Janmashtami, also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Saatam Aatham, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanthi is a festival of the Hindus that commemorates the birth of Lord Krishna. It is celebrated with great religious observance and zeal all over India. Sri Krishna was born in ‘Rohini’ nakshatram (star) to King Vasudeva and Devaki Devi on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Sravana. According to Hindu Mythology, Shri Krishna is considered as the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu on earth. The festival of Janmashtami is a two day celebration. The first two days are celebrated with extreme joy and the celebration reaches its peak at midnight on the first day as Lord Krishna made his first appearance on earth at midnight.
Janmashtami in different parts of India
In Mumbai and Pune, Janmashtami is popularly known as Dahi Handi. The handi is a pot filled with buttermilk or card and is positioned at a height prior to the event. A human pyramid is formed and the topmost person on the pyramid tries to break the pot by hitting it. Onlookers throw water at the pyramid in order to stop it from breaking the pyramid. Various handis are set up in several parts of the city and the ritual involves lot of excitement. In Manipur Janmashtami is popularly known as Krishna Janma. Here the devotees gather mostly at the ISKCON temple. In Uttar Pradesh, where Lord Krishna took birth in Mathura, his playground Gokul and Vrindavan becomes the most crowded place during Janmashtami and the celebrations go up to a week. In Gujarat, the Dwarkadhish temple in the Dwarka city celebrates it with great religious observance and joy. Puri in Orissa and Nabadwip in West Bengal celebrates Krishna Janmashtami with fasting and performing puja at night. The next day is called Nanda Utsav or the celebration of Nanda Maharaja and his wife Yashoda Maharani. This is the day when people breal the fast and offer cooked sweets in early hour.
Exchange of gifts forms an integral part of the celebration of Janmashtami which is considered as a token of love and brotherhood to each other. Amongst the traditional gifts Silver coin is very popular. Coins engraved with the image of Lord Krishna are an ideal gift for this occasion. Lord Krishna idol is also popular as it stands as a symbol of love and brotherhood. Other than this anything can be gifted that is related with Krishna such as Bansuri, Torans and Bandanwars (wall and door hangings with the pictures of Lord Krishna) or items made of Peacock feather (Mor-Pankh)
Lord Krishna was extremely fond of sweets and dairy products. Various types of sweets are cooked to offer to Lord Krishna on Janmashtami. There are some regional specialties too. Murukku and Vella Seedai are specialties of Tamil Nadu. Mathura is popular for Peda which is a sweet made of khoya. Kerala is famous for preparing Paal Payasam (milk kheer) and Neyyappam. Milk and curd are the two key ingredients used in most of the recopies for janmashtami. Shrikhand, Singhade Ki Poori, and Gulabjamun are also popular in this festival.