With and without masks, Delhiites begin Janmashtami celebrations


New Delhi : Some wore masks, while others covered their faces with handkerchiefs. Devotees were mostly undeterred by the swine flu scare and lined up in various temples across the capital to pay their obeisance to Lord Krishna on the occasion of Janmashtami Friday morning.

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The birthday of one of the most popular Hindu gods, Krishna, Janmashtami celebrations are full of colour — what with different sweets being prepared at homes and distributed in the temples, ornate pujas being organised, devotional songs being sung and merry making.

At the ISKCON temple for instance, a special kind of delicacy has been prepared in bulk for all the devotees.

“We prepare a special kind of sweet on Janmashtami. It’s like a samosa (patty) in which khoya, butter, raisins and cardamom are used as filling. This is offered to Lord Krishna and distributed amongst his devotees,” a priest of the ISKCON temple said.

Decked in flowers and lights which will illuminate the temple at night — since people throng the temples near midnight when Krishna is believed to have been born — the celebratory mood is quite apparent in religious places.

Outside the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir — popularly called Birla Mandir — dedicated to the cowherd god, tents are being set up to cater to hundreds of devotees who will queue up long before sunrise. Food stalls are also being set up.

However a number of people have either decided to give the temples a miss and do their puja at home or go to the temple early in the day to avoid the crowds for fear of the H1N1 virus.

“We have a puja in the evening at home. Our relatives will be coming down for it and we will have a bhog. After that bhajans and other devotional songs will be sung. I am not sure if I will go to the temple though, the crowds thronging the temples on Janmashtami is something I want to avoid,” said Shyama Das, an advertising executive.

For the bhog, Das’s family, like most others, has prepared a range of delicacies like halwa and kheer. The feasting however comes after a daylong fast that many people observe.

“We have also got a baby idol of Lord Krishna and have placed it in a cradle, symbolizing that he was born today. We have also bathed the idol in milk,” she added.

Rahul Misra, a student, said that his family had already visited the temple in the morning.

“We will go for the puja to a relative’s home in the evening. I am not sure I will visit the temple at midnight when people usually throng the temple,” Misra added.