Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham,Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayant or Sree Jayanti, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. The festival is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shraavana (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathuraand Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur.
While the Rasa lila re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days, the Dahi Handi celebrate God’s playful and mischievous side, where teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. This tradition, also known as uriadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami. 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 the 8th son of Devaki and Vasudeva. Based on scriptural details and astrological calculations, the date of Krishna’s birth, known as Janmashtami, is 19 July 3228 BCE and he lived until 3102 BCE. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas from Mathura, and was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
Mathura was the capital of the Yadavas, to which Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki belonged. King Kansa, Devaki’s brother, had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father, King Ugrasena. Afraid of aprophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki‘s eighth son, Kansa had the couple locked in a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki’s apparent miscarriage of the seventh (which was actually a secret transfer of the infant to Rohini as Balarama), Krishna was born.
Following the birth, Vishnu ordered Vasudeva to take Krishna to Gokul to Nanda and Yashoda, where he could live safely, away from his Uncle Kansa. Vasudeva took Krishna with him and crossed Yamuna to reach Gokul. There, everyone was asleep; so he quietly kept him there and returned with Yashoda‘s daughter. Kansa, thinking her to be Devki’s eight child, threw her on a stone. But she rose into the air and transformed into Yogmaya (who is Vishnu’s helper) and warned Kansa about his death. Then, she disappeared. Krishna grew up in Gokul with his brother, Balram. He then returned to Mathura and killed Kansa with the help of Balram.
Celebration around Geographies
Maharashtra: Gokulashtami, popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as Dahi Handi, is celebrated as an event which involves making ahuman pyramid and breaking an earthen pot (handi) filled with buttermilk (dahi), which is tied at a convenient height. The topmost person tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object. When the handi breaks, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group. This event is based on the legend of the child-god Krishna stealing butter. A participant in this festival is called a govinda or govinda pathak.
Goa: The coastal state of Goa has been associated with the Yadavas. Known as Ahstam in Goa,celebrated with great zeal on family level as well as community levels,especially in the temples of Devaki Krishna(perhaps the only temple dedicated to Devaki in India) and Naroa, the ancient town of Kadambas.
Uttar Pradesh: Places in Uttar Pradesh that are associated with Krishna’s childhood, such as Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, attract visitors from all over India, who go there to participate in the festival celebrations.
Jammu: In Jammu, kite flying is an important part of the celebration on his day.
Odisha: In the eastern state of Odisha, in the region around Puri and in Nabadwip, West Bengali people celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and worship until midnight. The next day is called “Nanda Utsav” or the joyous celebration of Krishna’s foster parents Nanda and Yashoda.
Manipur: popularly known in Manipur as Krishna Janma – is a significant festival celebrated at two temples in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. The first festival is at the Govindaji temple, and the second is at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness temple. Devotees of Lord Krishna gather mostly at the ISKCON temple.
Tamilnadu: The people decorate the floor with kolams (decorative pattern drawn with rice batter). Geetha Govindam and other such devotional songs are sung in praise of Lord Krishna. They draw the footprints of Lord Krishna from the threshold of the house to the temple, which depicts the arrival of Lord Krishna into the house.
Nepal: Janmashtami in nepal is observed here till midnight. Numerous devotees flock to the ancient Krishna temple in old Patan Durbar Square to keep vigil through the revered night of his birth. Observances include people sitting closely together, bodies rocking as women chant the many names of Lord Krisha, such as Narayan, Narayan and Gopal, Gopal. Some sing hymns, others clap their hands, while some others pray. Crowds of men and women edge their way slowly up narrow steps through the seated devotees to the temple’s dark interior, to where the main idol stands. There they offer flowers, coins and food, and wait for a glimpse of the Krishna Janmashtami idol.
Bangladesh: Janmashthami is a national holiday in Bangladesh. On Janmashthami, a procession starts from Dhakeshwari Temple in Dhaka, the National Temple of Bangladesh, and then proceeds through the streets of Old Dhaka.
Other regions: The first ever elected government official in the world to issue proclamation for the celebration Janmashtami is Janet Napolitano, while she was the Governor of Arizona. The festival is also celebrated widely by Hindus in Caribbean in the countries of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the former English colony Fiji as well as the former Dutch colony of Suriname. The Hindus in these countries originated from Uttar Pradesh and are the descendants of indentured immigrants from UP.