Observed in Countries with Hindu populations, primarily India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka
Observed on Eighth day of the dark fortnight of Sravana, the fifth month of the Hindu calendar
Observed by Hindus

The Hindu festival of Janmashtami (sometimes called Krishna Janmashtami) celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, arguably the most venerated god in Hinduism. Hindus believe Krishna to be an avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, the creator of the universe and the second deity, as the preserver, of the Hindu trinity; the first deity is Lord Brahma, the creator, and the third is Lord Shiva, the destroyer.
Krishna is a hero, teacher, warrior, and philosopher in Hinduism. He is also regarded as the eternal platonic lover, devoid of carnal lust. Hindus believe that it was Krishna who delivered the deeply philosophical message of the Bhagavad Gita (“The Divine Song”), one of the world’s religious classics.
Janmashtami is also known as Krishna Ashtami, Sri Jayanthi, and Gokula Ashtami. It begins on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of Sravana, the fifth month of the Hindu calendar (August–September in the Gregorian calendar). The festivities are spread over two consecutive days. The first day is known as Gokulashtami; the second day is Janmashtami.
The festival is observed with great pomp and splendor in the temples and homes of devotees.
During this period, the devotees forgo sleep, opting instead to sing bhajans (Hindu devotional songs).
Hindus believe that Krishna’s birth took place at midnight; so celebrations usually begin at that time.
A number of delicious dishes are made with curd and milk as their base-both these ingredients are believed to be Krishna’s favorites. Some devotees fast during the first day of the celebrations, opting to eat only after midnight. Singing and dancing are ways to venerate the deity. In addition, plays based on stories about Krishna’s childhood are performed.
In all the temples devoted to Krishna, his likenesses are bathed and placed in cradles. Hymns and chants are recited with great fervor to praise and glorify him. In this context, Krishna is known by names such as Bal Gopala (“Baby Boy”) or Naadoo Gopal (“the Kid Who Is Fond of Sweet Tidbits”). Incidentally, Krishna’s nickname, Gopala, means “the boy who tends cows.”
Origins and History
Krishna is believed to be the most magnificent incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hindus believe that merely uttering his name or remembering him will bring untold joy and bliss. They consider Krishna their redeemer since he quelled all evil forces to bring peace and virtues into the world. No other god in Hinduism is linked with romantic tales and radiates all the divine qualities that Krishna does.
Prior to Krishna’s birth his maternal uncle, the wicked King Kansa (who ruled over Mathura), had been told that his sister Devaki’s eighth child (a boy) would slay him. Because of this prophecy, King Kansa locked Devaki and her husband, Vasudev, in the palace dungeon. The first seven of their children were also brutally killed by Kansa. After the birth of the eighth child a series of miracles took place. The gates of the prison were magically unlocked, and the guards miraculously fell asleep.
Then a divine voice ordered Vasudev to take the newborn child to Gokul (a tiny village near Mathura, India) where his friends, a couple named Nanda and Yashoda, lived and exchange Krishna with their newborn daughter. Though there were torrential rains that night, and the river Yamuna was flooding, when Vasudeva entered the river to cross to the other side (en route to Gokul), the waters receded and made way for the wonder child who had to be taken to safer environs. Thus, Kansa’s plans to kill the eighth child were foiled.
Krishna grew up to be a notoriously mischievous child. His penchant for butter-and all dairy products-is legendary. He is familiarly called makhan chor (“butter stealer”). Krishna’s favorite pastime was playing his flute. As he grew up, Krishna performed many miraculous and astonishing feats for the people around him. He vanquished the python Kaliya, who tormented people and devoured their livestock. When another Hindu deity, an angry Indra (the king of heaven), unleashed a severe thunderstorm upon his people, Krishna raised the peak of the Goverdhan Hill on his little finger to provide shelter for them.
Hearing of his courageous deeds, the evil Kansa called Krishna to Mathura, challenging him to fight with the mighty wrestler Chanura. As Krishna approached the wrestling arena, Kansa unleashed a mad elephant to crush his nephew.
Krishna simply picked up the animal by its trunk, threw it into the air, and killed it. Then he wrestled with the mighty Chanura and killed him, too.
Finally, he rushed toward Kansa, Chanura’s uncle, and killed him, thereby fulfilling the prophecy.
As a youth, Krishna became the bosom friend and close associate of Arjuna (the third of the five Pandava brothers, who figure in the epic Mahabharata).
Krishna chose the modest position of chariot driver and remained at his friend’s side during the Mahabharata War. Before the commencement of the battle, Krishna inspired Arjuna (as recorded in the Bhagavad Gita) and led the brothers to victory.
During Janmashtami Hindu homes are cleaned and elaborately decorated. In the afternoon, prasad (food that is to be offered to the deity for blessings) is prepared and then distributed after the evening prayers are finished. Offerings of sweets, water, flowers, and a variety of fruits are placed before the image of Krishna in a cradle.
With the approach of darkness, lamps are lit. At midnight, tika (a red sacred mark) is drawn on the face of the idol, and devotees shower it with flower petals, water, and rice. Bhajans are sung in praise of Krishna. Thereafter, prasad is distributed, and everyone consumes lavish, delicious vegetarian meals. The following day, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, in order to reenact Krishna’s favorite childhood pastime of stealing butter, people form pyramids on the streets to break pots suspended from overhead wires and ropes.