Last Thursday I attended the fantastically colored festival, Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Krishna’s birthday party. Krishna is one of the main gods worshipped by Hindus. The festival, which began before the sun had risen over Kathmandu, was ushered in at Patan Durbar Square with much pomp and circumstance. I have been to Patan Durbar Square dozens of times, but have never seen it as packed as it was for Krishna Janmashtami. There is a Krishna temple located in the main courtyard of Patan Durbar Square, which was where most of the day’s activities were centered.
There were two main lines (one for women and one for men) that wound and roped all around the neighborhood. Everyone was standing in line to actually enter the Krishna temple to give offerings and pray. There were thousands of attendees and I predict that it probably took around five or six hours for those waiting in line to actually reach the Krishna temple. Someone had planned ahead, though. There were several Red Cross tents set up with water and food and first aid kits, which I presume was for in case anyone fainted from the heat. There were several people sleeping in the tents when I passed by.
In my quest to understand the riots and fanfare surrounding this Krishna, I asked all my Nepali friends what kind of god he is and what makes him special. I came away with a number of varying answers, but mostly I came to understand that Krishna was somewhat of a “playboy.” According to one of my sources, Krishna had 1,000 wives. While winding through the crowds at the festival, it soon became apparent that the women’s line to enter the Krishna temple was about ten times longer than the men’s line. My friend told me that many women come to this festival because they want to pray to Krishna, who is apparently regarded as a “women’s god,” and ask him for a good husband. I wondered why all these thousands of women wanted to stand in line for six hours to ask for marital bliss from a god who had 1,000 wives. I decided this was a fruitless question to ponder, so I abandoned the thought and began snapping photos of the spectacle. Here are some of my photos from the event:
Above: The women’s line was exponentially longer than the men’s line. These women probably have another two hours before they get to enter the Krishna temple.
Above: Krishna Janmashtami festival attendees carried long, fluorescent peacock feathers. The peacock feather is significant because Lord Krishna wears one in his headdress.
Above: Pigeons scatter near the front of the line. The festival was held at Patan Durbar Square.
Above: Patan Durbar Square was packed with festival attendees and onlookers. A band periodically squeezed its way through the main cobbled street, banging out a rhythm for devotees to enjoy in the sun.
Above: A woman shades her eyes with her peacock feathers. This group has almost made it to the front of the line.
Above: After the devotees enter the Krishna temple, they proceeded to go around to the back of the complex where dozens of Brahmin priests had set up shop on the ground to give out prayers and tikka (red dots on the forehead).
Above: A Brahmin priest waits to perform another ritual. On his forehead is a mixture of rice grains and red tikka powder.
Above: A Brahmin priest gives a tikka to a devotee. Those who visited the priests after entering the temple paid a fee for the prayer and tikka. Someone told me that they priests work on a “sliding scale.” Attendees paid whatever they had, anywhere from a few rupees up to 100 or more rupees.
Above: The priest’s provisions displayed on a tarp around his feet. The provisions included various powders, pastes, rice grains and colored thread.
Above: A Brahmin priest sits in a line with others of his caste, waiting to give prayers.
Above: The same priest finds someone to bless. Notice his hands that are stained red from all the prayers and tikkas he had given since morning.
Above: Two women receiving blessings.
Above: A priest gives a blessing.
Above: The priest shows a woman how to properly hold the offering, which is a leaf bowl full of rice.
Above: After the Brahmin priests gave tikkas, they also received them from the devotees. This priest has quite the build up of tikka paste on his forehead.
Above: Provisions for the day’s blessings.
Above: Two priests sit on a structure behind the Krishna temple.
Above: As I left the festival, these women near the back of the line still had another five hours or so until they reached the temple. Luckily, they had reached a spot in the line that offered some shade.