Last Sunday India observed ‘Krishna Janmashtami’, one of the many widely celebrated festivals across India that marks a joyful celebration of Lord Krishna‘s birth. Major celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami takes place at midnight as Krishna is said to have made his divine appearance in that hour.
bq. Janmashtami festival witnesses many interesting customs and rituals in various states and cities of India. While some rituals are common to all, others are unique and restricted to a particular region or city. These customs and rituals are followed religiously by all the Lord Krishna devotees year after year.
In North India “Rass lila” plays are staged to recreate events and accomplishments in the youthful Lord Krishna’s days. Sothern India and Gujrat state have their unique way of celebrating. West and north of India also hosts ‘Dahi Handi’ with enormous zeal and enthusiasm.
bq. The handi is a clay pot filled with buttermilk which is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event; the top most person on the human pyramid tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object, and when that happens, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group, symbolizing their achievement through unity. Various Handis are set up locally in several parts of the city, and groups of youngsters, called Govinda, travel around in trucks trying to break as many handis as possible during the day.
Many such Govinda Pathaks compete with each other, especially for the handis that dole out hefty rewards. The event, in recent times, has gathered a political flavor, and it is not uncommon for political parties, and rich community groups to offer prizes amounting to lakhs of rupees.
Some of the most famous handis are at Dadar, Mazgaon, Lalbaug and some in Thane a neighboring district of Mumbai and Babu Genu, Mandai in Pune.
Cash and gifts are offered for Govinda troops to participate; for over 4000 Handis in Mumbai, 700 Govinda troops compete for the prizes.
Here is a youtube video of 9 level human pyramid crashing down. This is truly crazy thing to do but so is couple other festivals in the world.
Last Sunday Taipei City Foundation for Krishna Consciousness had also arranged Janmashtami celebrations in Taipei at Taipei Artists Village [their website . Be informed it will open a new window and some music will start playing immediately]. Barely a day or two ago Arvind, who is currently studying in Tainan, informed me about it. We have been communicating over internet for last 2 years but never really met in person so I thought this would be great opportunity to meet him and also participate in an Indian function in Taiwan for the first time ever. There have been celebrations for Diwali over the years in Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichung and Tainan but I never actually made it to any of them. I wasn’t really sure of making to this one either as we had other plans for this day already. But I did and glad I did make it. It was fun meeting Arvind finally and as expected he is one helluva fun guy to hang out with. Also it was truly refreshing to engage with other Indians and make new friends. AND I finally managed to get hold of someone who is actively playing cricket in Taiwan.
Taipei artists village was a breeze to find out but was nothing like I had imagined before. I guess it’s the artists that makes this place special. I’m sure artists love to hang out at the cozy, dimly lit Village Cafe at the front though.
I reached well past the 4 PM mark of supposed start of the event and registered myself at the entrance. There wasn’t any entry fee which anyways wouldn’t have mattered. Upon entering what looked like a small garden full of Indians, some of them clad in traditional Indian cloths, mostly women, I was swamped by Indian smells;incenses, dhoops, flowers, mehandis and of course the food. Now that was nice.
I stood in the corner for couple of minutes. Everyone else seemed rather busy, some of them were arranging chairs near the music setup which was basically a single pair of Tabla and some form of Veena set atop a blazing red fluorescent mattress on a tiled floor. I asked around if they needed any hand in that but was asked to enjoy the program instead.
A while later Anurag and wife also arrived on the scene followed by the mighty Arvind. Arvind had quite a fan following at the event :P While the first set of melodies were being played on Tabla and Veena I started introducing myself anyone who ran into me. I mostly remember all of the names. It was nice meeting Kiran and Akshay who I also knew previously but hadn’t met in real life. Lot of interesting folks. I even met couple guys from the same county where I come from in India. It was a pleasure to talk with them in my mothertongue, which by the way also reminded me how much I have screwed up after coming to Taiwan.
Small number of stalls were selling Indian goodies such as hand crafted diyas, colorful bangles and classical dance cd/vcd/dvds. At one special stall ladies had lined up to get Mehandi drawn on their hands. One kind lady had setup a small frying pan and gave away delicious crunchy papads.
In the mean time a lot of activities were going on inside a small foyer next to the bar. Group performances of Bharatanatyam, National dance of India and also one of the oldest form of dance originated in southern India, couple individual performances on bollywood songs. One group also performed a small story based dance on Lord Krishna and Radha. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see lot of Taiwanese performing most of the dances.
Someone mentioned in the passing that crowd here was bigger than it was for Diwali celebrations in Taipei last year. Not surprisingly the free dinner queue was rather long and snail paced. Lack of any ambient light discouraged any possibility I had in mind about photographing the queue. I had been out since the morning bicycling at Bitan riverside and later to Taipei 101 for lunch and was visibly tired. Standing in a queue for another half an hour didn’t seem enticing enough either. It was just past 7 PM and still a good part of an hour to mark an end to the great event. I said goodbye to couple friends and left for Yingge, where Selina picked me up on her way back from her sister’s place in Sanxia.