Janmashtami, also known as Krishna Jayanti, is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. It falls on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada, which usually corresponds to August or September in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Janmashtami will be observed on September 6 or 7, depending on the alignment of the Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra1.
Janmashtami is one of the most important and joyous festivals for the devotees of Krishna, who is considered to be the supreme personality of Godhead and the source of all incarnations. Krishna is also known as Madana Mohan, the enchanter of everyone’s heart, and Radha’s beloved consort. The festival commemorates his divine pastimes, such as his birth in a prison cell, his escape from the clutches of the tyrant Kamsa, his childhood and youth in Vrindavan, his love for the gopis (cowherd girls), his role in the Mahabharata war, and his teachings in the Bhagavad Gita.
One of the places where Janmashtami is celebrated with great fervor and devotion is Ujjain, a city in Madhya Pradesh that has a rich spiritual heritage. Ujjain is one of the four sites of the Kumbh Mela, a massive pilgrimage that takes place every 12 years. Ujjain is also where Krishna and his brother Balarama studied at the ashram of their guru Sandipani2. Ujjain is home to many ancient temples dedicated to various deities, including Krishna.
Among these temples, one that stands out for its beauty and grandeur is the Iskcon Ujjain temple, which was inaugurated in 2006 by His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj, one of the senior disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of Iskcon (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness). The Iskcon Ujjain temple is built in white marble and has three magnificent altars for the deities of Radha Madana Mohan, Krishna Balarama, and Gaura Nitai3. The deities are adorned with exquisite dresses and jewelry that are changed every day according to the occasion and season. The temple also has a guest house, a goshala (cow shelter), an ayurvedic clinic, a prasadam hall, a library, and a gift shop.
The Iskcon Ujjain temple celebrates Janmashtami with great enthusiasm and devotion every year. The festivities begin a week before the actual day with various cultural programs, such as kirtans (devotional songs), bhajans (hymns), dances, dramas, lectures, quizzes, and competitions. The temple also organizes a rath yatra (chariot procession) through the streets of Ujjain, where thousands of people join to pull the chariot and chant the holy names of Krishna. On Janmashtami day, the temple is decorated with flowers, lights, and banners. The devotees observe a fast until midnight, which is the auspicious time of Krishna’s birth. They perform abhishekam (ritual bathing) for the deities with water, milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, and other substances. They also offer 108 varieties of food items to Krishna as bhoga (offering). The devotees then break their fast by taking prasadam (sanctified food) that has been blessed by Krishna.
The Iskcon Ujjain temple invites everyone to join them in celebrating Janmashtami and experiencing the bliss of Krishna consciousness. The temple authorities say that by participating in this festival, one can get rid of all sins and attain love for God. They also say that by seeing the beautiful form of Krishna, one can become captivated by his charm and forget all material miseries. They quote a verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.90.48) that says:
yasyānanaṁ makara-kuṇḍala-cāru-karṇa- bhūṣāṇaṁ ratna-gaṇojjvala-nīla-mauktikam vaktraṁ vinindita-sapta-padmārciṣāṁ ca tejasaḥ śrī-mukha-candra-cakora-vartmaśaḥ
“His face decorated with earrings shaped like sharks had beautiful cheeks and nose. His face was radiant with the luster of jewels and pearls. His face was so beautiful that it put to shame the brilliance of the full moon. The path of his eyes was always beautified by the movements of the cakora birds (his eyebrows).”
The Iskcon Ujjain temple welcomes everyone to come and see the face of Krishna and become enchanted by his beauty. They say that this is the best way to celebrate Janmashtami and make one’s life successful.