New Delhi: The capital on Wednesday revelled in the spirit of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, as devotees, unperturbed by the humid weather, fasted, feasted and prayed at several brightly decked-up temples to mark the festivities.
Men, women and children of all ages thronged the temples decorated with banana leaves, flowers and colourful fancy lights since Wednesday morning.
The hub of celebrations remained popular temples like Birla Mandir in central Delhi and Iskcon in south Delhi and Gouri Shankar temple in old Delhi.
Outside the temples, stalls serving fresh fruit and other food items have been set up for the devotees. "Shobha yatras" (religious procession) and cultural programmes have been planned later in the day.
"It`s a ritual for our family to visit the temple early morning after the `mangla arti` to seek Krishna`s blessings on this auspicious day," said 42-year-old Vishal Seekri, who prayed at the Birla Mandir along with his family.
Lit up in fancy lights, an elaborate tableaux depicting the birth of Lord Krishna is on display.
Children dressed up as Lord Krishna, with flutes in hand and a peacock feather stuck on their headbands, has been a sight that warms the cockles of the heart.
"The crowds gradually build up through the day and we are expecting around five lakh devotees today," Ravindra Nagar, head priest of Birla Mandir, told a news agency.
"Panjiri" and "panchamrit" -- two milk-based delicacies -- along with fresh fruit are the two most common "prasadam".
While singing of "bhajans" (devotional songs) and chanting of "mantras" reverberate in all the temples throughout the day, as devotees pour in to pray to Krishna and his consort Radha, it is near midnight when Krishna is believed to have been born that the festivities peak.
At midnight, priests perform the "Mahabhishekha" oblation of pouring a mixture of water and milk over the deity while the sounds of blowing conches and ringing of bells fill the air.
Some people bathe a small Krishna idol in milk, curd, water from the Ganga, honey and ghee before placing it in a cradle at home while sweets are prepared at home and some people fast the whole day before savouring them.
"I bathed the idol of baby Krishna and dressed it in a colourful attire and a gold-plated crown at midnight. We will perform an `aarti` at home," said Sunil Patel, a resident of south Delhi`s Defence Colony.
Meanwhile, markets are doing brisk business as people shopped for sweets, flowers, decorative items, milk and curd to be offered at temples.
Apart from the temples, many market associations as well as cultural groups are organising colourful shows across the city.
Youngsters take part in the "matka phod" - a ritual breaking of earthenware pots filled with buttermilk - to celebrate the deity`s love for butter and milk, which he often stole from overhanging pots by an ingenious method of building human pyramids.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police has put in place tight security arrangements and traffic restrictions around all major shrines and temples.