunshine was scorching hot, Våñabha felt it to be like the moonshine. That is the way of rendering transcendental loving service to the Lord; when devotees are put into great difficulties—even like the Päëòavas, as described above—they feel all their miserable conditions to be great facilities for serving the Lord.

Another instance of Arjuna's friendship with Kåñëa was described by Närada, who reminded Kåñëa, "When Arjuna was learning the art of shooting arrows, he could not see You for so many days. But when You arrived there, he stopped all His activities and immediately embraced You." This means that even though Arjuna was engaged in learning about the military art, he had not forgotten Kåñëa for a moment, and as soon as there was an opportunity to see Kåñëa, Arjuna immediately embraced Him.
One servant of Kåñëa named Patré once addressed Him like this: "My dear Lord, You protected the cowherd boys from the hunger of the Aghäsura demon, and You protected them from the poisonous effects of the Käliya snake. And You also saved them from the fierce forest fire. But I am suffering from Your separation, which is more severe than the hunger of Aghäsura, the poison of Lake Käliya and the burning of the forest fire. So why should You not protect me from the pangs of separation?" Another friend once told Kåñëa, "My dear enemy of Kaàsa, since You have left us, the heat of separation has become extraordinary. And this heat is felt more severely when we understand that in Bhäëòéravana You are being refreshed by the waves of the cooling river known as Bhänu-tanayä [Rädhäräëé]." The purport is that when Kåñëa was engaged with Rädhäräëé, the cowherd boys headed by Subala were feeling great separation, and that was unbearable for them.
Another friend addressed Kåñëa thus: "My dear Kåñëa, O killer of Aghäsura, when You left Våndävana to kill King Kaàsa in Mathurä, all the cowherd boys became bereft of their four bhütas [the elements earth, water, fire and space]. And the fifth bhüta, the air, was flowing very rapidly within their nostrils." When Kåñëa went to Mathurä to kill King Kaàsa, all the cowherd boys became so afflicted by the separation that they almost died. When a person is dead it is said that he has given up the five elements, known as bhütas, as the body again mixes with the five elements from which it was prepared. In this case, although the four elements earth, water, fire and ether were already gone, the remaining element, air, was still very prominent and was blowing through their nostrils furiously. In other words, after Kåñëa left Våndävana, the cowherd boys were always anxious about what would happen in His fight with King Kaàsa.
Another friend once informed Kåñëa, "When one of Your friends was feeling much separation from You, there were tears covering his lotus eyes, and so the black drones of sleep became discouraged from entering his eyes and left that place." When there is a lotus flower, the black drones fly into it to collect honey. The eyes of Kåñëa's friend are compared to the lotus flower, and because they were full of tears the black drones of sleep could not collect honey from his lotus eyes and therefore left the place. In other words, because he was too much afflicted, his eyes were full of tears, and he could not sleep. This is an example of staying up at night because of separation from Kåñëa.
An example of helplessness is described in the following statement: "Due to Kåñëa's departure from Våndävana to Mathurä, Kåñëa's dearest cowherd boys felt as mentally light as possible. They were like fragments of cotton, lighter than the air, and were all floating in the air without any shelter." In other words, the minds of the cowherd boys became almost vacant on account of Kåñëa's separation. An example of impatience was also shown by the cowherd boys when Kåñëa went to Mathurä. Out of the sorrow of separation, all these boys forgot to take care of their cowherding and tried to forget all the melodious songs they used to sing in the pasturing ground. At last they had no desire to live anymore, being separated from Kåñëa.
An example of stillness was described by a friend of Kåñëa's who informed Him in Mathurä that all the cowherd boys had become just like leafless trees on the tops of hills. They appeared almost naked, being skinny and frail, and did not carry any fruits or flowers. He informed Kåñëa that all the cowherd boys residing in Våndävana were as still as the trees at the tops of hills. Sometimes they felt diseased from their separation from Kåñëa, and being so greatly disappointed, they were aimlessly wandering on the banks of the Yamunä.
There is also an example of madness caused by separation from Kåñëa. When Kåñëa was absent from Våndävana, all the cowherd boys became bewildered, and having given up all kinds of activities, they appeared to be mad and forgot all their regular business. They were sometimes lying down on the ground, sometimes rolling in the dust, sometimes laughing and sometimes running very swiftly. All of these symptoms gave them the appearance of madmen. One friend of Kåñëa's criticized Him by saying, "My dear Lord, You have become the King of Mathurä after killing Kaàsa, and that is very good news for us. But at Våndävana all the residents have become blind from their continuous crying over Your absence. They are full only of anxieties and are not cheered at all by Your becoming the King of Mathurä."

Sometimes there were also signs of death caused by separation from Kåñëa. Once Kåñëa was told, "My dear enemy of Kaàsa, because of their separation from You, the cowherd boys are suffering too much, and they are now lying down in the valleys, breathing only slightly. In order to sympathize with the boys' regrettable condition, even the forest friends, the deer, are shedding tears."
In the Mathurä-khaëòa chapter of the Skanda Puräëa, there is a description of Kåñëa and Balaräma, surrounded by all the cowherd boys, always engaged in taking care of the cows and calves. When Kåñëa was met by Arjuna at a potter's shop in the city of Drupada-nagara, because of the similarity of their bodily features they made intimate friendship. This is an instance of friendship caused by the attraction of similar bodies.
In the Tenth Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Seventy-first Chapter, verse 27, it is stated that when Kåñëa arrived in the city of Indraprastha, Bhéma was so overwhelmed with joy that with tears in his eyes and a smiling face he immediately embraced his maternal cousin. Following him were his young brothers Nakula and Sahadeva, along with Arjuna, and they all became so overwhelmed at seeing Kåñëa that with full satisfaction they embraced the Lord, who is known as Acyuta (the infallible). There is a similar statement about the cowherd boys of Våndävana. When Kåñëa was on the Battlefield of Kurukñetra, all the cowherd boys came to see Him, wearing jeweled earrings in their ears. Becoming so greatly overjoyed, they extended their arms and embraced Kåñëa as their old friend. These are instances of full satisfaction in friendship with Kåñëa.

In the Tenth Canto, Twelfth Chapter, verse 12, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, it is stated that even after undergoing severe penances and austerities and performing the yogic principles, the great mystic yogés can hardly become eligible to achieve the dust of the lotus feet of Kåñëa, but the same Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, is easily available to the vision of the residents of Våndävana. This means there is no comparison to the great fortune of these devotees. The friendly relationship of the cowherd boys with Kåñëa is a particular type of spiritual ecstasy almost similar to the ecstasy of conjugal love. This ecstasy of loving affairs between the cowherd boys and Kåñëa is very difficult to explain. Great expert devotees like Rüpa Gosvämé express their astonishment at the inconceivable feelings which are in Kåñëa and His cowherd boyfriends.
This particular type of ecstatic love shared between Kåñëa and His confidential friends further develops into parental love, and on from there it may develop into conjugal love, the most exalted humor, or mellow, of ecstatic love between Lord Kåñëa and His devotees. (NOD chapter 42.)

Capturing some of the Mood:


The celebration generally consists of bhajan, kirtan, chanting of holy mantras, and preparation of ‘jhoolan’ or swing, where the idol of lord Krishna and His beloved Radha is kept and worshiped in the evening. Preparation of sweets and traditional goodies, dressing up small children the same way lord Krishna did in His childhood days, etc., are some of the other important aspects of this festival.

However, what attracts the pilgrims most is the raasleelas—a kind of folk theatre that narrates the various aspects of Krishna’s life. Every year, with the onset of the rainy season, the raasleelas begin. Under a huge canopy, a vast crowd (men on one side and women on the other) sits in rapt attention, watching the events unfold on the stage. Raasleelas are held in every corner of the city, particularly in Brindavan. Some are staged by troupes that have been around for 50 years; some are not so old; but all of them are put up with great love and devotion by the actors and musicians, and are watched by an equally devout audience. In fact, while watching the raasleelas the audience periodically breaks out into the resounding cry, Krishna bhagwan ki jai! (Hail Lord Krishna). The raasleelas are always put up on a stage blazing with light and color. Huge sheets of silk in bright colors (red, blue, yellow) embellished with sequins and gold work form the backdrop. The raasleelas are usually in Brajbhasha, the dialect of the region, but once in a way, the actors improvise and break into Hindi. The musicians sit in one corner of the stage, singing with the barest accompaniment—just a harmonium and a tabla. The most interesting aspect of the raasleelas is the fact that Krishna is always played by a young boy, never a grown up man, and when the show ends, the people quietly queue up to go onstage and offer their prayers to Lord Krishna. Reverentially, they touch the little boy’s feet, and drop their offerings in a big urn placed next to him. For the devotees, the young boy playing Krishna is not human at that time—he is a manifestation of Lord himself.


The ceremony that follows is a very simple affair. To the chanting of mantras, the priests bathe the idol with Gangajal (water from the holy Ganges river), milk, ghee (clarified butter), oil, and honey. Yellow-robed priests pour all these from a conch shell. Once the ceremony is over, it is time for devotees to break their daylong fast and to pack their bags and head homeward. Janmashtami is celebrated on the eighth day of the new moon in the lunar month of Bhadra corresponding to the months of August–September of the western calendar.

In Janmashtami, the moment of importance is midnight when Krishna is born. People fast all day (some without even water) and eat only after the midnight birth ceremony is over. Temples and homes all over India display jhankis (tableaux) showing important incidents from the Lord’s life. Often the image of the baby Krishna is placed on a swing and bathed with charanamrit (holy water). Midnight prayers are performed. The sound of hymns and religious songs extol the greatness of Krishna. While this festival is celebrated throughout the country, it is in Mathura that the celebrations reach their peak. The midnight ceremony is often relayed live to devotees by radio and television.


Krishna, the eighth of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu (the Preserver of the Universe), is one of Hinduism’s most popular gods, and his story is a long one, which can only be very briefly outlined here. He was born at Mathura to Vasudeva and Devaki, the cousin of the ruling King Kansa. It was prophesied that Devaki’s eighth son would kill Kansa. Kansa imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva and killed her children as they were born. However, Krishna was smuggled out of the prison and brought up as the child of the cowherd Nanda and his wife Yashoda at Gokul.
Legend has it that when Devaki was with child, she glowed with an almost unearthly light. When Krishna was born, everything was auspicious—the planets and stars were in the right position, the rivers and lakes were clear and sweet, flowers bloomed everywhere, and an air of tranquility pervaded the earth. As the newborn child came into the world, Vasudeva and Devaki looked at him in wonder. This was not an ordinary child. The Lord had appeared in his real form. Dark as a rain-cloud, the child made the prison glow with the splendor of his crown, his jewelry, and his yellow silk robes. Even as they were looking on, his divine form was lost and he became an ordinary child in their eyes. Vasudeva had been commanded to take the child and leave him in Gokul, in the house of Nanda. Vasudeva placed the child in a small wicker basket and as he wondered how to get across the locked doors, a miracle took place. The locks snapped open. Vasudeva walked towards the door and found that the guards were all sunk in deep sleep. He quickly walked out and reached the banks of the river Yamuna. Suddenly, the sky became overcast and torrents of rain lashed the ground. Vasudeva did not know how he was going to cross the river, but, placing his faith in the Lord, he plunged into the water. The great serpent Adisesha, with his two thousand hoods, protected the child from the rain and the water in the Yamuna receded to give way to Vasudeva.

In his childhood, the incarnate God performed many miracles, but also played childish pranks that have been immortalized in the rich folklore of India. His flirtations with the wives and daughters of the cowherds (gopis) are legendary. Nevertheless, his favorite gopi was the beautiful Radha.

Eventually, he gave up his idyllic pastoral life, and turned his attention to destroying his wicked uncle, Kansa. After slaying him, he founded a new capital, Dwarka, and married Rukmini, daughter of the king of Vidharba.


Except for Dwarka, which is in Gujarat, most of Krishna’s story unfolds in Mathura and its environs. Brindavan (15 km from Mathura), where he played the flute, sported with the gopis, and wooed his sweetheart Radha; Govardhan (26 km away) where, as a child, he is said to have held aloft the Govardhan mountain on his finger for seven days and nights to protect the cowherds from a deluge; Gokul (16 km), where baby Krishna was kept hidden and sheltered from the evil King Kansa by his foster mother Yashoda; Barsana (21 km from Govardhan), the birthplace of Radha; all these and many other small towns are significant because they were in some way connected with Krishna. Not surprisingly, the entire area, called Brajbhoomi, is deeply steeped in Krishna lore. Janmashtami is celebrated in this entire area with incredible fervor and gaiety. However, the place which is considered the holiest is obviously Mathura, and within Mathura too, one particular temple that is built on the exact site where Krishna was born.

It is estimated that during Janmashtami, almost seven lakh people pour into Mathura and the surrounding towns. Buses crammed with pilgrims come from every corner of the country and line every lane and road in Mathura. Every hotel, every guesthouse, is full, and if one has not made arrangements, one cannot get a room anywhere in the city for all the money in the world. So a lot of pilgrims simply camp wherever they find place—in a park, on the pavement, even on the road! All of Mathura becomes a sort of giant living room, with people sitting, sleeping and cooking wherever they can find a square inch. They throng the temples (of which there are many in Mathura), and wander around the innumerable little bazaars that mushroom all over the city. Snack stalls, mithai (sweet) shops, tiny shacks selling trinkets and baubles, others selling religious books and cassettes, and pictures of Lord Krishna spring up magically on every road
Nevertheless, the real crowds during Janmashtami, of course, are at the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple. Hundreds of pilgrims squat on every inch of the temple grounds, fanning themselves with newspapers and listening in pin drop silence to the discourses of erudite religious teachers—discourses relayed through a close circuit television network to every corner of the temple. Many people simply camp in the temple all day so that they can witness the midnight birth ceremony. As night falls, the crowds swell into the proverbial sea of humanity, jostling and pushing, in an attempt to get into the temple. The main hall of the temple, where the ceremony actually takes place, is usually so tightly packed with people that there isn’t place to even squeeze in a pin! As twelve o’clock draws nearer, an anticipatory murmur runs through the crowd and it starts straining to get a glimpse of what the priests are doing. At the stroke of midnight, when the deity is taken out, the crowd lets out a mighty roar, Krishna bhagwan ki jai! The sound of frenzied clapping, the call of the conch shell rents the air, as the small deity, wrapped in white, is placed on a raised platform so that everyone can get a look.

Besides Mathura, this festival is celebrated all over India with the special procedure and the regional festivities that are normally followed in each region.


The best places to visit during this festival time are Mathura, Brindavan, and Dwarka. These mythological places are related to Lord Krishna and hence, celebrate this festival following various programs. Raasleelas, local plays, dramas, etc., mark most of the festivities.

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