14 Sep 2013
Like many things Indian, I discovered the Krishna Janmashtami Festival over the past few years. It is by far my favorite Hindu festival with all of the special dances and sweets celebrating the birth (August 28) of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
Lord Krishna is the God of Eternal Love and in that way is comparable to Jesus Christ. Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna's infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and to exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct reading of the Hindu religious scriptures.
In Houston, Texas, the Indian community's joyous annual Janmashtami celebration at our largest convention center includes a Baby Krishna costume competition, much dancing, Dharma and Yoga Fest, the usual parade, prayer called puja, live music, all presided over by the Consul General of India. This year 51 organizations participated.
For me, the most touching scenes are of children rocking Baby Krishna's cradle at the various Hindu Temple booths and the harried but proud Mom's and Dad's preparing and participating with their small children in the Bala Krishna beauty pageant. Even little girls are costumed like a Baby or youthful Krishna playing his flute or his mate, Radha. The costumes are so beautiful; I never tire of photographing the children!
Towards the end of the evening, the giant convention floor is cleared for Raas Garba dancing. Thousands of teenagers and adults flood the dance floor dressed in their finest, most beautiful outfits, twirling and hitting each other's sticks in time to live music. The Raas Garba is a holy stick dance. Sometimes danced with a partner, it can also involve long lines that wind wildly around the room. Others stand in a long line opposite their partner and rhythmically click sticks and twirl. It's unbelievably colorful and exciting!