Janmashtami – Krishna’s birthday

As always on Sri Krishna’s birthday, today was a day of great festivity at Amritapuri.

The celebrations began at three o’clock in the afternoon with a parade to the local Krishna temple. The procession was headed up by some of the ashramite children costumed for the day and carrying an ashram banner, followed closely by a band of enthusiastic young trumpeters and percussionists, and Amritapuri ayurvedic doctor cradling a lovely Krishna doll made by hand at Amritapuri. There were also a joyous group of AICT students led by three dressed as Krishna, Radha, and Balarama; and of course many of the ashramites and visitors.

Janmashtami celebrations in Amritapuri

The local people gave a warm welcome to the merry procession, setting out pujas with oil lamps and often pictures of Amma. The locals seemed to especially enjoy the children dressed as Radha and Krishna, often calling out at the sight of them.

At the Krishna temple a grand puja was set up with pictures of Amma as well as Krishna. The local priest performed traditional worship to Krishna doll, adding a garland of flowers to the ones the doll had received en route. The parade circled the temple and was greeted with another puja and refreshments on the other side. After a short break all proceeded back to Amritapuri, passing many more friendly locals and the best they could provide in the way of brass lamps, ornaments, and pictures on the way home.

Celebration No sooner had the parade reached the ashram grounds than Amma made Her first appearance of the day (since the end of Devi Bhava at seven in the morning), joining the the throngs gathered in front of the temple to watch “Uriyadi”, the traditional sport of the day. The game is played by children–and, after a while, many adults who couldn’t resist joining in the fun–who attempt to break a clay pot which is hung by a pulley and manipulated from the other end to rise and fall quickly, taunting the players who have only a short wooden stick and the length of their legs with which to reach the pot. To add to the challenge, people stand along the sidelines and dash water at the players as they swing for the pot. There were many near misses followed by gasps and groans from the crowd, and an occasional burst of cheering when someone managed to break open the pot. Even a ninety-year-old grandmother – Pattammal -was inspired to join in the game, behaving just like a small child as she swung innocently at the hanging pot. The game is played in commemoration of the many sports and games Krishna played with the gopas as a boy.

Amma with Damayanti Amma in Amritapuri

Amma watched the games attentively, applauding enthusiastically when a pot was broken and watching with motherly concern when some of the AICT students climbed on one another shoulders, making a three-tiered human pyramid in order to reach the pot. Still, like any mother who wants her children to be happy, She consented to let them attempt the trick repeatedly, even as She clasped Her hands together in prayer while they teetered back and forth in the air, and stood out of Her seat to see that all were unhurt when they leapt away from each other. Upon seeing them safe, sound, and happy, She applauded their efforts and beamed with childlike delight.

Finally, after nearly two hours, Amma returned to Her room briefly before coming out for the evening’s bhajans.