Krishna is considered to be the most important human incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to legend, he was born at midnight on the eighth day of the waning moon during Shravan around 5200 years ago in Mathura. His purpose in coming to earth was to free earth from evil, according to calendarlabs.com. Krishna is portrayed as pious yet mischievous, and loving and understanding to all people.
Krishna's birthday is celebrated all over India. The biggest celebrations take place in Mathura and Vrindavan, cities in which Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Devotees all over the world flock to these cities to participate in Janmashtami. People fast until midnight and chant Hindu mantras. Homes and temples are decorated. At temples, people perform kirtan (singing Lord Krishna's name with other devotees ) and japa (private prayer.) A feast of over a hundred dishes is prepared for Krishna. Some children dress up as Lord Krishna.
The most important part of the celebration occurs in the temple at midnight, since that is the time at which Lord Krishna was born. A statue of baby Krishna is bathed with a mixture of holy water from the Ganges River, milk, ghee, curd, and honey poured from a conch shell, then placed in a cradle.
Rejoicing continues into the second day. Devotional songs and dances are performed to honor Krishna. Reenactments of important events of Krishna's life take place in temples. In cities, dahi handi (large earthen pots) are filled with milk and curd and hung from tall poles, and devotees form a human pyramid to try to break the dahi handi. This reenacts a time in Lord Krishna's childhood when he managed to grasp a pot containing curd that had been placed out of his reach.
|A human pyramid: credits to about.com|