Gokul Ashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna in Hindu mythology. One of the many avatars (incarnations) that Lord Vishnu appeared in the mortal world to destroy evil, was Lord Krishna. This festival is celebrated as per the Hindu calendar and falls on the 8th day of the dark half of the month of 'Bhadrapada' (August-September as per the Julain calendar).
Lord Krishna was born at midnight and hence most devotees observe a twenty-four hour fast which is broken at midnight. The festival is also known as "Janma Ashtami".
There is fascinating story associated with the origin of the festival in Hindu mythology. Lord Krishna was the child of the chief of Shooras ie Vasudev who was married to Devaki.
The kingdom was ruled by the wicked and cruel king Kansa, who had no respect for law, human or divine. Kansa was once told by the divine sage Narada, that the eighth child born to Vasudev and Devaki would slay him, if he continued his wicked and evil ways.
Kansa decided to foil the prophecy in his own way by confining Vasudev and Devaki in his palace dungeons. There they languished for years as every child born to them was handed over to Kansa who mercilessly killed the newborn.
The seventh born was a boy and with some outside help he was spirited away to nearby Gokul to be brought up by Rohini, the elder wife of Vasudev who was staying as a guest of Nanda, the chief of the Yadavas of Gokul. Kansa was shown a newborn dead girl as the seventh child of Devaki.
The child grew up to be Balaram, the brother of Lord Krishna. Soon Devaki was expecting her eigth child, the one who was supposed to slay Kansa and end his evil. On the eighth day of the dark half of the month of 'Shravan' amidst thunder, lightning and torrential rains Devaki gave birth to a child.
According to the "Barhaspatyamana", the date for this is thought to be in the year of 'Visvavasu', 5,I72 years ago around 3227 BC.
Thanks to the divine intervention from the Gods, Vasudev was able to escape from the prison along with the child. He carried the holy child in a small basket across the river Yamuna and handed over the child, with the basket to Ganga Charya, the family priest and Nanda, the chief of Yadavas, waiting on the opposite bank.
A new born daughter of Nanda was carried back to the prison. The next day, Kansa assumed that a daughter was born as the eighth child of Devaki and was happy that the prophecy of Narada had proven false.
Lord Krishna grew up in Gokul as the child of Nanda and Yashoda and later played a leading role in the great war fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where he delivered his wonderful message of the Gita.
Gokulashtami is a community celebration with people visiting local Krishna temples, which are specially decorated and lit for the occasion. A special ritual of the day is enacted by the local youth who form human pyramid to reach the pot full of curds (dahi-handi) tied to a rope high above the road and break it.
A little before midnight, devotees pour into temples to participate in the special 'Arati' and to relive the birth of Krishna. Till midnight, devotional songs are sung in anticipation of the holy birth. Special cradles are installed at temples and a small statue of the "Balgopal" (child image of Krishna) is placed in them.
Gokulashtami Festival Reservation Form