Janmashtami 2023: Importance, Observance, and Significance - The India Saga



Janmashtami 2023: Importance, Observance, and Significance

India is a land of festivals! As a diverse country, it contains many customs and traditions which vary from person…

Janmashtami 2023: Importance, Observance, and Significance

Janmashtami 2023: Importance, Observance, and Significance

India is a land of festivals! As a diverse country, it contains many customs and traditions which vary from person to person. It is the festivals of India that keep the citizens united and integrated even with its diversity. The festivals are vibrant and cheerful, reflecting the rich culture and heritage of the country. According to the Hindu calendar, almost every month a festival is celebrated. The year starts with the grand celebration of Navratri and Ram Navami of Chaitra maas and ends with the festival of colours Holi Phalgun maas. Here each festival has its unique customs and traditions, where people come together to celebrate. One such festival is Janmashtami or Krishna Ashtami, the celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth. 


Janmashtami’s Importance

Janmashtami is a festival in which the Sanatanis celebrate the birth of their beloved Keshav. The festival is celebrated on the Ashtami of Bhadra Maas. It is one of the major festivals in India and is honoured collectively at the mass level. Whereas, across the globe, the festival is celebrated by the followers of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) and Vaishnavism. Lord Krishna is the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu (one of the principal deities of Hinduism, the preserver). In many Puranas and ancient Indian texts, Krishna is identified as the supreme God and the source of all avatars. Lord Krishna has many nicknames for devotees like Gopala, Hari, Keshav, Madhav, Murari, Mohan and the list goes on. 



The festival of Janmashtami includes a bunch of rituals around the festival’s celebration like reading and recitation of religious texts, dance and re-enactments of Krishna’s life according to the Bhagavata Purana, devotional singing until midnight (Krishna’s birth), and fasting (upavasa). Additionally, Dahi Handi is one of the most popular games played across the streets of India. On the occasion of this festival, a majestic celebration with good decoration and tableaux is organised in the temples. Mathura, the heart of Brij-bhoomi and the birthplace of Krishan along with Vrindavan where he grew up are the two places where the day is celebrated at a grand level. 



Information about Krishna’s life can be found in the Mahabharata, the Puranas and the Bhagavata Purana. Krishna is the eighth child of Devaki (mother) and Vasudeva (father). Krishna was born in a prison in Mathura. However, his parents were forced to be imprisoned by his maternal uncle Kamsa. That is because, during Devaki’s wedding, Kamsa was warned by a heavenly voice that her eighth son would be the cause of his death. Thus, in an attempt to defy that prophecy, Kamsa captured Devaki and her husband and eventually killed her first seven infants right after birth.


Upon his birth, the guards in charge of guarding Devaki’s cell fell asleep and the cell doors miraculously opened. These events enabled Vasudeva to send Krishna across the Yamuna River to his foster parents Yashoda (mother) and Nanda (father). During Krishna’s childhood and young adulthood, Balarama, Krishna’s half-brother, was his “constant companion.” Balarama joined Krishna in the grand events celebrated in Brij, Vrindavan, Dravarka, and Mathura, such as stealing butter, chasing calves, playing in the stables, and participating in matches. 


The festival is also known by its other names Gokulashtami, Shree Jayanti, Saatam Aatham, Krishnashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Krishna Jayanthi, Shuvo Janmashtami at different places. In a ritual purification called abhisheka, idols are also washed in auspicious milk. In temples at midnight, the priests open the curtains to reveal the freshly dressed Krishna deity in the artistically decorated sanctum. As part of Janmashtami decorations, people decorate flutes, and clean homes and temples.