What am I missing today is the celebration of Janamshtami. I come from Delhi; a city, which for most people who is not from Delhi, is known to be a loud city and I don’t deny that. Delhi is loud and that is why all the festivals are celebrated with full fervor.
Markets are lit 15 days ahead of Diwali; you get to see colors on people’s faces at least 2 weeks before its Holi. New Year celebration starts from 1st December, Valentines day means red heart shaped balloons every where, Santa Clauses distributing goodies from the 20th of December, big boards of festival discounts, colorful e-mails carrying good wishes, children coming every now and then to collect money to celebrate either Ram Lila, Bhagwati Jagran or Janmashtami.
As a child I also celebrated Janmashtami inspired by my dad who also celebrated the festival the way it had been celebrated for so many years. Friends would gather, they would go from one house to the other in the neighborhood, collect money. Some people will give money and some will just send you back. The amount would vary from Rs.2 to Rs.10.
This money will then be used to buy the small clay toys, which are sold especially for Janmashtami. Small cows, Krishna’s father Vasu Dev, Devaki, Shiva’s Head and other similar artifacts. A place in the colony is selected where a pit is dug. This pit is then filled with water because that’s how the river Yamuna is shown in Delhi. Then the river is decorated with colorful chalks, lights. False mount Kailash is created and Shiva is placed on top. If you have a generous aunty and a plumber savvy neighborhood “Bhaiyya” then you also get a Ganga and Yamuna flowing from Mount Kailash. The prasad is usually “Boondi” and 2 most important things other than all this are placed. These are a jhoola or a cradle where Bal Gopal or little Krishna is placed so that people can come and rock the cradle with the help of a thread, which is tied to that cradle and the other important thing being the jail in which Krishna’s parents where captured.
In the water pit, Vasu Dev is kept because that is how he crossed the river to save Krishna.
The entire area is then lit up with long wires and bulbs and electricity taken from some other generous uncle. Small kids are made to dress up like Radha and Krishna.
This is how Janmashtami has been celebrated in Delhi for so many years. I am not sure if children find the time and motivation from there parents to celebrate these festival these days and if the modern society, apartment managers allow the kids to celebrate the festival in the traditional style.
These festivals are more of a learning experience for a child rather than a religious practice. It teaches a child the essence of teamwork, leadership, organizing and management.
I remember the 1st time when I celebrated Janmashtami, I celebrated it with a Muslim friend of mine and even asked her to get an idol of Krishna. She went and asked her mom if they had any Krishna idol and Mrs. Ali said, “No.” That’s how innocent childhood is.
Once I grew up the responsibility of celebration passed on to the next generation of kids and they did a good job. We would go out and check out every colony’s Janmashtami decoration and pass our verdict. Its as similar as going to different Durga Puja pandals and see the decorations.
Delhi in many ways is a very lively city. Every year 15th Aug is celebrated as a National festival with people in patriotic mood, playing patriotic songs, in the evening kite flying is a must do followed by how many kites one could steal. On Rakshabandhan you would see men with huge Rakhis on their wrist. Sleepy husbands taking their decked up wives to their brother’s homes. Aunties looking for young girls for Kanchak, children collecting wood for Lohri, Ram Lila convoys passing by with small, thin boys dressed up as monkeys, huge effigies of Ravan, women in shimmering dresses on Id and Karwachaut. It’s a different experience all together if you are in Delhi during festivals.
The city that I live in these days is completely opposite. It’s all that what Delhi is not. It’s quite yet chaotic, cold and a weather and life so uniform throughout the year, 365 days that unless you read it in the Newspaper you would not even come to know that yesterday was 15th Aug.
Today also passed like any other Sunday. Today was Janmashtami but without any celebration. I made some halwa at home and we were done.