Written by Neha Suresh, Volunteer, RKTNC
श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |
स्वभावनियतं कर्म कुर्वन्नाप्नोति किल्बिषम् || 47||
śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
svabhāva-niyataṁ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣham
Translation: It is better to do one’s own dharma imperfectly, than to do another’s perfectly. By fulfilling the obligations he is born with, a person never incurs sin.
The above verse is taken from the Bhagavad Gita, Verse 47 of Chapter 18- it quintessentially preaches balance in all things. Another such quote is “One who abandons selfish desires and is satisfied within the true self is a sthitaprajna (Gita Chapter 2, Verse 55).”In his extremely full life, Krishna played the role of lover, musician, statesman, charioteer, politician and king; free of ego,envy, hate, regret and restlessness.
The flute he carried in his early years epitomized this balance of patience, peace and love, the wisdom of which he carried into his later years in the form of the Divine Song (the Bhagavad Gita). The flute also serves to represent his beloved- Radha, after moving away from her - he is said to have broken his flute and never played again. We have elected to call this blog series Bansuri in honor of Radha Krishna’s early years- the ones that we celebrate most here at the Radha Krishna Temple of North Carolina.
Janmashtami 2021 at RKTNC
The birth of Krishna is a story that almost every child in India has grown up hearing and the food ensures that this is the most anticipated festival in most Indian homes. Krishna (literally translating to the dark skinned one) was born in a jail cell to Devaki and Vasudev. He was born on the Ashtami (8th day) of Bhadra, to eradicate evil from the world. In this case, Devaki’s half-brother, Kamsa, embodied evil. Relying on a prophecy that predicted Kamsa’s demise at the hands of Devaki’s eighth son, Kamsa imprisoned the young couple awaiting the birth of Krishna.
When Krishna was born, Vasudev secretly crossed the Yamuna to exchange his son with Nanda & Yashoda’s daughter in Gokul. It was believed that there was heavy torrential rainfall that night and the Yamuna had to roll back her waters to allow Vasudev to cross into Vrindavan. Ananta, the five headed serpent, had protected the child against the rain during the commute.
In Gokul,Kamsa tracked down and sent a slew of demons to kill Krishna. Krishna vanquished every one of them but his parents decided to move to the nearby Vrindavan to ensure their son’s wellbeing.
In Vrindavan, Krishna grew up as a cowherd and a mischievous prankster, stealing milk & butter, dancing with gopis and falling in love with Radharani. A prolific story is that Krishna had carried Govardhan hill on his little finger to protect the residents of Vrindavan from floods. Every part of India celebrates and recreates this series of events a little differently every year. The RKTNC aims to bring a little of the color, food and festivities from every part of India to NC in hopes that the larger Indian community will find a piece of their home in our growing temple.
This year we celebrated the 5248th anniversary of Janmashtami. During the day, volunteers set up a beautiful artistic representation of the abovementioned events in Krishna’s life,Krishna Janam was celebrated at 11:30pm on Aug 29, 2021 after Abhishek, Kirtan and a final maha puja. Cake was cut and distributed with the prasad at midnight.
On Aug 30, 2021 the incident of Lord Krishna carrying the Govardhan hill is celebrated as Annkoot. ‘Ann’ symbolizes the rice and food that the land gives us and continues the tradition of worshipping natural formations such as the Govardhan hill which are ultimately primary resources for our survival. ‘Chappan Bhog’ is an essential part of Janmashtami celebrations when 56 items are prepared as prasad and offered to Lord Krishna. It is said that Goddess Laxmi presides over the kitchen when chappan bhog is prepared. A fancy dress for children dressed as characters from the epic was then staged.
On September 4 2021, the closing event of the Janmashtami week was held as Dahi Handi. This event usually requires a pot either filled with butter, curd or chocolates being strung up at a height and people forming human pyramids to break it and take the contents. It is believed that Krishna and his friends did this on a regular basis earning him the title of ‘makhan chor.’ We celebrated this event with appropriate COVID precautions in place.The chief guests presiding over this event were Mayor Jacques Gilbert, Mayor T J Crawley, Councilwoman Audra Killingsworth and Councilman Steve Rao.
12 days after Krishna was born, it is believed that Lord Shiva visited Gokul to receive Krishna Darshan and this was celebrated as ‘Rudra Abhishek’ on September 6, 2021.
Our long term goal is to recreate a temple with the layout of Vrindavan in mind, support us with the ‘Brick by brick’ program where every $10 donated goes towards one brick in the construction of RKTNC. You can also volunteer your time and skills towards the organization. Contact us at email@example.com.
Stay tuned to the Bansuri blog series where we explore the little known stories of India’s beloved makhan chor!