Krishna Janmashtami: Hindus celebrate the colorful life of a beloved deity

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5: Millions of Hindus worldwide revel in the spirit of Lord Krishna, fasting, chanting, indulging in sweets and celebrating for the grand festival of Krishna Janmashtami. An observance that lasts eight days in some regions, Krishna Janmashtami honors the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. To devotees, Krishna is the epitome of countless characteristics: according to ancient texts, he is a mischievous and fun-loving child, a romantic lover and an empathetic friend. Worshippers relate to one or more aspects of Krishna’s personality, and legend has it that the deity reciprocates devotions in ways unique for each devotee.

Did you know? Scriptural details and astrological calculations place Krishna’s birth on July 18, 3228 BCE.

On Krishna Janmashtami, events begin before sunrise and last through midnight. Public and private prayer, both in centuries-old temples and in private homes, can include chanting and singing or a more private praise. Feasts of many dishes are prepared, and dances and dramas depicting the life and ways of Krishna are watched with fanfare. Some devotees dress or decorate statues of Krishna, while others string garlands across temples. Many Hindus fast until midnight—the official birth time of Krishna. At midnight, those at the temple watch a priest pull apart curtains to reveal a fully dressed figure of Krishna.


Across India, Krishna’s janmashtami is commemorated with regional variations. In Mumbai, Pune and in other regions, boys form human pyramids in hopes of having the highest boy break an earthen pot (called a handi) filled with buttermilk, which is tied to a string strung high above the streets. If the pot is broken, buttermilk spills over the group and the boys win prize money. (Wikipedia has details.) Various groups of boys compete in Dahi Handi, in impersonation of a favorite pasttime of the child Krishna: stealing butter. Today, political figures, wealthy individuals and even Bollywood actors contribute to prize money for the Dahi Handi. In some regions of India, younger boys—typically the youngest male in a family—is dressed up like Lord Krishna on Janmashtami. (Get tips here.) Hindus across Nepal, the U.S., Caribbean and more revel in festivities for Krishna Janmashtami, offering fruit, flowers and coins to the deity and chanting together.


The Upudi Press Photographers’ Association will be holding a state-level photography competition for Krishna Janmashtami, with cash prizes (The Hindu has more). At a Sri Krihsna temple in Karnataka, an eight-day cultural program will take place from Sept. 1 and observe festivities in an 800-year-old Krishna temple (more here). Bollywood singer Suresh Wadkar will be performing on the eve of Krishna Janmashtami at the Iskon temple in Noida (more here), and in Gujarat, an exhibition of miniature paintings of Lord Krishna will be inaugurated at midnight on Sept. 5. (Times of India reported.) A miniature painting takes a minimum of six months to complete.


Devotees far from a local temple can celebrate Krishna Janmashtami at home, with suggestions from

  • Invite friends and family to participate in festivities
  • Decorate your home for Krisnha with garlands, clothed figures and balloons
  • Find a copy of the Vaishnava Songbook and choose some favorite bhajanas (devotional songs)
  • Check out the webcam views at, which capture festivities at some major ISKCON temples
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