Hindus across the Greater Toronto Area thronged to partake in the festivities organized by local temples on September 5 to mark the birth of the naughty yet powerful god Krishna, who killed the evil Kansa with the help of his brother Balram, thus salvaging the village of Mathura from a despotic ruler.
The famous Hare Krishna temple of Toronto commenced celebrations from the eve of the birthday with religious songs, dances and discourses. The highlight of the birthday, however, was the countdown to midnight, when the curly-haired god was born to Devaki and Vasudev in a prison cell, but exchanged with Yashoda’s daughter in Gokul. Legend has it that the infant god was always up to pranks, stealing homemade butter and curds from cowherd maidens of the village, breaking their earthen pots to get a taste of their supplies. He would then entrance them with melodious tunes from his flute.
Temples also staged plays enacting the dramatic life of Krishna and depicting in great detail the love between him and a charming Gopi—cowherd maiden—Radha, for whom the god is said to have played private tunes from his flute as expressions of his love.
Another popular dramatization from the playful life of the god is commonly known as “Dahi Handi” where teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot of butter with the aim of breaking it. Vegetarian feast is served after midnight, and celebrations continue well into the wee hours of the morning.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.