The Janmashtami festival marks the
birth of Krishna, one of the most popular Gods in the Hindu pantheon.
Krishna is perceived by most Hindus to be an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, who
is regarded as the highest avatar. It is believed that all other deities are
manifestations of him. Krishna is considered to be a warrior, hero, teacher and
philosopher by Hindus.
Krishna's birthday is celebrated eight days after Raksha Bandhan in the month of
Sravana and celebrations are spread over two days.
The first day is called Krishan ashtami or Gokul ashtami. The second day is
known as Kaal ashtami or more popularly Janam ashtami.
For the 48 hour period Hindus are likely to forego sleep and instead sing
bhajans, which are traditional Hindu songs. It is believed that Krishna was born
at midnight and it is at this time that the true festivities commence. Food is
prepared from milk and curds said to have been favoured by Krishna. Some Hindus
choose to fast for the first day of Janamashtami, choosing only to eat after the
midnight celebrations. Dances and songs are used to venerate and remember this
supreme God. Plays are also carried out re-enacting scenes from Krishna's early
life. In Temples images of Krishna are bathed and placed in cradles, whilst the
shankh (conch shell) is played and bells are rung. Holy mantras are also chanted
to venerate Krishna.
Given the significance of Krishna in the Hindu pantheon, Janamashtami is
celebrated with great importance and consideration.