During Janmashtami festival there are several interesting traditional customs and rituals celebrated in various Indian states. Some of the traditional rituals are common to places all over the country and worldwide. However, there are other customs are unique and restricted to particular region or city. The customs and rituals are religiously observed by the devotees of Lord Krishna every year.
Rituals and Customs Observed during Janmashtami:
Fasting: This is the most common ritual practised all over the country and worldwide. The devotees of Lord Krishna observed fasting on the day of Janmashtami. The devotees fast the entire day till after the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight. Many have only milk and milk products because these were Lord Krishna’s favourite items. Also, there are some Lord Krishna’s devotees who observe ‘Nirjal’ [waterless fasting]. Other extremely devoted followers fast for two days to honor Lord Krishna.
Chanting: The devotees of Lord Krishna indulge in continuous chanting all day long. Generally, these devotees chant the mantras and the shlokas in order to appease the Lord. This chanting ritual produces the religious atmosphere that prevails all over the place. The devotees normally highlight Lord Krishna’s accomplishments and his divine characteristics. A very common temple ritual is the chanting of the 108 names of Lord Krishna. This chanting is always accompanied by showering of flowers on the deity of Lord Krishna.
Devotional Songs and dances:
Another popular ritual is singing devotional songs or bhajans in the praise of Lord Krishna. These bhajans are customary and are sung mostly for the midnight celebration during Janmashtami. The devotees of Lord Krishna also do dance performances depicting various events of Lord Krishna.
Staging of Plays or Dramas of Lord Krishna:
Another important custom during the Janmashtami festival is plays depicting Krihna’s life events and accomplishments. They plays are enacted by both professional artists as well as amateurs. These plays are setup at various places and they are widely attended by the devotees.
Preparation of Sweets:
Lord Krishna was very fond of milk and milk products including butter and buttermilk. Also, he was fond of sweets like Kheer, Pedhas and others. Therefore, the devotees living all over India and worldwide prepare sweets during Janmashtami festival. Making and offering these sweets appease the Lord.
Rituals in South India during Janmashtami:
On Janmashtami, the houses in South India are beautifully well decorated by women. Different kinds of sweet meals are prepared and offered to the Lord. Since butter was Krishna’s favourite, it is offered to please the Lord in every home. Starting from the door to the temple, entire house has impression of a child’s footprints. These markings of footprints are made with a mixture of water and flour. This particular traditional custom gives a joyous feeling among the residents of the home. These people believe that Lord Krishna entered their home and blessed them. Janmashtami is celebrated with the ritual of chanting of the holy Bhagavatam. This is accompanied by singing of devotional songs and dances.
Ritual in Gujarat:
In Gujarat, Janmashtami is very peculiar, interesting ritual celebrated by mostly the womenfolk. These women leave their household chores such as cooking and cleaning, instead, they play cards. The playing with cards is a very age-old custom. These women even place bets during their card game session. No one knows the exact history of this peculiar tradition or when it commenced during Janmashtami. According to sociologists, card games were the pass-time for women belonging to joint families. The women fast all day long. They play cards games all night long to stay awake and spend time. Also, these women eat cold food prepared two days in advance.