Janmashtami’s important feature is Jhanki [tableau] and cribs. These depict various stages of Lord Krishna's childhood starting from the time of his birth. The word Jhanki means peeping into the past life associated with Janmashtami festival. Also, it is about peeping into Lord Krishna’s life. "Jhankis" are miniature representation of a village that is created with clay. The humans are nothing but dolls that dressed as man, woman and child. The clothes used include lehangas, chunnis, dhotis and kurtas. Five commonly depicted scenes in jhankis are presented in a sequence:
Birth of Lord Krishna Tableau:
Birth of Lord Krishna tableau shows Krishna born in a prison cell of Mathura. The dolls used are clothed as Lord Krishna, Mother Devki and Vasudev.
Vasudev carrying Baby Krishna across river Yamuna Tableau:
Vasudev was the father of Lord Krishna. This tableau shows Vasudev carrying Lord Krishna in a basket. They are crossing the swollen River Yamuna on their way to Gokul. In the Jhanki, an artificial snake representing Sheshnag, the serpent of Vishnu, is used. According to the legend, Sheshnag sheltered Gopal [baby Krishna] from the heavy rainfall.
Exchange of Lord Krishna with the baby girl Tableau:
Vasudev left Lord Krishna in safe hands with his close friend Nand. Also, he took a baby girl in place of baby Krishna. This tableau depicts the exchange of Lord Krishna with the baby girl.
King Kansa killing the Baby girl Tableau:
King Kansa had tried to kill the baby girl who was exchanged with baby Lord Krishna. This tableau shows Kansa in the prison cell killing the baby girl who totally vanished. She warned King Kansa of his annihilator’s birth. Also, she mentioned that his slayer was presently living in safe hands.
Baby Krishna in a cradle in Gokul Tableau:
This tableau depicts Gopal [baby Krishna] lying in a rocking cradle. He was safely living with Mata Yashoda and Baba Nand in Gokul.
Killing of King Kansa:
During Janmashtami, another popular Jhanki of killing of King Kansa, Lord Krishna’s maternal uncle, is created. The tableau depicts Krishna holding Kansa by his hair and throwing him from the platform. Thus Lord Krishna killed Kansa with his bare hands.
Killing Of Kaliya Serpent Tableau:
During Janmashtami, killing of Kaliya Nag important event from Krishna’s childhood is created in tableau. Kaliya Nag was a dreaded serpent that lived in a lake in Gokul. Anyone entering the lake or drinking water from the lake was killed by Kaliya Nag. One day, during his childhood days Lord Krishna killed Kaliya Nag. Thereby, the people were relieved from the dreaded serpent.
Lifting of Govardhan Hill Tableau:
During Janmashtami, tableau of Lord Krishna lifting Govarshan Hill is created. This is based on a very interesting incident of Lord Krishna’s childhood days in Gokul. There was incessant rainfall in the area. Krishna lifted Govardhan hill on his index finger to provide shelter to the people of Gokul.
Modern Day Jhanki [Tableau]:
During modern era with great technological advancement and changes of times Jhankis are especially well adorned. In big towns and cities, Jhankis are made on large scale with lot of special effects.