Krishna Janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami (Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Astami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanthi, Janmashtami) is one of the most important Hindu festivals that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu. It is celebrated on the eighth day of the Hindu month of Bhadrava, which is usually in August or September.

Krishna is the eight incarnation of the god Vishnu.

©iStockphoto.com/Muralinath

What Do People Do?

Many people fast until the sighting of the new moon, which is followed by a full night vigil that commemorates the birth of Krishna at midnight. There are ceremonies and prayers at temples, as well as rituals that are performed in different areas such as bathing the idol of the infant Krishna, dressing it in new clothes and jewelry, and then placing his image in a silver cradle with toys.

Some areas have performances such as folk dramas that depict scenes from Krishna’s life in Mathura. Other areas have rituals that include pots that have money, curds, and butter that are hung high over the streets, and boys form human pyramids to try to break the pot, which is held in Maharashtra and known as Govinda. The event is accompanied with a feast of 108 dishes, a number that has come to be identified as religious by the faithful. Traditional processions are held as part of the celebrations.

Public Life

Krishna Janmashtami is a gazetted holiday in India so government offices and many businesses (including local offices and shops) are closed. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States but some cities may hold large celebrations for the Janmashtami festival.

Background

There are numerous legends that tell the life of Krishna. He is known for his mischievous pranks such as tricking people out of their freshly churned butter or stealing clothes while they bathed in the river. Krishna is known for defeating the 100-headed serpent, Kaliya, by dancing it to submission.

Symbols

There are many paintings, sculptures and classical dances that depict the life of Krishna, which typically show him as a child dancing and holding a ball of butter. He is also often shown as the divine lover, playing the flute and surrounded by adoring women.

The climbing games reflect the stories of Krishna, who as a boy loved milk and butter so much that they had to be kept out of his reach.

Ladies draw patterns of little children's footprints outside that are walking towards their house to symbolize the entry of the infant Krishna into his foster-home or their homes.

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