Janmashtami is celebrated every year on the 8th day of the dark fortnight that is also known as the Krishna Paksh, in the Hindu month of bhadon (around July-August). The period usually coincides with the rainy season.
The festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna â€“ the black God. Krishna is the eighth and most important incarnation of Vishnu (Preserver in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer of the Universe).
However the avatar of Krishna that perhaps overrides the sum total of his other manifestations is that of the omniscient charioteer who delivers the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjun before the great war of Mahabharata â€“ a Hindu epic. Therefore Krishna is also known as Parthasarathi, or Arjun's/Partha's charioteer.
This tale is fondly remembered on the day of Janmashtami as temples and homes light up for the joyous occasion. Especially cities like Mumbai, Agra, Mathura and Vrindavan come alive during the festival. Cribs and other displays with dolls in traditional costumes depict the life and times of Krishna. Raas Leelas (dance dramas) enact incidents from Krishnaâ€™s life amidst much pomp and show. People fast till midnight, the time of Krishnaâ€™s birth. Elaborate pujas, or prayer ceremonies are held in temples and homes to welcome the lord at midnight amongst joyous singing of hymns. Prasad (sweetmeat offered to the lord and later eaten by devotees) is distributed to everyone. The lord having arrived, it is time for everyone to settle down to a hearty vegetarian meal.