What Is Krishna Janmashtmi?
Krishna was the son of Devaki and Vasudeva and his birthday is celebrated by Hindus as Janmashtami, particularly those of the Vaishnavism tradition as he is considered the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Janmashtami is celebrated when Krishna is believed to have been born according to Hindu tradition, which is in Mathura, at midnight on the eighth day of Bhadrapada month (overlaps with August and September in the Gregorian calendar).
It is an important festival particularly to the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. Dance-drama enactments of the life of Krishna according to the Bhagavata Purana (such as Rasa lila or Krishna Lila), devotional singing through the midnight when Krishna is believed to have been born, fasting (upavasa), a night vigil (jagarana), and a festival (mahotsava) on the following day are a part of the Janmashtami celebrations. It is celebrated particularly in Mathura and Brindavan, along with major Vaishnava communities found in Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other regions.
Krishna Janmashtami is followed by the festival Nandotsav, which celebrates the occasion when Nanda Baba distributed gifts to the community in honour of the birth. Krishna was born in an era of chaos, persecution was rampant, freedoms were denied, evil was everywhere, and when there was a threat to his life by his uncle King Kansa. Immediately following the birth, his father Vasudeva took Krishna across Yamuna, to foster parents in Gokul, named Nanda and Yashoda.
This legend is celebrated on Janmashtami by people keeping fast, singing devotional songs of love for Krishna, and keeping a vigil into the night. After Krishna’s midnight hour birth, statues of baby Krishna are washed and clothed, then placed in a cradle. The devotees then break their fast, by sharing food and sweets. Women draw tiny foot prints outside their house doors and kitchen, walking towards their house, a symbolism for Krishna’s journey into their homes.
Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting, singing, praying together, preparing and sharing special food, night vigils and visiting Krishna or Vishnu temples. Major Krishna temples organize recitation of Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita. Many communities organize dance-drama events called Rasa Lila or Krishna Lila. The tradition of Rasa Lila is particularly popular in Mathura region, in northeastern states of India such as Manipur and Assam, and in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is acted out by numerous teams of amateur artists, cheered on by their local communities, and these drama-dance plays begin a few days before each Janmashtami.
Considered one of the most powerful human incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Krishna was born around 5,200 years ago in Mathura. The sole objective of Lord Krishna’s birth was to free the Earth from the evilness of demons. He played an important role in Mahabharata and propagated the theory of bhakti and good karma.
Here are the 10 important facts about this auspicious day known as Janmashtami:
1) The festival of Janmashtami also referred to as Krishna Janmashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini or Srikrishna Jayanti marks the birthday of Lord Krishna, one of the most powerful human incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
2) According to the Hindu calendar, this religious festival is observed on the eighth day after the full moon of Shravana. It is believed that Lord Krishna took birth at midnight on the ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha in the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September).
3) On Janmashtami, a lot of devotees of Lord Krishna observe a fast for the whole day and night, worship him and listen to his tales, recite hymns from the Gita, sing devotional songs, and chant the mantras.
4) As per Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna was born inside Mathura jail on a dark, windy and rainy night. The doors of the jail opened on their own, and his father Vasudev, who was imprisoned by Krishna’s uncle (mama) Kansa, was released.
5) All over India, this festival is celebrated with great pomp and show. Krishna’s birthplace Mathura and Vrindavan observe this day with an unmatched zeal and grandeur. Raslilas or religious plays are performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha.
6) Song and dance marks the celebration of this festive occasion. At midnight, the statue of infant Krishna is bathed and placed in a cradle, which is rocked, amidst the blowing of conch shells and the ringing of bells.
7) In Maharashtra, thousands of people come out on the streets on Janmashtami to enact the “Dahi Handi ” (stealing of curd) episode from Krishna’s childhood. Large earthen pots with butter are kept at great heights in the middle of the roads, and pyramids of volunteers try to break the pots to win prizes.
8) While the Raslila recreates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days, the Dahi Handi celebrates God’s playful and mischievous side.
9) The town of Dwarka in Gujarat, Krishna’s own land, comes alive with major celebrations as hordes of visitors flock to the town.
10) Janmashtami being one of the most popular festivals for the Hindu community, this auspicious day is not only celebrated in India but also observed worldwide across many countries with great enthusiasm.