Krishna Janmashtami (Devanagari कृष्ण जन्माष्टमी kṛṣṇa janmāṣṭamī), also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti or sometimes simply as Janmashtami, 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 Shravan (August–September) in the Hindu calendar. Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathura and 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.
Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna’s infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct readings of the Hindu religious scripture Bhagavad Gita
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. The procession dates back to 1902, but was stopped in 1948 following the establishment of Pakistan and subsequent attacks by Muslim mobs in Dhaka. The procession was resumed in 1989.
Janmashthami is celebrated by Pakistani Hindus in the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Karachi with the singing of bhajans and delivering of sermons on Krishna.
About eighty percent of the population of Nepal identify themselves as Hindus and celebrate Krishna Janmashtimi. They observe Janmashtami by fasting until midnight. They chant slokas from the Bhagavad Gita and sing religious songs called bhajans. The temples of Lord Krishna are decorated, and bhajans and kirtans are sung or played. The Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square, Narayanhiti Krishnamandir, and other temples of Lord Krishna are the centres for festivities on Krishna Janmaasthimi. 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. After the temple priest gives them prasad, they make their way home.
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. People in the city of Dwarka in Gujarat – where Krishna is believed to have established his Kingdom – celebrate the festival by visiting the Dwarkadhish temple. In Jammu, kite flying is an important part of the celebration on his day.
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. Purana Pravachana from the Bhagavata Purana are recited from the 10th Skandha. This section deals with pastimes of Krishna. The next day is called “Nanda Utsav” or the joyous celebration of Krishna’s foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. On this day, people break their fast and offer various cooked sweets during the early hours.