Little children dressed up as Krishna - flute in hand and peacock feather stuck on headband - did the rounds of colonies as Hindus decorated homes with garlands and floral motifs and visited temples on Sunday to celebrate Janmashtami, the birthday of the much-loved Hindu god.
Every temple had set up colourful and elaborate floats depicting the birth of Lord Krishna, his childhood pranks as 'Makhan Chor' (stealing butter and curd), his frolics with Radha and the gopis and his expounding the sacred message of the Gita (the song divine) to Arjun on the battlefield.
Kirtans (religious songs) were sung at homes and temples amid blowing of conches and Sanskrit mantras also chanted. Many people kept a fast through the day.
The Birla Mandir, the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple and the Chattarpur temple in the capital were decorated colourfully with lights and flowers.
Hundreds of devotees gathered at the ISKCON temple and Akshardham temple, many dancing to the beat of drums and chanting - "Krishna Krishna hare hare..."
The ISKCON temple arranged beautifully decorated kalashas (pots) for devotees to perform the Mahabhishekha oblation of pouring a mixture of water and milk over the deity.
”All our focus is to make devotees dance and sing on Krishna's birthday. The day started with panchamrit abhishekam (bathing the idol of Krishna in milk, curd, Ganga water, honey and ghee),” said Bhajan Niranjan Das, communication in-charge of Iskcon
The Birla temple saw people queuing up right from early morning. Generous offerings of fruits, flowers and sweets were made to the gods. The authorities have arranged for tableaux to depict Krishna's life.
The mood was festive in most Hindu households -- with kheer made of sweetened milk and rice prepared for the special day.
"All members of our family are fasting to celebrate the Lord's birthday. We visited the Birla temple and Iskcon temple. In the night a cultural function has been organised by our society," said Sangeeta Singh, an IT professional.
Krishna is one of the most lovable gods. Famed for his naughty antics as a child and his flirtatious playfulness, Krishna is at the same time believed to be the ultimate saviour and protector.
Lord Krishna noted with his trademark accessory, the flute, is one of the most remarkable Indian deities who is the source of the Bhagvad Gita, a text of pivotal importance to the Hindu view of life.
The Gita, which literally means the “Song Divine”, has been translated into over 70 languages and published in over 2,000 editions. It is perhaps one of the most widely interpreted texts in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi sought refuge in the Gita during his fight for India's independence.
Tight security was evident in many places. Police were deployed near all major shrines and devotees were prohibited from carrying liquids or breaking coconuts inside temple premises.
”Due to security reasons, devotees were not allowed to carry liquids or the traditional offering of coconuts to the Birla temple. They were only allowed to offer sweets, fruits and flowers to the Lord. The visitors had to go through security checks to enter the ISKCON temple,” Delhi police spokesperson, Rajan Bhagat said.
Children dressed as Krishna and Radha enacted stories about the Lord at many places.
People keep the fast till midnight - the time when Krishna is considered to have been born to Devaki in the confines of a jail.
Devaki and her husband Vasudeva were jailed by King Kansa because he was told that his sister's eighth born, which turned out to be Krishna, would slay him.
The birth of Krishna was depicted in many homes using clay dolls - his birth inside the jail, Vasudeva escaping with Krishna across a turbulent Yamuna to the safety of Gokul, his merrymaking with friends, and the slaying of Kansa.
"I have been celebrating the festival for 50 years," said Yamini Gupta, a resident of east Delhi.
"For my children, it's a day of dance, get together, sweets and fun. They generally attire themselves as Krishna and Radha and move around with their friends," he said.