Maha Vishnu took various avatars to protect the mortal world from the evildoers and sinners. One such incarnation was his birth as the child of King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki Devi. Gokul Ashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna. It falls on the 8th day of the dark half of the month of 'Bhadrapada' (August-September) and is one of the greatest of all Hindu festivals. Lord Krishna was born at midnight.
A twenty-four hour fast is observed on this day, which is broken at midnight. The festival is called in different names as "Krishna Jayanti", "Janma Ashtami", "Krishnaashtami" , "Gokul Ashtami", and as "Sri Jayanti".
Birth of Lord Krishna
The myth connected to the birth of Lord Vishnu is as follows. Vasudeva was the chief of 'Shooras' and married Devaki one of the seven daughters of Devaka. They were very happy, for none had ever seen so fine a man and a wife matched in such perfect harmony.
People treat this day as one of very great rejoicing. There is recitation of the "Bhagavatam", singing and praying everywhere. Temples are decorated for the occasion, Kirtans are sung, bells are rung, the conch is blown, and Sanskrit hymns are recited in praise of Lord Krishna. At Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, special spiritual gatherings are organised at this time. Pilgrims from all over India attend these festive gatherings.
People observe a daylong fast, which is broken only at midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. The festival is a community celebration, and people visit Krishna temples, which are specially decorated and lit for the occasion. On the occasion of 'Gokulashtami', we can find kids forming a human pyramid to reach the pot full of curds (dahi-handi) 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" is placed in them.