Janmashtami is celebrated by Hindus around the world to mark the birth of Bhagwan Shri Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha celebrated this year's Janmashtami festival in Mandirs throughout North America (in accordance with current CDC guidelines). While some participated in-person, others continued with a virtual option. Many celebrating from their homes displayed their devotion during the celebrations by decorating their homes and offering prayers in their home mandirs. On this day, devotees observed a fast and remembered the life and message of Bhagwan Shri Krishna.
This year’s celebrations centered around the theme, Mam Ekam Sharanam Vraja, a verse stated by Bhagwan Shri Krishna in chapter 18, verse 66 of the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. In this verse, Bhagwan Shri Krishna states, “make me your only refuge” as he explains to Arjun that by seeking his refuge with faith and love, Arjun would be freed from all his sins. At this time in this Mahabharat, Arjun is conflicted on what his path forward should be. Should he fight? Should he surrender? Bhagwan Shri Krishna gives Arjun (and by extension, all of us) the guidance that we should follow the words of Bhagwan and to keep faith at all times. Although in a seemingly smaller scale, we all face the same questions every day. As many people face challenges, this message provides hope and direction.
This incident, as well as other incidents from Bhagwan Shri Krishna’s life were illustrated in the program through dramas and speeches. Throughout the program, Pujya Swamis and other speakers recounted lessons from Bhagwan Shri Krishna’s life as they explore the meaning of true refuge as well as the benefits of seeking the refuge of Bhagwan. The program included a video with blessings from His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj emphasizing the true meaning of seeking refuge only in Bhagwan. To conclude, all participated in arti as well as the traditional janmotsav (birth celebrations) of Bhagwan Shri Krishna in which a child murti of Shri Krishna is placed on a swing to the accompaniment of music, bhajans, and dance.