New Delhi: Queues of devotees outside temples, little children dressed up as Krishna with flutes in hand and a peacock feather stuck on the headbands, elaborate tableaux depicting the birth of Lord Krishna - Delhi was gripped by Janmashtami fervour on Friday.
The birthday celebrations of the much-loved and popularly followed Hindu god began with kirtans (religious songs) at homes and temples. Devotees began assembling at the Birla Mandir, the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple and Akshardham temple since early morning.
While the temples reverberated with blowing of conches and chant of `Hare Krishna`, the mood was festive in most Hindu households - with kheer made of sweetened milk and rice prepared for the special day. Children dressed as Lord Krishna and Radha across many colonies in the capital, enacting stories about the Lord.
"People are coming to offer prayers and see the tableaux at Geeta Bhavan in the temple where Lord Krishna`s Raslila would be enacted," Ravindra Nagar, head priest at Birla Mandir, told a news agency.
The colourful tableaux depicted the birth of Lord Krishna, his childhood pranks as `Makhan Chor` (stealing butter and curd), his frolics with Radha and the gopis and his expounding the sacred message of the Gita (the song divine) to Arjun on the battlefield.
"We refer to the day as the `rise of Lord Krishna`, not birth," Nagar added.
The temples will be lit in the evening in the run up to celebrations that peak at midnight - when Krishna is said to have been born. A baby idol of Krishna is soaked in cucumber juice "which stands for purity and pride". The idol is also bathed in milk, curd, Ganga water, honey and ghee, the priest informed.
At midnight, priests perform the Mahabhishekha oblation of pouring a mixture of water and milk over the deity.
The temple authorities said there has been no lessening in numbers of youth followers of the deity over the years.
"Krishna is the only god who preaches Karma. This has been pulling the youth and they want to know the message that underlines his mythology," Nagar said.
Tight security was evident in many places. Police were deployed near all major shrines and temples.
At ISKCON temple in south Delhi, the highlight of the festival was a 51-kg "Krishna cake" for devotees.
"We have kiosks explaining the scientific understanding of Krishna consciousness. Bhakti Vriksha which is a congregation preaching platform, and a cake weighing 51 kg for Lord Krishna," Vrajendra Nanadan Das, director, ISKCON National Communication, told IANS.
Many devotees keep a fast till midnight - the time when Krishna is considered to have been born to Devaki in the confines of a jail.
Devaki and her husband Vasudeva were jailed by King Kamsa because he was told that his sister`s eighth born, which turned out to be Krishna, would slay him.
The story of Krishna was depicted in many homes using clay dolls - his birth inside the jail, Vasudeva escaping with Krishna across a turbulent Yamuna river to the safety of Gokul, Krishna`s merrymaking with friends, and the slaying of Kamsa.