One day Mother Earth was appalled by the number of sins that were being committed on Her surface. She went to Brahma, God of all the Gods and appealed to Him for help. Brahma, after listening to Her, appealed to Lord Vishnu who said that He would take birth on earth and His avatar will destroy every kind of sin that was being committed on earth then.
During that time, Mathura was in a miserable state as Kansa, brother of Devki, had put his father, King Ugrasen in prison and declared himself the new king. To put an end to such evils, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in the human form. As such, at the wedding ceremony of Devaki and Vasudev, there was a divine prophecy which proclaimed that Vasudeva's eighth son would kill Kansa. To protect himself, Kansa rushed to kill his sister but gave up the idea of killing after being assured by Vasudev that he will hand over all his children to Kansa. Kansa put his brother-in-law and sister in prison. Kansa killed all the six infants as soon as they were born. The seventh child (Balram) was saved due to divine intervention, when he was transferred from Devki's womb to that of Rohini's (other wife of Vasudev).
Even before her 8th child was born, Devaki and Vasudeva started lamenting its fate and theirs. One day Lord Vishnu appeared before them and said He Himself would be coming to rescue them and the people of Mathura. He asked Vasudeva to carry Him to the house of his friend, the cowherd chief Nanda in Gokula right after His birth, where Nanda's wife Yashoda had given birth to a daughter.
He was to exchange his baby boy and bring Yashoda's baby daughter back to the prison. Vishnu assured them that “nothing shall stop your path”.
At midnight on ashtami, the divine baby was born in Kansa's prison. Remembering the divine instructions, Vasudeva clasped the child to his bosom and thought of moving to Gokula, but found that his legs were in chains. He jerked his legs and was unfettered! The massive iron-barred doors unlocked and opened up.
While crossing river Yamuna, Vasudeva held the baby high over his head. The rain fell in torrents and the river was in spate. But the water made way for Vasudeva .
When Vasudeva reached Gokula, he found the door of Nanda's house open. He exchanged the babies and hurried back to the prison of Kansa with the baby girl. Early in the morning, all the people at Gokula rejoiced the birth of Nanda's beautiful male child. Vasudeva came back to Mathura and as he entered, the doors of the prison closed on their own.
When Kansa came to know about the birth, he rushed inside the prison and tried to kill the baby. But this time it skipped from his hand and reached the sky. The child was transformed into the Goddess Yogamaya, who told Kansa: “O foolish! What will you get by killing me? Your nemesis is already born somewhere else.”
Janmashtami which is related to birth of Sri Krishna is celebrated to observe dharma. It is the celebration of the birth of Sri Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is believed to have been born about five thousand years ago in Mathura in Dwapar Yuga. Krishna Janmashtami is also known as Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami and sometimes simply as Janmashtami. The festival is generally observed on ashtami, the eighth day of the ‘Krishna Paksha of the month of ‘Bhadrapada’ as per the Hindu calendar.It falls usually in the months of August or September in the Gregorian calendar.
It is one such festival that is celebrated equally in North and South India. In South India, the celebrations are most prevalent in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In both the places, the idol of Lord Krishna is placed in a decorated mantapa. Snacks and sweets, are specially prepared for the festival, and offered to Lord Krishna. In North India, celebrations are no less than being called extravagant and splendid. While Gokul and Vridnavan (Lord's birth and growing up place) witness flocks of visitors coming to the place to celebrate the festival at Krishna janamabhoomi. In Maharashtra, dahi-handi is organised wherein a group of men form a human pyramid to reach a high-hanging pot of butter and break it. In the city of Dwarka in Gujarat and the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal, people celebrate it with fasting and doing puja at midnight. Though the rituals practiced vary from one region to the other, the spirit and devotion to the Lord is same everywhere. —Aniket Raja