Janmashtami is a Hindu festival commemorating the birth (janma) of the god Krishna on the eighth (ashtami) day of the dark fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (August–September). In the Krishna legend, the number eight has another meaning because he is the eighth child of his mother, Devaki. The festival is especially celebrated in Mathura and Vrindavan (Brindaban), the locations of Krishna’s childhood and early youth. Devotees fast and keep vigil until midnight, the traditional hour of his birth.The image of Krishna is then bathed in milk and water, dressed in new clothes, and worshipped.
Temples and household shrines are decorated with leaves and flowers; sweetmeats are first offered to the god and then distributed to all members of the household as prasada (the god’s leftovers, which carry his favour). Krishna devotees commemorate his birth by making elaborate representations of Mathura, wherever he was born, the Yamuna watercourse, that he was transported to safety, and Gokul (ancient Vraja), the scene of his childhood, with small images of the god, the other participants, and the forest animals and birds. Milk pots are hung from tall poles in the streets, and men form human pyramids to reach and break the pots—an homage to Krishna’s childhood play with the cowherd boys, when they stole the curds that their mothers had hung out of reach. Additionally, group singing and dancing are part of the festival.
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