India — Festivals
Krishna Janmashtami — 5244th Birth Anniversary of Lord Krishna
Krishna Janmashtami or simply Janmashtami, also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti, Saatam Aatham, Dahi Handi, is an annual Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. It is observed according to Hindu lunar calendar, on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Shravana (overlaps with August and September of the Gregorian calendar). Janmashtami falls on August 14 in 2017 for Smarta Sampradaya. For Vaishanava Sampradaya and ISKCON Janmashtami falls on August 15 in 2017.
Krishna played an important role in Mahabharata and propagated the theory of bhakti and good karma which are narrated deeply in the Bhagwat Geeta.
Indian Festival of Krishna Janmashtami — August 14, 2017
It is observed mainly by Hindus in India and Nepal but also in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Fiji, USA, Caribbean Islands, etc. It is celebrated particularly in Mathura and Brindavan, along with major Vaishnava communities found in Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other regions.
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.
Lord Krishna was the eighth son of Vasudeva and Princess Devaki. He was born at midnight in Mathura. Lord Krishna hailed from Yadava’s Vrishni clans in Mathura. Devaki’s brother, Kansa imprisoned his father, King Ugrasena, to take the throne. The tyrant and evil ruler of the Vrishni Kingdom was making people’s lives miserable. But he was cursed to die at the hands of the eighth son of his sister. The merciless king immediately threw Devaki and Vasudeva into the prison. To try and escape this curse, Kansa went on to kill all the six children that Devaki had borne in all those years. However, the seventh child who was informed to be miscarried was mystically transferred to the womb of Princess Rohini in Vrindavan who grew up to become Balram, the elder brother of Lord Krishna.
Immediately following the birth of Krishna, his father Vasudeva was guided by Lord Vishnu and took him across the Yamuna to Gokul where he was then taken care of by his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. Thinking Yashoda’s daughter as her 8th child, Kansa threw her on stone. But she became Yogmaya (sent by Lord Vishnu) and warned him about his death, and disappeared. It was a night of frightening thunderstorm and heavy downpour. But Vasudev kept walking with Krishna atop of his head in a basket, braving the storm and the choppy river. To protect Krishna, Shesh Nag (Snake God) also quietly rose from behind to cover his lord from the rains, as Vasudeva made his way. Years later, Krishna took the life of Kansa and Mathura was reinstated as a happy kingdom once again.
Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by devotional singing through the midnight when Krishna is believed to have been born, fasting (upavasa), a night vigil (jagarana), and a festival (mahotsava) on the following day. They break the fast on the next day when the Ashtami Tithi is over. The devotees offer chappan bhog on the following day known as Nanda Utsav and prepare a list of 56 dishes to offer to the god. After the offering, the prasad is then distributed and shared among the devotees so that they can end their fast. As legend goes, it constitutes Krishna’s favourite dishes and usually includes cereals, fruits, dry fruits, sweets, drinks, namkeen and pickles in quantities of eight under each category. Some of the common items which are found in the bhog are makhan mishri,kheer, rasgulla, jalebi, rabri, mathri, malpua, mohanbhog, chutney, murabba, saag, dahi, Khichadi, tikkis, milk, cashews etc.
It is an important festival particularly to the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. The Vaishnavs organize dance-drama enactments of Krishna’s life according to the Bhagavata Purana called Raas Lila or Krishna Lila. Major Krishna temples organize recitation of Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita.