Krishna Janmashtami is the celebration of the birth of Lord Shri Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is believed to have been born about five thousand years ago in Mathura in ‘Dwapar Yuga’. Krishna Janmashtami is also known as Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami and sometimes simply as Janmashtami. It is essentially a Hindu festival. The festival is generally observed on Ashtami tithi, the eighth day of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadrapada in the Hindu calendar, when the Rohini Nakshatra is ascendant. This is usually in the months of August and September in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and vigor by Hindus all over India and abroad. People observe fast the whole day, sing hymns and conduct prayers at midnight to rejoice the birth of Lord. Ras lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature that is showcased in every part of the country, as it re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s youthful days. Another interesting aspect of Krishna Janmashtami is the practice of Dahi-Handi. This game portrays the playful and mischievous side of Krishna, where teams of young men form human pyramids to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it.
According to the Puranas Krishna took birth on the 8th lunar day (Ashtami) of the waning moon of the month of Smvana at midnight, upon the moon’s entrance into Rohini asterism. This day is marked as Janmashtami. Krishna is one of the most worshiped Gods in India and belongs to the Hindu Trinity. He is believed to be one of the eight incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The story of birth of Krishna is an intriguing one. The story goes like this: One day Mother Earth was appalled by the number of sins that were being committed on her surface. She went to Brahma that God of the Gods and appealed to him for help. Brahma, after listening to her, appealed to Lord Vishnu who said that He would take birth on earth and His avatar will destroy every kind of sin that was being committed on earth then.
During that time, Mathura was in miserable state as Kansa, brother of Devki, had put his father, King Ugrasen in prison and declared himself the new king. To put an end to his evil rule, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in the human form. As such, at the wedding ceremony of Devki and Vasudev, there was a divine prophecy which proclaimed that Vasudeva’s eighth son would kill Kansa. To protect himself, Kansa rushed to kill his sister but gave up the idea of killing after being assured by Vasudev that he will hand over all his children to Kansa. Kansa put his brother-in-law and sister in prison. Kansa killed all the six infants as soon as they were born. The seventh child (Balram) was saved due to divine intervention, when he was transferred from Devki’s womb to that of Rohini’s (other wife of Vasudev).
As Devki conceived the eighth child, everything around was imbued with benevolence and majestic beauty. Lord Krishna was born in the divine form with lotus like eyes, his palms bearing the signs of a lotus, while his sole has a swastika sign. He was adorned with jewels and was wearing a crown. Just as he was born at midnight, a chain of events astonished Vasudev, when he saw the gates of the cell flow open and all the guards fast asleep. He immediately thought of Nand, his close friend in Gokul and decided to hand over his child to him in order to save him from the clutch of Kansa. Crossing the River Yamuna, Vasudev reached Nand’s residence and exchanged his son with Nand’s daughter. Upon reaching the prison, the door got locked behind him and he was chained again as if nothing happened in between. The guards also woke up and after hearing the cry of the baby, informed Kansa about the birth of the eighth child. Just as Kansa rushed to kill the baby, it slipped out of his hand and flew towards the sky, proclaiming that the annihilator of Kansa was born and was safe.