The festival of Janmashtami commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna
, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The festival is also referred to as Gokulashtami, or Govinda in Maharashtra. Lord Krisha is revered for his wisdom about how to live life on Earth.
When is Krishna Janmashtami Celebrated:
August/September, depending on the cycle of the moon. The festival runs for two days. In 2014, it will take place on August 17-18.
Where is Krishna Janmashtami Celebrated:
Throughout India. One of the best places to experience the festival is in the city of Mumbai. Celebrations take place at hundreds of locations across the city and Maharashtra Tourism runs special buses for foreign tourists. The huge ISKCON temple complex, in the beach side suburb of Juhu, also has a special festival program. In Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna in northern India, temples are brightly decorated for the occasion, many with displays depicting important scenes from the life of Lord Krishna.
Where to Stay in Mathura and Vrindavan
How Krishna Janmashtami is Celebrated:
The highlight of the festival, which takes place on the second day especially in Mumbai, is the Dahi Handi
. This is where clay pots containing butter, curd, and money are strung up high from buildings and young Govindas form a human pyramid
and compete with each other to reach the pots and break them open. This celebration represents Lord Krishna's love for butter and curd, which were the foods he most often enjoyed eating. Lord Krishna was quite mischievous and would take curd from people's houses, so the housewives hung it up high out of his way. Not to be deterred, he gathered his friends together and climbed up to reach it.
What Rituals are Performed During Krishna Janmashtami:
Fasting is observed on the first day of the festival until midnight, when Lord Krishna was believed to have been born. People spend the day at temples, offering prayers, singing, and reciting his deeds. At midnight, a traditional prayer is offered. Special baby cradles are installed in temples and a small statue placed in them. The most elaborate rituals are performed at Mathura, where Lord Krishna was born and spent his childhood.
What Can Be Expected at Krishna Janmashtami:
Lots of chanting, with huge crowds at temples devoted to Lord Krishna. Children get dressed up as Lord Krishna and his companion Radha, and people play games and people perform dances depicting the various events in Lord Krishna's life. The Dahi Handi festivities, while fun to watch, can get quite intense for Govinda participants, sometimes resulting in broken bones and other injuries.