nvcommunications: On Wednesday, September 1, millions of people around the world will observe the ancient Vedic festival called Krishna Janmastami. Technically, Janmastami marks the day on which Lord Krishna descended from the spiritual world to the planet earth 5,000 years ago. Commonly, however, Janmastami is known as the joyful celebration of Lord Krishnaâ€™s birth.
The ritual is to fast the entire day of Janmastami, followed by a midnight celebration with singing, dancing, and a free vegetarian feast commemorating the birth of Lord Krishna. â€śLast year, New Vrindaban had approximately 100 different preparations. The midnight feast is a great opportunity to try out a smorgasbord of eastern and western dishes, all of which are made with love,â€ť said Malati Dasi, one of New Vrindabanâ€™s GBCs. For those who may feel hunger pangs earlier in the day, Govindaâ€™s Snack Bar and Restaurant will be open all day.
â€śNew Vrindaban is holding four Janmastami celebrations this year, due to the large number of out-of-town we will receive,â€ť explained Malati. â€śWe hold one celebration on August 28, and we will hold two more during Labor Day on September 4 and 5. But there is only one midnight celebration â€“ on the actual day of Janmastami. On the other days, the celebration is earlier in the evening.â€ť
The story of Lord Krishnaâ€™s birth, described in the ancient Vedic treatise Srimad-Bhagavatam, is a story full of political intrigue and mystic occurrences. Just after the marriage of Vasudeva and Devaki, Devakiâ€™s brother, the powerful King Kamsa, heard a celestial voice call to him and say that the eighth child of Devaki would kill him. Immediately after hearing this prophesy from the sky, Kamsa caught hold of Devakiâ€™s hair and was about to kill her with his sword. Vasudeva, who was shocked by the behavior of his cruel, shameless brother-in-law, immediately tried to pacify Kamsa in order to save Devakiâ€™s life. Finally, in desperation, Vasudeva offered to bring all of Devakiâ€™s future children to Kamsa as soon as they were born. At first, Kamsa agreed to this proposal. Later, however, Kamsa reneged on the agreement and imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki in a cell in his kingdom of Mathura.
Years later, Lord Krishna was born at midnight in the jail cell in Mathura. Just after his birth, Krishna unlocked the jail cell and put the guards to sleep by his mystic power. Vasudeva then carried Krishna across the Yamuna River to Vrindaban, where Krishna was raised by his foster parents, Nanda and Yashoda. â€śEvery year, millions of pilgrims visit the jail cell of Krishnaâ€™s birth in Mathura, located in north-central India. This jail cell really exists and it matches the description in Srimad-Bhagavatam, which dates back over 5,000 years,â€ť said Malati. â€śThere are also innumerable artifacts in Vrindaban that match descriptions in Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is proof that Krishna is a historical figure, and not simply a mythological figure as propounded by the nineteenth-century British who colonized India.â€ť
Although Janmastami has been celebrated for thousands of years in India, this festival was introduced world-wide in the 1960â€™s and 1970â€™s by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). â€śThe first Janmastami celebration by westerns and for westerners was in 1966 at ISKCON headquarters in New York City,â€ť said Malati. â€śSince then, Janmastami has grown into a non-sectarian festival of Indiaâ€™s ancient culture and tradition.â€ť
On Thursday, September 2, the day following Janmastami, Hare Krishna devotees around the world will observe Prabhupadaâ€™s birthday. â€śAlthough there will be festivals all over the planet, the celebration in New Vrindaban is special for North Americans. Prabhupadaâ€™s Palace of Gold, located in New Vrindaban, is the official memorial site for Prabhupada in North America, and a special evening celebration dedicated to his life and memory will be held at the Palace,â€ť said Malati.
New Vrindaban Community and Prabhupadaâ€™s Palace of Gold are located south of Moundsville â€“ Wheeling, off Route 250. For more information about the Janmastami festival or about Prabhupadaâ€™s birthday celebration, contact (304) 845-9591 or mail@NewVrindaban.com.