Krishna Janmashtami celebrations in Iyangar Homes
Gokulashtami or Krishna Janmashtami or Sri Krishna Jayanthi means the birthday of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna, a major Hindu deity worshiped in a variety of different perspectives, is recognised as the ‘Swayam Bhagavan’ in his own right or as the complete/absolute incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
While, Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated in a grand manner all across India, by the Hindus, it is of significant importance for the community of Iyangars in South India. Iyangars or Ayyangars is a community of Hindu Brahmins of Tamil origin, whose members follow the Vishishtadvaita philosophy advocated by Sri Ramanujacharya. They are found mostly in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
There are two groups within the Iyangar community. One known as ‘Tholappar’ and the other as ‘Mannar’. There is a slight difference in the way these two sections of Iyangar celebrating Krishna Janmashtami. Tholappar community celebrate on the day of Rohini Nakshatra (star), while the Mannar celebrate it on the day of Gokulashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. As a general norm, everybody fast during the day and offer prayers to the Lord in the evening and then have their dinner.
The way Iyangars celebrate Krishna Janmashtami is truly breathtaking. I shall walk you through the entire procedure that includes decorations, Pooja and the feast on this day, in Iyangar homes. And, generally in every Iyangar home the preparation of snacks and savouries for this day of the festival begins 4 to 5 days prior.
One of the idols of Krishna will be placed inside a beautifully carved ‘Mantapam’. Also, there is a belief among the community people that they have to buy an idol of Lord Krishna every year. And, every collection Lord Krishna’s idols will be placed inside the Mantapam. The idols will range from a baby Krishna to the romantic Krishna with his Radha. However, one of the idols that is commonly found in every Iyangar home on this day is the Thottilu Krishna (Krishna in a cradle). The baby Krishna will go inside the cradle after the Pooja in the evening. Generally, the ladies of the home take the privilege of placing the baby Krishna in the thottilu (cradle).
The way the Mantapam will be decorated is trulyspectacular. It will be decorated with colour papers and colourful lights. One unique aspect of decoration is, a few fruits including apple, Sweet lime, Orange, Pomegranate, and Chikoo, and some vegetables, including corn and carrot will be tied using a thread to hang it around the idol of Lord Krishna to the Mantapam. This is called ‘Phala Vastram’. For this, the Mantapam will be specially designed and made with hooks.
Another aspect of decoration is making the pictures of two small feet with a white paint or white colour powder, usually rice flour, made into a paste with water. They begin right from the doorstep, and keep repeating it until the Mantapam. This is to depict the new-born Krishna walking and coming in.
Apart from these, the idol will be decorated with flowers, including roses, chrysanthemum, aster and lotus. The idol will also be garlanded with a garland made out of Tulasi leaves.
As Lord Krishna was known for his various fun-filled activities in his stories, kids of the house are given special prominence on the day of this festival. Young children of the house will be dressed up in the attire of Lord Krishna.
The Pooja is performed later in the evening. This is because, it is known that Krishna was born in the midnight. The eldest male in the family performs the Pooja, while others in the family also take part.
During the Pooja, they recite Purusha sooktha, Krishna ashtothara namavali, followed by Mukundha mala shloka and then Vishnu Sahasranama. After this they offer Naivedya (offerings to the Lord), perform Mahamangalaarti and then recite Shaathumorai (singing in the praise of the Lord), and finally the Prasada viniyogam (holy water).
For Naivedya, the Lord is offered with milk, curd, butter, rice flake (poha), and chukka-vellam (dry ginger mixed with jiggery) and Chigali (powdered sesame seeds mixed with jiggery). The same will be offered to the family members after the Pooja, as the Prasadam.
Any festival in India is considered incomplete without a grand feast with a variety of cooked dishes. And, it is more so with Krishna Janmashtami in Iyangar homes. Some of the common dishes include Appam, Curd Vada (Thayarvada), Payasam, Obattu, Kobri Methayi, Rave Undai, Mysoru Pak, Khara Sevai, Pori Undai, Murukku, Muchhore, Kodubale, Sajjappam and Atirasam. For preparing these many number of snacks there is a belief that the number of varieties should always be even.
The festival doesn’t end after the dinner. The next day relatives, friends and neighbours will be invited for the Arati for baby Krishna. The sweets and savouries prepared will be served to them.
In this manner, Krishna Janmashtami in Iyangar homes is celebrated every year. And, people in Iyangar homes always look forward to this day every year.
About the author
Smitha Adarsh is a blogger by choice. Apart from being a blogging expert, she is also a web content and social media expert. Writing has always been her passion and she loves penning down any topic that interests her.