Janmashtami is the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. Devotees celebrate it with feasts and dances after the whole day fast. People go to temples, specially of Lord Krishna which are decorated for this day.Janmashtami otherwise known as Gokulashtami is celebrated in the Hindu month of bhadon which is the 8th day of the dark fortnight known as the Krishna Paksh.
People usually on the day of Gokulashtami fast till midnight and visit Krishna's temple for it is believed that Lord Krishna was born exactly at the stroke of midnight.Janmashtami is celebrated with joy and gaiety not only in India but all over the world with great pomp and show.Janmashtami Festival is considered to be very auspicious for the devotees of 'Lord Krishna'.
History & OriginLord Krishna is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu who was born in this world only to get rid of the evil demons.Janmashtami history dates back to thousand years. History narrates that Krishna was born to Deviki and Vasudev who were imprisoned by his maternal uncle Kans the arbitrary King of Mathura.It was foretold that Kans will be killed by the eighth child of Deviki.So Kans imprisoned Deviki and Vasudev and killed all the seven children born to her. But however there was a divine intervention to save the life of the eighth child for he is the one who is going to kill Kans and the evil thngs.
At last the eighth child was also born. As soon as the baby was born there was a heavenly voice which instructed Vasudev to carry the child and exchange with the newborn baby of Nanda and Yashoda in the Gokul. The shackles and the prison gates opened miraculously and Vasudev carried the child in a small basket, through the waters of Yamuna which paved way for the divine Krishna. A huge snake known as Adisesha with 2000 hoods, glided behind them, its hoods formed a protective canopy over the child. At Gokul Vasudev left Krishna and instead carried the girl child from Yashoda.
Once he was back in the prison the gates got closed by themselves and the shackles also got fastened. Then the guards were awaken only to pass on the information that a baby girl was born. So immediately Kans came to the prison to kill the baby, but the baby took the form of Goddess Yogmaya and said that the boy who is going to kill him was already born elsewhere and she disappeared.
Lord Krishna grew up in the Gokul and as foretold when the right time came he killed Kans.Thus Lord Vishnu is invoked in his human manifestation as Krishna on his birth anniversary in the festival of Janmashtmi.
Customs and TraditionsVarious customs and rituals like fasting and chanting of mantras are followed on the day of Janmashtami throughout the world. Apart from this there are other traditional rituals which are followed in athura, Vrindavan and Dwarka.
FastingFasting is considered to be a very essential ritual for all the devotees of Lord Krishna, for mostly on this day the people generally fast the whole day and break it at midnight for it is believed that it was the time Krishna was born. They break the fast by drinking milk and other milk related products for it is considered to be pure. There are devotees who even fast for two days without drinking water. Such vrat is known as 'Nirjal Vrat'.
ChantingThe devotees of Lord Krishna take the pride of chanting Krishna's name with great joy. Chanting is also accompanied by singing of bhajans, shlokas, mantras and reading of the devotional book, Bhagwat Geeta.
Devotional Songs & DancesBhajans are a vital custom of the Janmashtami celebrations. Devotees sing and dance with fervor in the name of Lord Krishna. In many temples of Mathura and Vridavana, you will find devotees mesmerized and overwhelmed with their love and devotion for Shri Krishna. In the midnight celebration, people gather at a place and sing several kinds of bhajans to highlight his feats and his divine characteristics.
Plays On Lord KrishnaThere are number of organizations run by the devotees of Lord Krishna which conduct stage shows by artists depicting the life of Lord Krishna in the name of Krishnaleela.
Offering SweetsIt is very well known that Lord Krishna likes milk and milk products. So on the day of Janmashtami devotees prepare sweets made of milk and offer them to idols of Lord Krishna and only then perform the pooja or the ritual called as 'bhog'.Once the pooja is done the sweets are distributed among the family members and other devotees.
SwingsThough this custom of taking a ride in the swing is not practiced every where but still it is considered to be very auspicious in the country side.
Celebration in IndiaJanmashtami is celebrated all over the nation with a great feeling of profound awe, respect and love. Though it is a festival of joy and happiness the celebration is more of a manifestation of obedience. The celebration involves the performance of all the rituals in a very religious manner. There are special poojas and prayer ceremonies arranged in the temples on the eve of Janmashtami.Reciting of the Bhagawat Gita along with chanting of shlokas, singing of devotional songs on Lord Krishna are also part of the celebration. Usually in most of the country Krishna Jayanthi is celebrated for a period of three days where the first two days are celebrated with great pomp in a colourful manner.
On the second day of the festival a popular ceremony known as 'Dahi Handi' takes place where the pot containing curd or butter or milk is suspended high above the ground and is broken by the youths. This is quite common in North India. In places like Vrindhavan, Mathura, and Dwaraka which has more association with Lord Krishna the celebration is quite elaborate, where the image of the infant Bala Krishna is bathed and is cradled in the midnight time. The conch shell is blown and the devotees celebrate the birth of the Protector of the world by singing devotional songs and by dancing with great joy.