The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu is celebrated on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon, with great fervour all over India especially at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Temples and homes are beautifully decorated and lit. People fast all day and eat only after the midnight birth ceremony. Night long prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. The priests chant holy mantras and bathe the idol with Gangajal (water from the holy Ganges river), milk, ghee (clarified butter), oil, and honey pouring all these from a conch shell. Only after the ceremony is over, the devotees break their daylong fast . Scenes are enacted from Lord Krishna's early life.
In Maharashtra, earthen pots of curd and butter are hung up over the streets. Young men enacting an episode from Krishna's childhood form human pyramids by climbing on each others shoulders and try to break these pots.
Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, has about 400 temples dedicated to him. The main celebrations are held at the Dwarkadhish temple or Jagat Mandir, Banke Bihari, Rangaji, Shri Krishna Balram temple and Gopinath temple. Particularly, in the Dwarakashish temple, the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The deity is anointed with a particular colour. A crawling image of Krishna is cradled amidst singing of bhajans and chantings of 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna'.
In South India, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, is celebrated with prayers, devotional renditions and offering of fruits and special prasadams to Lord Krishna. Kolams are drawn in the front yard and mango leaves are tied to the doorways to mark the auspicious occasion. Inside the house, a small wooden mandapam is erected and decorated with flowers and plantain leaves. An icon of a crawling Krishna in a silver cradle or leaf is placed in the mandapam. In some houses, a typical setting of 'Gokulam' is arranged with mud images of Devaki, Vasudeva with little Krishna perched in a basket on his head, a cow, besides other things related to Krishna's legends. Small foot marks produced by impressions with rice powder mixed with water are believed to symbolically recreate the coming of Krishna into peoples' homes.
Festivals - All over India