Updated: August 11, 2020
Krishna Janmashtami is a hindu festival that celebrates the birth anniversary of lord Krishna. He is considered the eighth avatar of Vishnu. It is also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti and Sree Jayanthi. It is observed according to Hindu luni-solar calendar, on the eighth day of the Krishna Paksha or dark fortnight in the month of Shraavana of the lunar Hindu Calendar and Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadrapad of the lunisolar Hindu Calendar. This overlaps with August and September of the Gregorian calendar.
It is an important festival particularly to the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. In Mathura, the city of Demon King Kansa, Lord Krishna was born in the prison of the King as the eighth child of Devaki on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of Bhadrapada month. It was midnight and Moon was rising along with Rohini Nakshatra when he was born. Hence, Krishnashtami commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna every year. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as ISKCON is founded on the principles of Vaishnava traditions and most followers of the ISKCON are the followers of Vaishnavism. In North India, most people observe Janmashtami on the day chosen by ISKCON.
Rasa lila or Krishna Lila which is a traditional part of the life of Krishna according to the Bhagavata Purana and devotional singing through the midnight when Krishna is believed to have been born is a part of janmashtami celebration.
Fasting, a night vigil called jagarana, and a festival on the following day are also a part of the Janmashtami celebrations. It is celebrated particularly in Mathura and Brindavan, along with major Vaishnava and non-sectarian communities found in Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other regions.
Krishna Janmashtami is followed by the festival Nandotsav, which celebrates the occasion when Nanda Baba, the father of Krishna distributed gifts to the community in honour of the birth.
Devotees should have the only single meal a day before Janmashtami who observe fast on Janmashtami. Devotees take Sankalpa to observe a day long fast on fasting day. They break it on the next day when both Rohini Nakshatra and Ashtami Tithi are over. Some devotees break the fast when either Rohini Nakshatra or Ashtami Tithi is over. Sankalpa is taken after finishing morning rituals and the day-long fasting begins with Sankalpa. The time to perform Krishna Puja is during the midnight.
Grains should not be consumed during Janmashtami fasting until the fast is broken on next day after Sunrise. The rules followed during Janmashtami fasting is similar to followed during Ekadashi fasting. Fast should be broken at an appropriate time which is on next day after Sunrise. Depending on end timing of Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra fasting on Krishna Janmashtami might continue for two complete days. Devotees who are not able to follow two days fasting might break the fast on next day after Sunrise.
On Janmashtami, parents dress up their children as characters in the legends of Krishna, such as gopis and as Krishna. Temples and community centers are decorated with regional flowers and leaves, while groups speak or listen to the tenth chapter of Bhagavata Purana, and the Bhagavata Gita. Most of the time, Krishna Janmashtami is listed on two consecutive days. The first one is for Smarta Sampradaya and the latter one is for Vaishanava Sampradaya.