Year on year, Krishnashtami is celebrated on the Krishnapaksha Ashtami (eighth day of the dark lunar fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada (August – September). The other names of this festival are Krishna Janmashtami and Gokulashtami. Krishnashtami heralds the birth of Sri Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Krishnashtami is marked by an elaborate festival in India especially in Krishna temples. Every Hindu household celebrates Krishnashtami with devotional fervour.
Why Krishna incarnated?
Krishna Avatar descended on the earth in the age of Dwapara (the third age of the four Yugas cycle). The purpose of Krishna’s incarnation was stated by the Lord Himself in the Bhagavad Gita (Song Divine) He delivered to Arjuna in the battle field of Kurukshetra. Sri Krishna says He incarnates on this earth whenever Dharma declines in order to restore it to its original splendour. Also, the purpose of his incarnations was to protect the virtuous and annihilate the wicked thus making the world a better place to live in. Krishna played a decisive role in the battle of Kurukshetra by winning the rightful kingdom for the Pandavas from the wicked Kauravas headed by Duryodhana. Krishna personally fought with the demons Kamsa, Sisupala and Jarasandha and killed them.
When Devaki and Vasudeva were married, an ethereal voice announced the demon Kamsa, the brother of Devaki that the eighth son born to Devaki would kill him. Taken by shock and fear, Kamsa decides to imprison the newly wedded couple. During their long jailed life, Devaki bore seven children followed by the eighth one as Krishna. During the night when Krishna was born, a heavenly voice directed Vasudeva, Krishna’s father to take the child and exchange it with the newly born girl baby in the home of Nanda, the chieftain of the village of Gokul.
Babies were exchanged
The night was dark with a heavy downpour when Krishna was born. Vasudeva followed the command of the heavenly voice and the couple got the divine vision of Lord Mahavishnu. Vasudeva took the baby in a basket and the prison gates opened automatically giving way to the divine child. The flooded river Yamuna parted and gave way to Krishna. The divine serpent Adisesha spread its hoods on the basket to provide an umbrella for the baby. Finally the babies were exchanged and Krishna started growing in Gokul. Later when Kamsa tried to kill the girl baby, it got transformed as Mahakali and disappeared in the sky announcing that Krishna was growing in Gokul only to annihilate Kamsa.
How is Krishnashtami celebrated?
On the day of Krishnashtami, the houses are cleaned and decorated. An idol or picture of Krishna is installed in the altar and a special puja is done preferably in the night marking the time of Krishna’s birth. Special dishes are prepared and the families sing the songs of Krishna. In many households, the imprints of the feet of little Krishna are drawn in rice flour leading from the entrance to the puja room. Night long pujas happen in Krishna temples with special processions and decorations of the deities. The charm of Krishnashtami makes people await this festival with enthusiasm.