happy little ethnic girl in krishna costume in garden

Roorkee Memoirs: Memories of Janmashtami

As promised in yesterday’s blog, I take you all on a trip down memory lane to a town that was nothing less than an extended family. The people were connected. There was less judgment and more understanding. Festivals were a time to rejuvenate and learn about our legacy in the most fun entertaining way. A time when there were no malls to splurge, understand the fashion trends, or try to look better than the others. A simple, pious town where there were no multiplexes, and you needed to visit a paan shop to know which movie was running at which theatre. Each paan shop had a tiny blackboard displaying the theatre names and the movies that they were running.

Coming back to festivals. Festivals always brought the much-needed change from daily routines and were something we all looked forward to. Janmashtami was a day where mostly everyone fasted and the fast concluded at midnight, which is the birth time of Lord Krishna. The temples w decked up much in advance with lighting and jhaankis in place.

Jhaanki means a peep into the life. The jhaankis set up on the occasion of Janmashtami, depicted various phases in the life of Lord Krishna.

 As children, our preparation for the festival started much in advance. Unlike the automated jhaankis you can see in most temples nowadays, we were a part of live jhaankis, decked up as a character and depicting important events in the life of Lord Krishna.

Everyone wanted to play a part in either the scenes from the life of the most revered and loved Lord or be a part of the cultural event that was organized each year to mark the occasion. The cultural event was a medley of songs and dances in praise of the Lord. Being a part of the event was something that boosted our self-confidence and we thrived to be perfect in whatever part we were playing in the event. This meant hours of meticulous practice at some auntie’s place where we congregated day after day, all excited.  

The final function was held on Janmashtami in the open-air theatre within the colony. It had a huge hall where the jhaankis were on display. As you exited the hall, you landed up on stage with the concrete multi-layered semi-circular stands in front of you. The open-air auditorium is still etched in my memory since it was an integral part of many such beautiful events. As the event drew to a close (there were no curtains on that stage 😉), we started by visiting the temple in our colony, followed by temple-trotting throughout the town. Since we would wait for the conclusion of the fast to get the Prasad, we had ample time in hand. We would use that time to visit most of the temples in the city. Each was decked up, trying to compete with the others in innovation and décor.

Ganges Canal

The most memorable one that we never missed was the one in the cantonment area. It was absolutely well-managed and the tidiest. Besides, there was this temple on the banks of the Ganges canal that was one of the most-visited temples in the town. We went there dressed in our ethnic best, not bothered by the crowd as long as we had a chance to rock the beautifully decorated paalnaa of the idol of baby Krishna, dotingly called Laddoo Gopal. The wait was finally over at midnight when we used to offer Aarti to Lord Krishna at our temple within the colony, followed by the singing of bhajans on the thaap of the dholak.

It was an experience way beyond words. However, all those who have lived through that experience would have definitely been able to re-live it for a few moments through this memoir. These memories are so magnanimously etched in the memory of all those who have experienced this town that it seems just like yesterday.

Thanks a lot for the patience in going through this long post and looking at my town through my eyes. See you again with my next blog. Till then, stay blessed and stay in gratitude. God bless you all.

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