Krishnashtami also known as Janmashtami, Gokulashtami or Srikrishna Jayanti which is the birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. Krishnashtami is celebrated in the August/September months, on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Shravan and is celebrated over two days.
The first day is Krishnashtami or Gokulashtami. The second day is called Kalastami or more popularly Janmashtami. This celebration is said to be revealed originally by the Sri Krishna himself to Yudhishthira, the eldest of Pandavas, as mentioned in the Bhavishyottara Puran.
Historians calculate that the birth of Lord Krishna goes back to the Dwapar Yug (around 3228 BC). He was born on a dark, stormy night on the day eight day of the second fortnight of the month of Shravan which now corresponds to the month of August-September in the Gregorian calendar. Born in the prison of Demon Kansa, from Kansa’s sister Devaki and Vasudeva, Krishna was declared to be the saviour of mankind and the end of Kansa even before his birth. Krishna, right from the day of birth exhibited that he was a special child and there was extraordinary powers with him. Throughout his childhood and adolescence in Gokul, he did many things which made people believe that he was a form of God. Since then, the people of Nandanavanam celebrated the birth of Krishna as a day of fortune.
Even thousands of years after his heavenly abode, people observe this day as a day of fortune and commemorate the birth of Lord Krishna by fasting and feasting. It is the deep faith and devotion of people towards him that the festival is still celebrated with a great honour, joy as well as elation as it was celebrated thousands of years back.
People fast on this day, usually a waterless fast. They spend the day immersed in Shri Krishna's glory by reading, reciting and singing his divine leela especially in the evening in mandirs. Temples of Lord Krishna are decorated most beautifully and children are adorned as Lord Krishna and Radhika, his spiritual beloved.
Krishna Leela or the plays depicting scenes from Krishna's life, especially childhood, are performed. At midnight, the Lord's birth hour, arthi is performed. He is also installed in the form of 'Lalji' (child form) in a swing and devotionally offered many sumptuous food dishes. 'Makhan' (butter) is especially included since Shri Krishna loved this in childhood.
The most popular ceremony of Dahi-handi (breaking a pot full of milk and its derivatives} takes place on the second day. During this ceremony a large earthenware pot is filled with milk, curds, butter, honey fruits etc. and is suspended from a height between 20 to 40 feet. Sporting young men and boys come forward to claim this prize. To do so they construct a human pyramid by standing over each other's shoulders till the pyramid is tall enough to enable the top most person to reach the pot and claim the contents after breaking it. Normally, currency notes are tied to the rope by which the pot is suspended. This prize money is distributed among those who participate in the pyramid building.
This ceremony replicates Krishna's love for milk and butter. In his childhood, the Lord Krishna along with his mates used to raid the houses of his neighbours in search of milk and butter.
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