Janmashtami 2023: 6 Vaishnava Pilgrim Places And Their Bhog
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Janmashtami or Krishna Janmashtami is one of the most important festivals for Hindus living in India and beyond. Observed on the Ashtami of the Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Sawan or Bhado, Janmashtami will be celebrated on September 6 and 7 in 2023. Especially important for Vaishnavas across the world, Janmashtami is the day when Lord Krishna was born and delivered by his father, Vasudeva, to the Yadava leader Nanda’s home to escape the clutches of his evil uncle, King Kansa.  

Those who know this legend behind Lord Krishna’s birth also know that the two most prominent places associated with the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu are Mathura and Vrindavan. Even today, Janmashtami celebrations become the time when Vaishnavas flock to Vrajabhumi to engage in massive festivities and engage in the joys of Krishna Leela. For those unaware, the Vaishnava sect is a tradition of Hinduism which holds Lord Vishnu and his avatars, especially Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, as the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon.  

But Vaishnavism, or even the worship of Lord Krishna, isn’t just limited to Mathura-Vrindavan in Vrajabhumi. As the Vaishnava sect grew and its followers travelled the world, many Vaishnava pilgrim places and centres of great importance came up. In India, these Vaishnava centres celebrate Krishna Janmashtami with great aplomb. While some rituals and practices differ from place to place, Krishna Janmashtami celebrations at all of these places are associated with the birth, Leela and legends of Lord Krishna—all of which become the basis of inclusive celebrations where all devotees are welcome. 

Video Credit: YouTube/MasterChef Pankaj Bhadouria

Here are all the major Vaishnava pilgrim places across India where Krishna Janmashtami celebrations will be at their peak this week.  

Mathura-Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh 

While Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan is where he grew up and introduced the world to his unique Krishna Leela. Located in Vrajabhumi, which is in modern-day Uttar Pradesh, Mathura and Vrindavan together form the most important pilgrim centres for Vaishnavas during Janmashtami. While in Mathura’s famous Pedas are always compulsory as an offering to Lord Krishna on Janmashtami, Vrindavan traditions call for Makhan Mishri. Both places of course have the 56 Bhog that all Lord Vishnu temples must have. 

Dwarka, Gujarat 

Located on the coast of Gujarat, Dwarka has a whole island temple complex that is dedicated to Lord Krishna, especially since this was the capital of his kingdom. Dwarka literally means “the door to moksha” and Lord Krishna is often referred to as Dwarkadheesh or the Lord of Dwarka. Janmashtami celebrations here begin with a Mangal Aarti followed by an Utsav Bhog (Dwarka’s own version of 56 Bhog) offered an hour before midnight strikes. Dishes like Panjiri, Makhan Mishri, Peda and yoghurt-based dishes are always a part of the Bhog here. 

Puri, Odisha 

The Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha is known as one of the most prominent Vaishnava pilgrim sites associated with Lord Krishna. It is believed that Lord Krishna lived in Puri with his siblings, Balaram and Subhadra—and the Rath Yatra is one of the most important festivals here. Janmashtami celebrations in Puri start 17 days ahead and include recreations of legends associated with the deity. The 56 Bhog at Jagannath Puri Temple include Odiya dishes like Dalma, Pakhala, Amalu, Rasabali and many other dishes. 

Udupi, Karnataka 

One of the most important Vaishnava pilgrim sites in South India, the Shri Krishna Math in Udupi, Karnataka witnesses one of the most vibrant Janmashtami celebrations in the world. It is believed that from a small window at the temple, known as Kanakanna Kindi, Lord Krishna gave his devotee Kanakadas a darshan. Janmashtami celebrations here start with an Arghya Pradana of milk, followed by the preparation of laddoos, Uppu Seedai and Chakkulis. The 56 Bhog here is served on banana leaves and includes dishes like sambar, rasam, vegetable dishes, rice and payasam. 

Guruvayur, Kerala 

Located in the Thrissur district of Kerala, the small temple town of Guruvayur is centred around the Shri Krishna Temple, believed to be the fourth-largest in the country. Janmashtami or Ashtami Rohini celebrations here are simply splendid and include everything from massive aartis and satsangs to devotional performances. Lord Krishna is offered Naivedhyam like butter, Ney Payasam, dishes prepared with local Nendran bananas, Unniyappam, Ela Ada and varieties of Payasam on banana leaves. The temple also offers this Naivedhyam Prasad to devotees coming to the temple. 

Mumbai, Maharashtra 

Since the 1960ss, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has initiated a new-age Vaishnavism where Lord Krishna is seen as a god who can guide people through the perils of modern times. While the first ISKCON temple was established in New York City in 1966 by Swami Prabhupada, the temple in Mumbai has become a huge centre for Krishna devotees in India since the 1970s. The festival of Janmashtami in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra has since become so popular that engaging in Dahi Handi during the festival is a must. The offerings here, apart from the 56 Bhog, include various dishes prepared with yoghurt, butter and sweets.