Celebrate India – Janmashtami with Yatra.comIn India, Janmashtami is celebrated as thebirth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is known bydifferent names all across the country likeKrishnashtami, Saatam Aatham,Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, SrikrishnaJayanti, Sree Jayanthi The temples witness an extravagant and colourful celebration on this occasion. Raaslila isperformed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha. The idol of the infantKrishna is bathed at midnight and is placed in a cradle. Devotional songs and dances mark the celebration of this festiveoccasion all over Northern India.The celebration of Janmashtami is at its peak in the city of Mathura - birth place of Lord Krishna. It is said that LordKrishna was born around 5000 years back to put an end to the evils of demons. The city of Mathura adorns a completefestive look and the devotional mood reaches its pinnacle. The main celebration takes place at the actual place of birth,now converted into a big temple known as Krishna Janma Bhoomi Mandir.Lord’s idol is kept in a room also known as the ‘Garbha Griha’. Devotees keep adaylong fast and break it at midnight after the birth time ofBhagwaan Krishna.All through the day devotees remain immersed in the chanting of Shlokas andname of the Lord.Janmashtami is one of the most popular festivals in the country and iscelebrated almost everywhere. Mumbai and some parts of southern India,likeChennai celebrate this festival with breaking of Dahi Handi. This BreakingofDahi Handi is the depiction of the mischievous side of Lord Krishna who wasalso known as Maakhan Chor (Butter Thief).The image of Dahi Handi being shattered by the hero on top of the human pyramid became synonymouswith Janmashtami for me. Simply because I grew up watching this festival being celebrated in so many Bollywoodmovies. Speaking of Bollywood, Aamchi Mumbai is the home of Bollywood in India. And my perception of Janmasthami isa very Mumbaiya Bollywood one. Mumbai is a tourist’s dream destination, with a fabulous nightlife and bustlingbeaches, but all that is over-shadowed on the day of Janmashtami. On this day, it seems as if the very soulof Janmashtami is infused with that of Bollywood. Maybe the Mumbaikars are used to it but first timers like medefinitely find the celebrations very filmy. Not that I am complaining!Chawls are the best place to enjoy the rawness of this festival in Mumbai. Nowhere else is Dahi Handi celebrated in amore desi fashion than here. A large Dahi Handi (a earthen pot / urn filled with butter milk) is hung at a fairly good heightand participants are expected to make a human pyramid and break the handi. Hundreds of communities hangthese handis to attract participants and in return they win prizes. You would be surprised to know that somecommunities offer fat prize money for this act. The youth that make up these teams are known asGovindaPathaks (another name of Lord Krishna), and many of the younger ones who are not yet eligible to be a part of the
human pyramid dress up as Lord Krishna (by painting themselvesblue and wearing yellow clothes) and can be found travelling withthe teams in their trucks.I had my share of fun a couple of years back and now I amwondering if I should head to Mathura to see the baby Krishnabeing cradled or should I head to Dahi Handi, Mumbaistyle! Janmashtami this year will be celebrated on the 22nd ofAugust. What do you think? Adventure sport of breaking theDahi Handi or bringing in baby Krishna at this auspiciousfestival?***Connect with Yatra.com on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well.
Celebrate India – Joy’s Amaranths Yatra“Jab Jab Bhole Shankar ka Bulava aata hai, tab tab bhakt darshan ko jaata hai” meaning that whenever the Lordcalls, the devotee goes to his abode. However this becomes increasingly difficult to believe when you have beenstuck in the same tent for two days straight. While it has been snowing in the mountains non-stop and chances ofyour Amarnath Yatra are becoming bleaker by the hour. Your only solace lies in the UNO cards you were smartenough to bring along, the free food in the lungars and a group of peopleto keep you company.Well, for those of you who do not know, Amarnath Yatra is one of theholiest pilgrimages in the Indian Culture. It leads up to the Amarnath Cavethat houses the famous natural shiv ling made entirely of ice. It waxesduring May to August and gradually wanes thereafter. The legend saysthat Lord Shiva brought Goddess Parvati along to this cave to recite to herthe tale of immortality but accidentally two pigeons still in their eggsheard the story as well and became immortal. Many pilgrims have claimedthat they have seen the two pigeons.Considering that it is just a legend, chances of actually seeing thesepigeons are almost next to none and my chances of even getting up to thecave itself were looking even bleaker. I had already contacted my boss and asked him for two days extension onmy leave but if it had continued to snow I would have surely been forced to turn back and head home. But Iguess Bhole Naathactually wanted us to come – when we woke up the following day, the sky was clear and so wasthe route through the mountains. We packed our bags in a hurry and set out at once. The 16km trek toChandanwari was not all that difficult, partly because we were all used to hiking and trekking, and partly becausethe trek was picturesque and the air pristine.
We camped in Chandanwari for the night and the next day set out for Sheshnag. And this was where it started toget interesting. The trek became increasingly difficult as the altitude started to increase. Within 3KM km oftrekking, we reached Pissu Top. It has some spectacular views to offer and some mythological importance as well.It is said that that to be the first to reach for darshan of Bhole Nath Shivshankar there was a warbetween devtasand rakshas. In the war, the devtas annihilated rakshas in such large numbers, that the heap oftheir dead bodies resulted in this high mountain. The journey to our next destination, Sheshnag (its name isderived from its Seven Peaks, resembling the heads of the mythical snake) followed steep inclines on the rightbank of a cascading stream and wild terrain untouched by civilisation. And camping around the Sheshnag Lake, atthe end of the trek, with the beautiful glaciers in the background was just like icing on the cake.The next day we set out for the last camp, Panchtarni. This is probably the most difficult part of the trek because toreach Panchtarni, one has to cross the Mahagunas Pass at 4276 metres (14000 ft) for 4.6KM and from there ongradually descend to Panchtarni at a height of 3657 metres (12000 ft) for another 9.4KM. If one is not used to thisaltitude (which most people aren’t) or has not acclimatised well, then they are likely to feel dizzy or nauseous dueto lack of oxygen.Therefore carrying some dry fruits and lemons might be a good idea. Also one key essential for the trip is Vaselineor cold cream, because trust me, without them (sometimes even with them) your skin will start to crack rapidly inthe cold dry winds.The following morning was the day of the final trek to the Amarnath cave temple. We got up early so that we could get to the cave, stay there for a while and get back toPanchtarni in time. There are no accommodations near the cave although some people choose to campthemselves. The trek was 6KM each way and was relatively easier from the previous day’s trek. On the way to thetrek lies the confluence (sangam) of the two holy rivers Amravati and Panchtarni. The water is of course icy-coldbut taking a dip in the holy water before entering the cave is considered a good practice. And near the cave, youwill find ashy white soil that is called Bhasm. Pilgrims usually smear several parts of their bodies with the Holy soil. I, on the otherhand just chose to put a tilak on my forehead and moveon.As soon as I entered the cave all the fatigue of the trekvanished in an instant. The cave is huge and surprisinglyvery well maintained even at that height. But of coursethe most unusual feature of the cave is the threeLingams. The biggest of them all, representing LordShiva and the smaller two, representing Goddess
Parvati and her son Ganesha. Incredibly, the ice formation is not everywhere; it is only those three stalagmites andthat is what is fascinating about it. I later learnt that there are two natural water channels running above andbelow the stalagmites inside the rocks and are responsible for the formation of the lingams. And it helps, that thestalagmites take the shape of lingams very much like the ones found in other Lord Shiva temples throughout theworld.It is fascinating to see how nature’s mysteries and the power of faith go hand in hand to deliver such spectacles.Without either of them, the Amarnath experience would not have been so easily available to the millions ofpilgrims who visit the cave.There was not much space or time to daydream about the wonders of the cave. The darshan was quick becausethere were so many others waiting for their turn, but it was enough. In retrospect, I realized that it is not thedestination but the journey that counted in the end. And keeping in mind this experience, now I am sure that “JabJab Bhole Shankar ka Bulava aaega, tab tab bhakt darshan ko jaaega.”Connect with us on Facebook ,twitter and Youtube for more.