Krishna Janmashtami or Janmashtami is a Hindu festival celebrated to mark the birth of Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. The festival falls on 24th August in 2019. According to the Hindu lunar calendar, the festival on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Shraavana.
Janmashtami is the largest celebration in the regions of Mathura and Vrindavan where Krishna is believed to have been born. It is typically celebrated by fasting and devotional singing at midnight when Krishna was born. After Krishna’s midnight hour birth, statues of baby Krishna are washed, clothed and placed in a cradle for worship. Devotees then break their fast after midnight by sharing food and sweets. Young boys dress up as Krishna and girls as Radha, Krishna’s paramour, on this day.
In Maharashtra, Janmashtami is also famous as ‘Gokulashtami’. An event called ‘Dahi Handi’ is organised with great fervour in every community inspired by the legend that in his childhood, Krishna would steal milk products such as yogurt and butter due to which people would hide their supplies high up out of his reach. Krishna is believed to have created human pyramids to break the hanging pots. Teams of young boys called ‘Govindas’ climb one over another and form a human pyramid, then break the pot in ‘Dahi Handi’ events.
In Gujarat, the festival is celebrated with ‘Makhan Handi’ events in Dwarka where Krishna is believed to have established his kingdom. Farmers in Kutch region decorate their bullock carts for Krishna processions while singing and dancing.
The ‘Raslila’ (literally means the play of delight) is also an important part of Janmashtami celebrations. Raslila is performed in groups or through solo dance and drama events at Janmashtami. Compositions in praise of Krishna are sung and music accompanies the performance, while the audience and devotees celebrate by clapping hands to the beats.
In Tamil Nadu, kolams (rice batter decorative patterns) adorn the floors on Janmashtami. Footprints of Krishna are drawn from the threshold of the house till the prayer room, showing the arrival of Krishna into the house. Sweets and savouries are prepared for Krishna on this day.
Nepal, Fiji and Bangladesh also celebrate the festival of Janmashtami. It is also a national holiday in Bangladesh.