Janmashtami 2023: Significance and the story of Lord Krishna’s birth

Janmashtami 2023: Significance and the story of Lord Krishna’s birth

Mar 01, 2024Soubhagya Barick

Krishna, the eighth of Lord Vishnu’s Dasavatara (10 incarnations), was born on Ashtami, the eighth day of Krishna Paksha (waning fortnight) in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada/Avani. Thus, this day is celebrated as Janmashtami or Shri Krishna Jayanthi.

The eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva, the Lord was born in prison around midnight in Mathura, located in present day Uttar Pradesh. His birth was preceded by turmoil as a heavenly voice had prophesied that Kamsa, the maternal uncle of Krishna, would be killed by Devaki’s eighth born. The tyrant king slayed Devaki’s first six children; Balarama, her seventh child was given birth through the surrogacy of Rohini, Vasudeva’s other wife. When Devaki delivered Krishna, Lord Vishnu revealed himself to the couple and instructed Vasudeva to take the new-born (Vishnu himself) to Gokula, swap the child with his friend Nanda’s new born daughter and bring her back to prison.

As the divine play unfolded, the prison guards fell into deep slumber, Vasudeva’s shackles fell away and the prison door opened. Heavy rains lashed across Mathura and the water levels of the Yamuna river rose high. Adi-sesha, the thousand-headed serpent on whom Lord Vishnu rests, raised his hood to form a protective umbrella for Vasudeva and the baby. Miraculously, Yamuna’s force abated as the river gave reduced the levels let him walk smoothly to Gokula.

Nanda’s wife Yashoda, who would go on to raise Lord Krishna, had just given birth to a girl child. Vasudeva quietly exchanged the infants and returned to prison with the girl child. When Kamsa learnt that his sister had given birth to her eighth child, he seized the baby girl from them and hurled her against a rock. The baby revealed herself as Goddess Yogamaya and told Kamsa that his destroyer had already taken birth elsewhere. The goddess then disappeared.

Kamsa sent demons to hunt for the new born Krishna, but the Lord, in his infant form, killed every one of them. The childhood of Krishna is marked by several stories of innocent pranks, cows, cowherd friends and the bond between Yashoda and Krishna became one of the most celebrated depictions of mother and son.

In Mathura and Vrindavan, people celebrate Janmashtami by observing a fast, Ratri Jagran (night vigil) and singing devotional songs throughout the night. They also perform dance dramas called Rasa Leela, enacting the life of Krishna.

In places like Maharashtra, people celebrate Dahi Handi, the day after Janmashtami. Literally meaning a pot of curd, Dahi Handi is a community tradition that marks the Lord’s love for curd, butter and milk and his legendary antics to steal them. Earthen pots of curd are hung high on tall poles. Young boys climb over one another to form a human pyramid and break the pot. The winning group is given a prize. In Gujarat, people perform dances and go out in groups singing in praise of the Lord.

In South India, people decorate their floors with Kolams. They place footprints using rice batter from the threshold of the house until the puja room, as if to symbolise Krishna’s arrival into their homes. Little boys and girls are dressed up as Krishna and Gopis respectively. Bhagavatham and Bhagavad Gita are also recited in Mandals (communities). A number of sweets and savouries, believed to the deity’s favourites, are prepared and offered on the occasion.

This year, Janmashtami falls on 7 September, 2023. 

Traditional Paal Payasam Recipe For Krishna Janmasthami 

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