Janmashtmi is also referred to as Krishna Janmashtami, Satam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti and Sri Jayanti.
It is said that Lord Krishna was born on midnight. To save Lord Krishna, Vasudeva was advised to take him to his friend, Nanda, who lived in Vrindavan. The torrential rains and thunderstorm made it a very difficult journey. Buy, Vasudeva was determined. He carried little baby Krishna on his head and kept walking. To protect him, Shesh Nag (the Snake God) also quietly rose from behind to cover his Lord from the rains.
Little Krishna grew up in the care of Yashoda and Nanda. He and his gang of friends were among the naughtiest children in the neighborhood. He loved white butter so much that he would often steal all of it that Yashoda would make it home. Till date, makhan mishri (white butter and sugar crystals) is one of the most popular prasad made for the deity on Janmashtami.
There is a popular ritual of dahi handi, which is basically an imitation of the butter-stealing episodes of Lord Krishna. Boys gather in a compound and form a human pyramid to break open the earthen pot fixed at a height of 20-30 feet from the ground. The boy who stands at the top is called Govinda and the groups are either called handis or mandals.
Devotees of Lord Krishna observe a ritualistic fast during his birth anniversary. Devotees eat only a single meal a day before Janmashtmi. On fasting day, devotees take a ‘sankalpa’ to observe a day-long fast and to break it on the next day when the Ashtami Tithi is over. Through the day of fasting, no grains are consumed; the devotees take a meal comprising fruits and water, called ‘phallar’.
(We are (Me and my whole family) fasting today)
Krishna Janmashtami in Mathura, Vrindavan and parts of Braj is nothing short of a spectacle; temples and street are decorated with beautiful lights. Through the day, people throng the temples to pray to their beloved diety Lord Krishna. Idols of Lord Krishna and Radha are decked up in New clothes and placed on swings. On midnight, they perform the ‘Krishna Abhishekam’ with milk, ghre, water, and proceed to offer ‘bhog’ to the God.
The following day, which is referred to as ‘Nanda Utsav’, as an offering to the Lord, devotees put together a list of 56 food items, which is referred to as the ‘chapan bhog’.
This is later distributed among the people after the fast. It constitutes Lord Krishna’s favourite dishes and usually includes cereals, fruits, dry fruits, sweets, chocolates, namkeens, drinks and pickles in quantities of eight under each category.
The legend of chappan bhog is tied to the episode of Govardhan parvart. Once due to the wrath of Lord Indra, the God of rains, Vrindavan was flooded. It rained continuously for many days in a row. People in Vrindavan went to Lord Krishna, who directed all of them towards Govardhan Hill. He then lifted Govardhan Hill on his little finger, under which all the villagers took refuge. He stood there for seven days without moving and eating anything. Once the rain subsided, people presented him 56 food items.
Janmashtami is celebrated across the country with many local variations. People in Tamil Nadu draw beautiful and elaborated patterns called Kolam, made with rice batter on the entrance of their houses and tiny footprints of little baby Lord Krishna entering their houses.