Millions of Hindus will mark Krishna Janmashtami today – the birthday of Lord Krishna.
That means dressing up in beautiful clothing, parades, music, songs and bathing statues of the baby Lord Krishna in milk and honey.
And fasting of course – until a great feast at midnight. But what is the festival all about?
Here is everything you need to know.
When is Krishna Janmashtami?
This year Krishna Janmashtami falls on August 14.
In the Hindu calendar the festival always falls on Ashtami, which is the eighth day of Krishna Pasha – or the waning moon.
This is usually in either July or August.
What is Janmashtami all about?
It’s a birthday celebration! Yes, Janmashtami is all about marking the birthday of Lord Krishna.
It’s usually a day long thing with festivities peaking at midnight to simulate the dark and windy conditions of when he was born.
Lord Krishna is important to Hindus as he is considered to be the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu – the supreme god.
And because Lord Krishna was the eighth, it is believed this makes him the destroyer of evil (Krishna means ‘dark’) and one of the most powerful incarnations.
For this reason Janmashtami is all about celebrating the presence of good, the destruction of all things evil and the prevalence of goodwill. The idea being that this will lead to unity.
What’s the story of Lord Krishna then?
Lord Krishna was born in the sacred city of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, to his parents Princess Devaki and Vasudeva.
Princess Devaki, who was the sister of King Kansa, was married to Vasudeva in a grand ceremony but when the King learned of a prophesy that their ‘eighth son’ would cause his death, he threw the pair in prison.
The merciless King then wreaked havoc on the city, causing great misery and peril.
He killed six babies that his sister Princess Devaki had, but legend has it that a seventh child was magically transferred to the womb of Princess Rohini in Vrindavan, while they told the King she had miscarried. This child grew up to become Balram – the eldest brother of Lord Krishna.
When Lord Krishna, the eighth son was born, his father took him away to be raised instead by his father’s friend Nanda.
It is said that the Gods guided Vasudeva as he carried the baby Lord Krishna in a basket on his head through a frightening thunderstorm and heavy rainfall. Devotees believe the snake god, Shesh Nag, helped protect the father and son during this journey.
When he arrived, he exchanged the baby for Nanda’s own child, a baby girl, who the family hoped the king wouldn’t kill as the prophesy stated his death would be at the hand of the ‘eighth son’.
But the king did try to kill the girl, tossing her against some rocks but she is said to have risen up into the air afterwards and taken the form of Goddess Durga where she delivered another warning about his death.
Meanwhile, Lord Krishna grew up in Gokul, living with Nanda and his wife Yashoda until he was fully grown. At this time he returned to the city and killed the king.
Where is it celebrated?
All over India, especially in the north, south and west.
Big celebrations will take part in Mathura as this is believed to be where Lord Krishna was born on a dark and windy night.
Legend has it that he lived there as well as in Kurukshetra, Vrindavan and Dwarka for 5,000 years with dozens of stories written about his time in those places.
How is it celebrated?
Hindus marking Janmashtami celebrate by fasting throughout the day and breaking the fast at midnight.
Scriptures are usually read as well as songs of devotion being sung by worshippers and great parades being held in dozens of cities.
Lord Krishna is often depicted in a cradle with ceremonies and celebrations held around him. This baby Krishna or ‘Nand Gopal’ is sometimes bathed in milk and honey and dressed in new clothes.
The following day a list of 56 foods is usually collected, known as the ‘Chappan Bhog’ which is used as an offering.
Foods found in this offering often include: makhan mishri,kheer, rasgulla, jalebi, rabri, mathri, malpua, mohanbhog, chutney, murabba, saag, dahi, Khichadi, tikkis, milk, and cashews.