The festival of Janmashtami is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm not only in India but throughout the world. It is observed to celebrate the birth of Shree Krishna. It is celebrated on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadon (or the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the moon).
According to Hindu legends, there was a time when Mother Earth, not being able to tolerate the sins committed by cruel kings, prayed to Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe to relieve her of the sinful kings. Lord Brahma, in turn, prayed to Lord Vishnu to relieve Mother Earth from the despotic kings. Lord Vishnu agreed to reincarnate on the Earth to save Mother Earth. Among these tyrant kings, Kansa, the Emperor of Vrishni was very evil and arrogant who used to torture the people and kill the saints. On the wedding day of Princess Devaki, Lord Krishna’s mother and King Kansa’s sister, King Kansa received a divine oracle that Princess Devaki’s eighth son would be the cause of his demise and simultaneously end his reign as a king. He imprisoned the newly wedded couple and killed all the six sons born to Princess Devaki one by one in fear of being killed. Witnessing the death of their six sons, Devaki, and her husband, Vasudev were apprehensive about giving birth to their eighth child but one night, Lord Vishnu appeared before them revealing that he would be incarnating on the earth as their eighth son to put an end to Kansa’s cruelty. Miraculously, at the time of the birth of Lord Krishna, it rained heavily and the prison gate was left open and unguarded. Vasudev carried the newborn Krishna without any difficulty to his cousin, Nanda through the river Yamuna.,. He exchanged Krishna with the newborn daughter of Nanda and Yashoda and returned to the prison. When Kansa tried to kill the baby girl, she turned out to be Goddess Yogamaya and warned him that the one who is about to put an end to his sins had already taken birth. Eventually, Krishna defeated Kansa and restored Vasudev to power.
Lord Krishna is deemed to be the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu – the preserver of the Universe- according to Hindu Mythology. He is a key player in the complex chain of events in Indian mythology. He is considered to be the supreme God in Hinduism. His birth marks the transition from Dwapara age to Kal Yuga (the current age). His references can be found in various Hindu religious texts including- the Mahabharat and the Bhagavat Purana. Lord Krishna befriended the Pandava Prince, Arjun. He tried his best to avoid the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. He offered Arjun two choices, either He or his entire army. Among them, Arjun chose the former. He was the charioteer Arjun, acting both as his moral and military counsel. He gave the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. These teachings spread the message of the divine duties of man.
Lord Krishna is often depicted to have a blue- or blue-black complexion, often carrying a flute and taking care of the cows or cowherd, playing pranks like- stealing butter from neighbourhood households. He is called by various names such as Madhusudhan, Mukunda, Govinda, and Vasudeva.
ISKCON: SPREADING THE TEACHINGS OF LORD KRISHNA
There are, unsurprisingly, many organizations and movements that are dedicated to worshipping Lord Krishna and his principles.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON is foremost when it comes to creating awareness about the core principles and values of the Bhagavad Gita, and Bhagavata Puranas and about the Hare Krishna Movement which was initiated and popularised by them all over the world. This organization was founded by the late Acharya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in New York, USA in the year 1966. The members of this organization are also commonly referred to as the Hare Krishnas. They consider Lord Krishna to be the supreme or highest form of God. The first communal settlement of the Hare Krishnas was built in 1968 in West Virginia, USA and since then the ISKCON has been successful in establishing a huge base of followers along with over 800 centres all around the globe. Apart from all this, the Hare Krishnas also take serving people seriously and have numerous subsidiaries and non-profit organizations such as the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust– which is entrusted with supplying books to the ISKCON and contributing to the manufacture, publishing and distributorship of books at large, the International Society for Cow Protection (ISCOWP)– promotes the creation of an agricultural system that does not promote dairy or meat consumption or cow slaughtering, the ISKCON Tribal Care Trust- aims at the upliftment of tribal population by setting up schools for them to study in and supplying them with potable water, and the Pandava Sena- a youth group under the ISKCON that is dedicated towards mentoring university students. Apart from this, the ISKCON also has various restaurants that strongly promote vegetarianism, and/or, veganism. This is because vegetarianism is one of the four tenets of the Hare Krishna Movement.
To protect all business-related activities under the banner of ISKCON, the Hare Krishnas have decided to register the ISKCON logo as a trademark. They first filed for registration of “ISKCON” as a trademark at the trademark registry in Mumbai. They have also emerged victorious in the face of a case of infringement against their trademark ISKCON. This case later became a landmark judgement in trying to understand trademark infringement. The primary contention in this case was regarding the popularity of the trademark ISKCON and whether the rights of the plaintiff would continue to be infringed even after alterations in the defendant’s trademark.
The plaintiffs in this case were the Hare Krishnas (ISKCON) and the defendants were an online apparel company named ISKCON Apparel Pvt. Ltd. The Defendant was accused of heavy usage of the well-known ISKCON logo on their products and were said to be discovered by the plaintiff while conducting online research. It was claimed by the Hare Krishnas that they had sent multiple notices to the defendant to cease the infringing activities as soon as possible but their plea fell on deaf ears. Due to the ignorant attitude displayed by the defendants, the plaintiffs were forced to file a suit for trademark infringement against them following which the defendants swiftly changed the name of their business to Alcis Sports Pvt. Ltd. while continuing to mention their previous business name on their products- “previously known as Iskcon Apparel Pvt. Ltd.”
After going through the facts and arguments presented by both sides, the Bombay High Court adjudged in favour of the plaintiffs saying that ISKCON is a renowned trade name. The Court was quick to point out that the Defendant’s use of the name ISKCON was rooted in exploiting the goodwill and reputation of the trademark ISKCON. Moreover, since the trademark ISKCON is the first of its kind and is associated with activities of spiritual awareness and social upliftment, it warrants a high degree of protection. With this being said, the Court prohibited the use of the trademark by the defendant by mentioning that the plaintiffs were the only ones entitled to use the trademark.
Thus, religious organizations may also face the requirement of legal protection from time to time. Cultural and spiritual activities form a huge part of Indian practices, society, and activities. Protection against the infringement of intellectual property of religious organizations is also necessary in present times. Since prevention is better than cure, it is always preferable to protect religious trademarks or copyrighted material by getting it registered beforehand. It is by virtue of intellectual property rights that these religious groups enforce their distinct principles more effectively. It is also not uncommon for groups associated with such activities to become institutionalized to generate a steady stream of revenue for the activities they propose, and it is at this stage that their attempts at the same demand sanctuary. No unscrupulous organization should be permitted to profit out of the goodwill created by other organizations. ISKCON is a symbol of service towards humanity and many organizations try to surreptitiously induce consumers into believing their association with such a reputed organization to deceive them into establishing business relations on the face of these false associations.