THE FESTIVAL OF JANMASHTAMI

Word document download: FCT-0404

  • Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna.
  • ‘Janma’ means ‘birth’ and ‘ashatami’ means ‘the eighth day’. Krishna was born on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Shravana.
  • By the western calendar, Janmashtami falls in August or at the very beginning of September.
  • Krishna was born at midnight and many Hindus fast for twenty-four hours prior to that. Those unable to fast completely may undertake a partial fast, abstaining from perhaps everything except fruit and milk.
  • The festival is widely celebrated by most Hindus, although is it especially important to Vaishnavas and those who focus their worship upon Krishna himself.
  • At midnight there is a beautiful arti ceremony. Often, a baby doll decorated as Krishna is swung in a cradle before the shrine.
  • Before the arti, milk sweets are offered to baby Krishna
  • Festivities include hearing about Krishna and his various lila (pastimes), particularly the story of his birth.
  • Popular in the Mumbai (Bombay) area is a competition where young men build human pyramids in order to reach a handi (pot) full of prize money. These are very often suspended between buildings. This game mimics the activities of Govinda (Krishna) who with his brother and friends would steal the yoghurt and butter suspended from the rafters in clay pots.