Shri Krishna Janmashtami – History and Celebrations

Radha Krishna

Shri Krishna Janmashtami is also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti or merely as Janmashtami, is an annual commemoration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.

Gokulashtami – Shri Krishna Janmashtami

The festival is celebrated on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Bhadrapada (August-September). Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathura and Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa leela re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna’s childhood days, the Dahi Handi celebrate God’s playful and mischievous acts, where teams of young men form human towers to reach a high-hanging pot full of butter and break it. This tradition, also known as uriyadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami.


Krishna was the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva. Based on scriptural details and astrological calculations the date of Krishna’s birth, known as Shri Krishna Janmashtami, is 19 July 3228 BCE and departed on 3102 BCE. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas from Mathura and he was the eighth son born to the princess Devaki, and her husband Vasudeva.

Shri Krishna Janmashtami

Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) was the capital of the Yadavas, to which Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki belonged. King Kansa, Devaki’s brother, had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father, King Ugrasena. Afraid of a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki’s eighth son, Kansa had the couple locked into a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki’s apparent miscarriage of the seventh (which was actually a secret transfer of the infant to Rohini as Balarama), Krishna was born.

After Krishna’s birth a prophecy ordered Vasudeva to take Krishna to Gokul to Nanda and Yashoda where he can live safely, away from his evil Uncle Kansa. Vasudeva took Krishna with him and crossed Yamuna to reach Gokul. There everyone was asleep, so he quietly kept him there and returned with Yashoda’s daughter. Kansa, thinking her to be Devaki’s eighth child, threw her on a stone, But she rose in air and transformed into Yogmaya (who is Vishnu’s power to act) and warned Kansa about his death. Then she disappeared. Krishna grew up in Gokul with his brother Balarama. He returned to Mathura and killed Kansa and his associates with the help of his brother, Balarama.

Celebrations on Krishna Janmashtami

Hindus celebrate Shri Krishna Janmashtami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna’s infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and distribute sweets and gifts.

Regional Celebrations


Janmashtami/Gokulashtami popularly known in Mumbai and Pune as Dahi Handi, is celebrated with enormous zeal and enthusiasm. The handi is a clay pot filled with buttermilk which is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event. The topmost person on the human pyramid tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object.Shri Krishna Janmashtami

When the handi breaks, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group. Symbolizing their achievement through unity. Handi are set up around the city and groups of youngsters – called Govinda Pathaks-travel around in trucks trying to break as many handis as possible during the day.

Many – such Govinda Pathaks – compete with each other, especially for the handis that dole out hefty rewards. Nowadays, the event, has gathered a political flavor, and it is common for political societies and groups to offer prizes amounting to lakhs of rupees.


Shri Krishna Janmashtami in Manipur as Krishna Janma – is a significant festival celebrated at two temples in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. The first festival is at the Govindaji temple, and another is at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple.


Places in Uttar Pradesh which are associated with Krishna’s childhood, such as Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, attract visitors from all over India, who go there to participate in the festival celebrations. People in the city of Dwarka in Gujarat – where Krishna is believed to have established his Kingdom – celebrate the festival by visiting the Dwarkadhish temple. In Jammu, kite flying is an important part of the celebration on his day.Dwarakadish Temple - Krishna Janmashtami

In the eastern state of Odisha, in the region around Puri and in Nabadwip, People celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and worship until midnight. This section deals with pastimes of Lord Krishna. The next day is called Nanda Utsav or the joyous celebration of Krishna’s foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. On this day, people break their fast and offer various sweets during the early hours.


In Southern India, floors in houses are decorated with Rangoli’s made from flour, to symbolize Krishna’s childhood deeds and actions of stealing butter from houses.


In Nepal Hindus celebrate Krishna Janmashtami. They observe Janmashtami by fasting until midnight. They chant slokas from the Bhagavad Gita and sing bhajans. The temples of Lord Krishna are decorate and bhajans and kirtans are sung or played. The Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square, Narayanhiti and other temples of Lord Krishna are the centers for festivities on Krishna Janmashtami. Observances include people sitting closely together, bodies rocking as women chant the numerous names of Lord Krishna, They offer flowers, coins and food, and wait for a glimpse of the Krishna Janmashtami idol.

Street Plays during Krishnashtami

For the past few years, several thousands teams of youth perform street  plays on the occasion of Janmashtami worldwide. The performances of these  plays are inspired by Pandurang Shastri Athavale, of the Swadhyaya Pariwar, Pune to spread the message of Lord Krishna. They disseminate the thoughts of Bhagavad Gita through street plays around the week of Janmashtami.

A dance drama 'Krishna' on occasion of 'Krishna Janmashtami' celebrations.
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This festival gives us the message to abolish the evil for the development and progress of mankind. Bring the peace, prosperity and harmony among the people. Sri Krishna, as a boy, he was the propounder of the path of devotion. As a chariot-driver of Arjuna in Mahabharata, he conveys the message that in the battle of life, be good and valiantly champion the cause of the good and never compromise with the evil.

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