Hindus across the globe will be celebrating Janmashtami, which is an annual Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna, believed to be the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu.

It is usually observed on the eighth day or Ashtami of the Krishna Paksha in the month of Shravan or Bhadrapad (more on Shravan in a later article).

This year, Janmashtami celebrations start on Tuesday August 11, with many also likely to celebrate it the next day. Krishna puja is usually conducted at midnight; the ritualistic puja includes 16 steps which are part of the Shodashopachara puja vidhi.

Pandit Haridas Sharanji, who formerly offered his services at the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Temple, on Leeds Road, Bradford and is now employed as a Chaplain for Leeds NHS Trust tells us about the significance of Janmashtami and celebrating during times of Covid.

Pandit Haridas Sharanji

Haridasji told Asian Sunday that Krishna was born in Mathura at midnight on the eighth day of the Bhadrapada month. He says: “It is believed by legends that Krishna was born in prison, where his parents were imprisoned by his uncle King Kansa.

“Krishna was reincarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu and appeared to re-establish the principles of Dharma and the Bhagwad Geeta.

“On Janmashtami, therefore, devotees fast, temples are decorated, a host of cultural events take place, with dramas and venerations of Lord Krishna. Food is also distributed, and huge crowds attend the celebrations.

“People come from all over to celebrate his birthday”

Haridasji hails from the same village in India where Lord Krishna was raised – Vrindavan. He told us how the celebrations were always packed with huge crowds, however this year with the global pandemic celebrations will have to be restricted in India and here in the UK too.

Haridasji told us that devotees tend to celebrate at home during the day and then in the evening in the temple. This year however, temple goers will have to observe Covid restrictions, where popular temples like Shri Lakshmi Narayan in Bradford, have implemented full social distancing measures, which means that only the management team of the temple will be present for Janmashtami celebrations.

Haridasji said: “People usually gather for the veneration, but this year we plan not to do the veneration at Lakshmi Narayan mandir, but a walk through darshan so no one can stay for a long time – meeting Covid guidelines.

“However, it’s important to remember the teachings of Lord Krishna, who said if my devotees fail to manage to come to me, I will come to them.

“Look within and they will find me in their heart.

“He (Lord Krishna) is not after huge celebrations. He is very much pleased with patram pushpam phalam, which means flower, fruit and water.

So, while Haridasji is advising to stay at home and celebrate, he also believes that this year devotees will enjoy the celebrations more. “You will be able to give more this way.” He asserts.

To help ensure devotees don’t miss out on celebrating together this year, the Indian Women’s Community UK along with the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir have organised a special digital Janmashtami celebration via zoom.

The zoom event will showcase music, sermons from the Bhagwad Geeta (religious Hindu book), showcasing of Vrindavan culture and a live ceremony from a temple in India doing veneration of Lord Krishna.

Readers are invited to join the Zoom celebrations and learn more about Janmashtami which is a festival of ‘unconditional love’

Something which is much needed in current times.

Readers can join the Janmashtami celebrations on zoom today from 4pm – 8pm and from 10pm – 1230am. To gain access contact Ravinder Dharni on 07713485049