Janmashtami is the yearly observance of Lord Krishna’s appearance on earth. It is one of the world’s most widely observed spiritual festivals. Krishna’s “birth,” Janma, occurred at midnight on Ashtami, the eighth day after the full moon in the Vedic calendar.
Krishna’s appearance is significant on many levels, and is something of a paradox. He’s the beginning less Supreme Person, eternally existing everywhere at all times. He isn’t “born” like we’re are—forced by karma into a succession of material bodies.
Krishna appears in His same permanent, spiritual form whenever and wherever He likes. When He does appear, He chooses His devotees to play the roles of His father and mother. He Himself plays the role of their child, and acts like a human being, while also performing superhuman activities that are impossible for anyone else to imitate.
Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-Gita that He appears time after time in this world, in His original form, to reestablish religious principles, deliver His devotees from material existence, and annihilate the wicked. He also says that those who hear about and understand the nature of His appearance and activities no longer have to undergo repeated birth and death, but return to live with Him in the spiritual world.
Devotees of Krishna most commonly celebrate Janmashtami by:
- Visiting their local Krishna temple, especially to attend the grand midnight worship ceremony
- Chanting extra rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra on beads or in kirtan
- Reading and hearing about Krishna’s pastime of appearing in this world, from the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhāgavatam or Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead
- Worship: Those who have a Krishna Deity in their home may offer Him new clothing, gorgeously decorate the altar, and cook Him a multi-course feast.
- Fasting until midnight