Indian Independence and Krishna Janmashtami

Story and photos by Debjani Chatterjee

Tuesday 15th August evening saw a double celebration at the Hindu Samaj Centre. Each year Indian Independence is marked on this day, but this year being the 70th anniversary of independence, as well as of the terrible Partition that divided the country into three pieces, 15th August had a special significance.

This year the day also coincided with a major Hindu festival, Krishna Janmashtami. This celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth falls on different days each year, the date being determined by a luni-solar Hindu calendar.

The evening began with a sobering reflection on the Partition holocaust, which for many was too high a price for independence. Mahatma Gandhi called Independence Day a day for fasting and prayer. All attending sang ‘Jana Gana Mana’, the Indian national anthem.

The Janmashtami celebrations seamlessly followed with beautiful devotional songs, while the crowd waited for the moment of Lord Krishna’s birth in Mathura, India, at midnight thousands of years ago. Hindus with babies and little children dressed them up as Krishna and his sweetheart Radha.

Another highlight was the breaking of the Dahi Handi (a pot of sweet buttermilk), which re-enacts a legend from Krishna’s mischievous childhood, when he formed a human pyramid with friends to steal butter that his foster mother placed beyond his reach. At the Hindu Samaj an earthen pot was hung from the ceiling and children climbed on adult shoulders to reach it with sticks.