The people of Kerala celebrated the festival of Sri Krishna Janmashtami with great enthusiasm. About 6,500 shobhayatras were carried out in the state. More than 1.5 lakh children in the attire of Sri Krishna, Gopika, and other characters of the epic participated in them. Nearly 3.5 lakh men and women accompanied the young kids dressed as Krishnas, Gopikas, Naradas, Vasudev, Yeshodha, Sudhama, and so on. Tableaus of the killing of Kansa, the Mahabharatha War, Geetopadesha, Sudhama’s visit to Sri Krishna, etc. added elegance to the yatras. The accompanying men were clad in saffron mundu, the Kerala dhothi.
Children danced in the shobhayatras. Uriyadi was another attraction. Uriyadi is breaking the hanging pots to depict stealing of butter by Sri Krishna when he was a kid’. Children sit on the shoulders of the youth and break the hanging pots, with sticks. These pots are filled with chocolates. (Uri means hanging pot in Malayalam).
This time, the theme of the Janmashtami celebrations was “Akalatte Lahari, Unaratte Moolyavum Baalyavum” meaning “Keep Away from Intoxication, Wake Up Values and Childhood”. It is in the light of the growing influence of drugs and promotion of its business and transactions in the state. Recently several consignments of fatal chemical MDMA worth thousands of crores of rupees have been confiscated. More and more reports of consumption of drugs among the children below 12 or 13 are alarming in the state.
Balagokulam has been an active children’s organisation since its very inception in 1970s. It was started as a column for membership in the Sangh-inspired Kesari Malayalam weekly. Gokulam is the place where Sri Krishna blossomed into a divine incarnation hence the name of Balagokulam. Since the last half a century, it is the largest children’s organisation in the entire world.
Weekly classes on Bharatiya culture and epics, Bhagavat Gita, the duties of the citizens in general and children in particular are routine activities of Balagokulam. A rakshadhikari (patron), a knowledgeable personality in the locality, narrates stories of moral values from the epics and history. He (or she) carries out house contacts of the participating children and maintain excellent rapport with their parents so that they are able to mould their character and academic caliber.
The organisation conducts several activities like programmes on cultural heritage of the country. Amritha Bharati, an offshoot of Balagokulam conducts examination, on every Deepali day, on subjects pertaining to Bharatiya culture and epics. People cutting across age, class and religion participate in the examination in large numbers across world.
Presentation of Janmashtami Puraskar is a prestigious award distributed every year in connection with Janmashtami celebrations. It is presented to the personalities who devote their life for promoting the mission of Sri Krishna and propagating the ideals he (Krishna) stood for. Prominent poets, writers, spiritual personalities and social workers par excellence are selected as awardees. This time the award was accorded to Swami Adhyatmananda Saraswati, head of Sambodh foundation. It was presented by Governor of Goa Advocate PS. Sreedharan Pillai in the presence of no less a person than Matha Amruthanandamayi Devi aka Amma. It was the 27th award. Swamiji declared on the same dais that the award money of Rs 50,001 would be donated to Margadarshak Mandal, a body of Hindu monks under the auspices of VHP. Amma and late P. Parameshwarji are among the recipients of the Puraskar in the past.
Mayilppeeli is a magazine published by Balagokulam to impart recreation and knowledge to the children simultaneously. Mailppeeli is the Malayalam word for peacock feather. Balasahitee Prakashan is Balagokulam’s publishing house which brings out books and booklets on Bharatiya culture and history. Antharashtra Sri Krishna Kendra (International Sreekrishna Kendra) is a dream project of MA Krishnan, Balagokulam founder and senior Sangh Pracharak. It is being constructed in Thrishur district. It is for promoting Sreekrishna Dharma. Balasamskara Kendra is another centre of Balagokulam which conducts regular Vigyan Yatras, cultural programmes, Navrathri celebrations, etc. Samrakshika is a trust constituted for the protection of children’s rights and protecting them from the challenges they face in their life.
The aforementioned activities of Balagokulam has been lauded by all right thinking people from all over the country as well as abroad. That is why the organisation is spreading its wings in all cities of Bharat and world over. Janmashtami shobhayatras are taking place in all cities in the country and major cities abroad. New York, London, Nairobi, Melbourne are some of the foreign cities to mention in this regard.
Balagokulam bagged the prestigious Chandrasekhar Azad Award last year. It has been instituted by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
Balagokulam had been invited by the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) to participate in its international conclaves. GNRC is an organisation under the auspices of Arigatou Foundation, Tokyo. It works with UN agencies, NGOs, grassroots child rights workers and children. It stands for children’s rights too. A Balagokulam functionary had attended the conclaves held in Tokyo and Geneva. The conclave had included in its agenda the resolution passed by Balagokulam regarding children’s right. Balagokulam resolution called for Shishudharma Commission.
Shobhayatras are part and parcel of Janmashtami celebrations since 1977. It has become a social festival of the state. People from all walks of life cutting across all sorts of discriminations. Even children belonging to Christian and Muslim parents also participate in the shobhayatras. This time a physically challenged Muslim child Mohammed Yahiya participated in the shobhayatra, sitting in a wheelchair, in Bilathikkulam, Kozhikode. His grandmother told the media that he loves to participate since herself and his parents dressed him up and brought for the shobhayatra. Mohammed, a class three student, told the media that he had taken part in the shobhayatra last year also.
This time number of participants have increased despite rains. Organisers told our correspondent that the number of participants might have increased if the weather was bright. Leaders and workers of Sangh-inspired organisations also participated in the shobhayatras. The increase in the attendance should be viewed in the wake of the recent blasphemous statements of A.N. Shamseer, Kerala Assembly Speaker and CPM leader, against Bhagwan Ganesh and his allegations that Hindu culture promotes myths and it does not support ‘scientific temper’.