Krishna Janmashtami celebrates the birth of one of the most powerful incarnations of Vishnu, who we consider a leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend all rolled into one. Krishna took birth at midnight on the ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha or dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September). This day is considered as an auspicious day for all devotees. On this day people decorate their homes, prepare delicacies to offer to the lord, observe fast for the whole day and night, worshiping him and keeping vigil through the night while listening to his tales and exploits, reciting hymns from the Gita, sing devotional songs and chant the mantra ‘Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya’ (Om, I bow to Lord Krishna).
Janmashtami is celebrated in different parts of the country and each in their own special way.
Krishna’s birthplace Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate this occasion with great pomp and show. Raslilas or religious plays are performed to recreate incidents from the life of Krishna and to commemorate his love for Radha. Song and dance mark the celebration of this festive occasion all over northern India. 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.
The people of south western state of Maharashtra, follow a fun, energetic and joyful ritual to celebrate Janmashtami. Here everyone participates in enacting Lord Krishna’s childhood attempts at stealing butter and curd from earthen pots that were kept beyond his reach. A similar pot is suspended high above the ground and groups of enthusiastic young people form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and break it. This ritual of breaking the pot is known as Dahi-Handi. Onlookers throw water on the young people in order to prevent them from breaking the pot. Breaking of the pot is followed by prize distribution. Devotees believe that the broken pieces of earthen pot will keep away misery and negative powers from their homes.
The main objective of Lord Krishna’s birth was to free Mother Earth from the wickedness of various demons, playing an important part in Mahabharata (legendary battle in Kurukshetra) and propagating the theory of bhakti and good karma. This auspicious day of his birth helps remind people of the importance of Lord Krishna’s teachings on the aspects of human life famously known as The Bhagwad Gita – the divine songs of Lord. Thus his divine arrival on to this earth truly made things merrier and happier. Love seemed to prevail everywhere and amongst everyone.
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृतं ।
धर्म संस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे ।।
In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.
Bhagvad Gita Chapter 4.8