Krishna Janmashtami also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanthi or sometimes merely as Janmashtami, is a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, an Avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu.
Krishna Janmashtami is observed on the Ashtami tithi, the eighth day of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadrapada in the Hindu calendar, when the Rohini Nakshatra is ascendant. The festival always falls within mid-August to mid-September in the Gregorian calendar. In 2009, for example, the festival was celebrated on 14 August, while in 2010, the festival will be celebrated on 2 September.
Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathura and Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa lila re-creates the flirtatious aspects of Krishna's youthful days, the Dahi Handi celebrate God's playful and mischievous side, where teams of young men form human pyramids to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. This tradition, also known as uriadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami.
The ritual is to fast the previous day (Saptami, seventh day), which is followed by a night-long vigil commemorating the birth of Krishna at midnight in the jail where his maternal uncle Kansa was keeping them captive, and his immediate removal by his father Vasudeva to a foster-home for safe-keeping.
At midnight, the idol of the infant Krishna is bathed, adorned in new clothes and jewellery, placed in a cradle and worshiped. The fast is completed after aarti, a special prayer. At day break, ladies draw patterns of little children's footprints outside the house with rice-flour paste, walking towards the house. This symbolizes the entry of the infant Krishna into his foster-home i.e. their homes.