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India Celebrates Janmashtami

Find out about the Hindu festival of Janmashtami and the nine masquerades of Vishnu.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Celebrating a birthday is a great reason for a festival. In India more than 800 million people celebrate Janmashtami to commemorate the birth of Krishna. Many different Hindu approaches and traditions are practiced throughout the world in different countries. The Janmashtami festival reminds Hindus of Vishne's triumph of good over evil.
    2. During the Janmashtami celebrations, The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book in the form of a poem, is read without stopping. Many stories about Krishna are told, especially about his birth and his many pranks. Statues of Krishna as a baby are rocked. Plays are staged about the stories. Songs and dances are performed. Invite students, working in small groups, to research more about these Krishna tales on the Internet or by asking people in the community who are Hindu.
    3. When research is complete, bring the class together to discuss what they have learned about this celebration.
    4. To show what they have learned about Janmashtami, students use Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils to draw the nine masquerades of Vishnu--a fish, tortoise, boar, lion, dwarf, warrior, ideal man, blue figure, and Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Encourage students to think about how to arrange these personalities to show that they are all Vishnu. Art books are fine resources for Hindu style ideas. Make images dark, so they stand out.
    5. Students share their artwork with small groups of classmates. Discuss how learning about this celebration is incorporated into artwork.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SS: Give examples and describe the importance of cultural unity and diversity within and across groups.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Children Just Like Me: Celebrations! by Barnabus & Anabel Kindersley; Cultural Traditions in India by Molly Aloian; Hindu Festivals by Kerena Marchant; Manu's Ark: India's Tale of the Great Flood by Emma V. Moore; Krishna by Bhakti Mathur

    Hindu holidays are based on a lunar calendar. Janmashtami falls on the eighth day of the black half of Bhadra (spanning August and September). Students investigate a lunar schedule and chart when this holiday will fall for each of the next ten years.

    Working in small groups, students investigate stories about Krishna. Select a single story and prepare to perform the story in a play format for classmates. Students construct a set from recycled materials and create costumes.

    Students research other religions to become familiar with their holy days that celebrate with an important birth. What elements are the same? What is different? Organize research into an electronic format and present it to classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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