The birthday of Hinduism’s favorite Lord Krishna is a special occasion for Hindus, who consider him their 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 auspicious day is called Janmashtami. Indian as well as Western scholars have now accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on earth.
How do Hindus celebrate Janmashtami? The devotees of Lord Krishna observe fast for the whole day and night, worshipping him and keeping vigil through the night while listening to his tales and exploits, recite hymns from the Gita, sing devotional songs, and chant the mantra Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.
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.
In the south western state of Maharashtra, people enact the god’s childhood attempts to steal butter and curd from earthen pots beyond his reach. A similar pot is suspended high above the ground and groups of young people form human pyramids to try and reach the pot and break it.