Mewar, where lived Meera and which is an abode of the child form of Lord Krishna at Shrinath Mandir Nathdwara that is one the biggest temple of the Puspmargi Vaishnava sect of Hindus, celebrates the birth of the Lord in a big way.
Udaipur has religious importance of its own. It was due to the broad outlook of the Maharanas that various religions and sects not only found shelter but also flourished in Mewar. At a time when the idols of Lord Krishna were not safe in the U.P. and were to be shifted to other places, Maharana Raj Singh was the only one to be bold enough to agree to set them up in his kingdom. And this is how with the building of several Krishna Mandirs, Janmashtami is an important festival in Mewar.
In Udaipur, during the time of the Maharanas, the festival used to be celebrated with great enthusiasm. The Maharanas would visit Jagdish Mandir, Asthal Mandir, and other temples. In the old building at Chougan, now called Maharana Bhupal Stadium, the Maharana used to be present during the special worship of the ‘bal vigraha’ the child form of the Lord for five days from Bhadra Krishna Tritiya to Astami. On this occasion, he was joined by his ‘sardars’ and ‘samantas’. At night when Krishna took birth, cannons were fired and coconuts, coins, and ‘laddus’ were distributed. The ‘pujaris’ would visit the homes of reputed persons of the town to give ‘prasad’
People in Udaipur visit different temples, play and fast throughout the day, and eat only after midnight, the time of the Lord’s birth.
A sort of palpable excitement pervades the atmosphere of Lake City. The Vaishnava temples wear a festive look with elaborate decoration and illumination. Right from the evening, devotees begin to gather at the famous, 400-year old Jagdish Mandir, built by Maharana Jagat Singh as ordained by Lord Jagannath of Puri. The temple is highly revered as it is said that this is the idol of Lord Krishna that was worshipped by Meera. Accompanied by several musical instruments, the devotees sing soulful ‘bhajans’ in praise of the Lord. After the evening darshan, the ‘kirtankars’ try to please the Lord with their lilting songs. As the clock strikes twelve, a 21- gun salute is given. The whole premises reverberate with ‘Nand Ke Anand Bhayo’ and ‘Jai Kanhaiya Lal Ki’. Then there is ‘darshan’ of the Lord dressed in eye-catching clothes and precious glittering jewelry. This is followed by ‘aarti’ and distribution of ‘prasad’.
In the Asthal Ashram of Nimbark sect in Surajpol, celebrations start early in the morning. Several attractive ‘jhankis’ related to the life of the Lord are on display. At midnight the ‘abhishek’ of Shaligram idol is performed with the recitation of Purush Sukta and Gopal Sahastranam. In another Nimbark temple Baiji Raj Ka Kund, Delhi gate, several rituals are performed in the outer chowk and soulful ‘bhajans’ are sung.
In Shrinathji Haveli Mandir where the Lord’s idol stayed for some time on way to Nathdwara where he finally settled, the celebrations start with the four Darshans viz. ‘mangloa’, ‘snan’, ‘shringar’ and ‘rajbhog’ followed by “uthapan’. After “janma darshan”, ‘mahabhog’ is offered and there is a scintillating fireworks display.
A large number of devotees come to Jagat Shiromani Mandir, near City Palace as it is believed that Meera drank the cup of poison sent by Bhojraj in front of this idol. In the Shree Girdhar Gopal Mandir on the UIT-Fatehsagar link road attractive “shringar” of the idol is done and ‘bhajan sandhya’ is also organized. The newly – built Murli Manohar Mandir at Dhanmandi that has a very attractive idol of Krishna playing on a flute, is the venue of day-long celebrations like ‘bhajan’ singing, enacting scenes of ‘baal leela’, dancing, and distribution of ‘prasad’.
On this occasion, are taken out processions that have ‘palki’ of Laddugopolg and, several tableaus of various gods, goddesses, patriots and martyrs, Daring feats are performed by ‘akharas’.
Re-enacting the fascinating “baal leela” of Krishna, ‘makhanchori’, a programme called ‘dadhika Matkiphod’ competition is also organized at Jagdish Chowk and some other places in the town. Teams of young men dressed as ‘gwalas’ try to break an earthen pot filled with milk and curds hanging at the height of about 25ft by forming a pyramid. The winning teams get lucrative prizes. Recently, some teams of girls of tribal areas have started participating in this competition.
With great gusto is celebrated this festival in Shrinath Mandir, Nathdwara. Early in the morning, with ‘mangla aarti’ begins the ‘seva’ and ‘shringar’ of the idol.
Accompanied by the sounding of conches, bells, etc. He is bathed with ‘panchamrit’. In Doltibari goes on the singing of the name of the Lord. At midnight, His birth is heralded with the firing of 12 cannons at Risala Chowk, sounding of big drums and playing of the band. The ‘bhog’ consists of several tasty dishes. A huge procession with attractive tableaus, horses, camels, elephants, bands, and ‘bhajan mandalies’ is also taken out. The next day Nand Mahotsava is celebrated with great enthusiasm. In Shree Dwarkadheesh Mandir, Kankroli, near Nathdwara Shyan Darshan continues till almost midnight. Then opens Janma Darshan with a 21-gun salute, sound of conch shells, ‘thali’, ‘madal’ and nagara, and attractive ‘jhankis’. In Charbhuja Mandir, the idol with four arms is decorated with gold ornaments, gem studded ‘tilak’ on the forehead, and crown made with peacock feathers and flute on the lips. In Sanwaliaji Mandir on Udaipur Chittorgarh road, the festival is celebrated with great gusto. There are ‘akharapradarshan’ and ‘matkiphod’ programmes. The Shrinath Mandir at Ghasiar, where the Lord stayed for some time on his way to Nathdwara, also attracts a large number of devotees on this occasion.
One of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar, Janmastami is celebrated with great religious fervor throughout Mewar.