It is a well known fact that when it comes to celebrating Janmashtami, Mathura, Vrindavan and Dwarka comes first to everyone’s mind, owing to its historical association with Lord Krishna – one of the most loved mythological figures in Hinduism. But what about other places, which are no less when it comes to celebrating Janmashtami that marks Krishna’s birthday. As Janmashtami is just around the corner, we have hand-picked some of the best destinations which are a great alternative to witness Janmashtami.
1. Imphal in Manipur
You might be surprised at the fact that this lesser explored north-eastern region of India tops our list and why not? Manipur is a hidden gem in terms of its abundant natural beauty and rich culture. The state of Manipur celebrates Janmashtami also known here as Krishna Janma in a grand manner. Manipur has a strong history of Vaishnavism (follows Lord Vishnu – Hindu preserver god). Krishna is believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu hence, one can see a strong devotion to Krishna here. There are several temples dedicated to Krishna in the state, and Shri Shri Govindajee temple of Imphal is one of them where Janmashtami is celebrated with great excitement. The famous raas leela performance of Manipuri dance drama are played out depicting the life of Krishna.
2. Guruvayoor in Kerala
The beautiful South Indian state of Kerala celebrates Janmashtami on a grand scale. Kerala has some of the best temples, and when it comes to Lord Krishna it has the impressive Guruvayoor temple in Thrissur district. This temple is often called “Dwarka of South India”, comes alive during the festival of Janmashtami. The highlight of the Janmashtami celebrations at Guruvayoor temple is when a golden idol of infant Krishna is taken around in a procession accompanied by the elephants of the temple. Poojas and aartis are performed, classical dance and musical performances are played out. Special Kerala dishes like Pal Payasam and appam are prepared as offerings to the Lord. The whole celebration feels like a cultural fiesta which is hard to miss.
3. Jhunjunu in Rajasthan
Jhunjunu is perhaps the only place in India where Muslims too celebrate Janmashtami with equal zeal. The Dargah of Narhar is a marvelous place here to be during Janmashtami. A three-day festival is observed here during the occasion. This historic Janmashtami celebration started some 400 years ago. The celebration aims at religious and cultural unity in India. A proud moment when people from all communities gather here to rejoice the festival. Qawalis (a devotional Sufi music) and dance drama are part of the excitement here.
4. Puri in Odisha
Jagannath temple in Puri celebrates the festival of Janmashtami with great fervor. Midnight pooja or prayers are performed by devotees and the next day is for Nanda Utsav. The 17-day long festivity is observed with chronicles of Lord Krishna enacted everyday. Kids dressed up as little-Krishna and Radha perform plays. Dahi handi (earthen pot with curd inside) celebrations too are organized in many areas.
5. Udupi in Karnataka
In the city of Udupi at Karnataka, Janmashtami is celebrated in a grand scale. The famous Sri Krishna Mutt temple is the center of the rituals and celebrations of Janmashtami festival also known here as Gokulashtami. In the midnight, Arghya Pradana is observed that is the ritual of pouring milk or water on the Krishna’s idol, and the next day is Leelotsav (episodes of life of Krishna) performances are played. Other interesting performances are played out by artisans with unique dresses, body make-ups and costumes, and one of the most popular of them all is the Tiger Dance Groups.
If you wish to witness Hindu culture, traditions and rituals at their very best, Janmashtami is one of the best time to do so.