An important feature of Janmashtami is Jhanki (tableau) and cribs depicting various stages of Lord Krishna's childhood. Jhanki means peeping in the past life, in relation with Janmashtami it means peeping into the life of Lord Krishna. "Jhankis" are miniature representation of a village made of clay, humans are represented by dolls dressed up as kids, men and women with lehangas, chunnis, dhotis and kurtas. Five commonly depicted scenes in jhankis are presented in a sequence:
Birth of Lord Krishna Tableau
This tableau depicts the birth of Lord Krishna in the prison cell of Mathura. Dolls dressed up as Lord Krishna, Mother Devki And Vasudev are used.
Vasudev carrying Baby Krishna across river Yamuna Tableau
This tableau depicts Vasudev, father of Lord Krishna carrying him in a basket across swollen River Yamuna to Gokul. An artificial snake is used in the jhanki to depict Sheshnag. Legend has it that Sheshnag, the serpent of Lord Vishnu protected baby Krishna from rain.
Exchange of Lord Krishna with the baby girl Tableau
This tableau depicts Vasudev bringing back a baby girl with him, while leaving Lord Krishna in Gokul, in the safe hands of his friend Nand.
King Kansa killing the Baby girl Tableau
This tableau depicts King Kansa killing the new born baby girl in the prison and the baby vanishing into thin air and forewarning the king that his annihilator had been born and was in safe hands.
Baby Krishna in a cradle in Gokul Tableau
This Tableau depicts Lord Krishna in a cradle in Gokul, growing up with Mata Yashoda and Baba Nand.
Killing of King Kansa
Another popular Jhanki created during Janmashtami is the depiction of King Kansa's killing. Legend has it that Lord Krishna caught hold of his maternal uncle Kansa by his hair and threw him from the platform killing him with bare hands
Killing Of Kaliya Serpent Tableau
An important incident associated with Lord Krishna's life is the killing of Kaliya Nag during his childhood. The serpent was dreaded in Gokul. It lived in a lake and would kill anyone entering or having water from the lake. Lord Krishna killed Kaliya Nag thereby giving respite to the people from the dreaded serpent. This incident is also very well captured in Tableau during Janmashtami.
Lifting of Govardhan Hill Tableau
During Janmashtami, tableau of a very interesting incident of Lord Krishna's life is created. Lord Krishna is said to have lifted Govardhan hill on his index finger and provided shelter to the people of Gokul. This was done to protect them from incessant rains.
Modern Day Jhanki (Tableau)
With the change in times and great technological advancement, jhankis have also adorned a new look. Jhankis are made on large scale in big towns and cities with lot of special effects.