Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Gokulashtami is the birthday of Lord Sri Krishna and celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion all over the world, especially in India. This Hindu festival became a cross-country pageant through ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) now-a-days.
This annual Hindu festival celebrates the birth of eighth avatar of Vishnu, according to Hindu lunar-solar calendar on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha in the month of Shraavana of Hindu calendar that falls in mid-August or early-September of the Gregorian calendar. This year Janmashtami falls on September 2 and ends on the very next day 3 September.
Krishnashtami is such an occasion to celebrate the rich persona of Lord Krishna whom Hindus consider as a hero, protector, teacher, philosopher and friend; who took birth to remove the darkness of sinister or destroy the evilness of demons and to spread the message of love and universal brotherhood, as he believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ method that means the entire world is one family.
The Krishnashtami festivities are marked by elaborate celebrations that continues for the entire day following by ‘Rasa Lila’, ‘fasting’, decorating ‘Jhakis’, ‘jagaran’ and an interesting task like ‘Dahi Handi’. This is an extremely lively and vibrant festival in Hindu religion.
According to Bhagavata Purana, it is said that Krishna the son of Devaki and Vasudeva took birth at midnight on the eighth day of Bhadrapada month around 5,200 years ago in Mathura. He belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas. He brought up by his foster-parents named Yashoda and Nandalal in Gokul. Later on, grew up in Gokul and came to Mathura and killed his maternal uncle Kansa.
The actual celebration of Janmashtami held during the midnight as Lord Krishna born on a dark, stormy and windy night to end the rule and violence of his uncle, Kansa.
On this day the deity of baby Krishna is decorated with ornaments, beautiful clothes, flowers and garlands following the bath ritual with very auspicious liquids. Devotees usually keep fast on the day and after the conclusion of the birth ceremony prasadam is distributed among the devotees. This festival is celebrated followed by the festival ‘Nandotsav’, the occasion when Nanda Baba distributed gifts to the community in the honor of birth Krishna; and this particular ritual is still famous in some of region in India.
Janmashtami celebrations take place in different region in the country according to their own style and rituals. In Maharashtra this festival is popularly known as Gokulashtami and every year the ‘Dahi Handi’ task performed the day after Janmashtami celebration. It is said that baby Krishna would seek and used to steal milk products such as butter, dahi and people used to hide their milk made supplies high up out of the baby’s reach. Krishna would try all
sorts of creative ideas in his pursuit, such as making human pyramid with the help his dear friends to break these high hanging pots. This method of stealing Dahi or butter is now transformed as ‘Dahi Handi’ ritual, which is very popular in Northern region to western region in India; where a pot full of yogurt are hung high up and Govindas (a group of young people) break the pots and the spilled contents are considered as Prasadam. In Dwarka, Gujarat this particular ritual is known as ‘Makhan Handi’ instead of yoghurt they use freshly churned butter in that pot.
In Kutch farmers decorate their bullock carts and take out the Krishna procession by singing and dancing.
Braj is the place in Northern India region where it is believed to be the largest Hindu fest among others. Moreover, Mathura and Vrindavan, in such places where Krishna was born and brought up Vaishnav communities celebrate Krishnashtami with devotion.
In the eastern region states like West Bengal and Odisha, Janmashtami is referred as Sri Krishna Jayanti or Sri Jayanti. Different kind of sweets is offered to Gokulnandan. Krishna believers in Tamil Nadu decorate the floors with ‘Kolam’ (rice batter) on this auspicious day.