Gokulashtami is a Hindu festival which celebrates the birth of Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu. Also called Krishna Janmashtami, it is observed on the Ashtami tithi, the eighth day of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadra in the Hindu calendar, when the Rohini Nakshatra is ascendant. The festival falls within mid-August to mid-September in the Gregorian calendar.
Rasa lila, dramatic enactments of the life of Krishna, are a special feature in regions of Mathura and Vrindavan, and regions following Vaishnavism in Manipur. While the Rasa lila depicts and recreates the divine love of Krishna and Radha and other Gopikas, the Dahi Handi celebrates the God’s playful and mischievous side. As a kid, Lord Krishna with the help of his friends would form a pyramid, to reach a pot of butter strung high by his mother,(much beyond his reach) and break it. This act is enacted every year in India. This tradition, also known as uriadi, is a major event in Tamil Nadu on Gokulashtami.
In Maharashtra, this tradition is called as Dahi Handi and is celebrated with much zeal and enthusiasm, especially, in Mumbai and Pune. The handi is a clay pot filled with buttermilk that is positioned, at a convenient height prior to the event. A human pyramid is first formed, so as to reach the pot and the topmost person on the human pyramid tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object. When the pot breaks, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group, symbolizing their achievement through unity. Handis are set up all around the city, and groups of youngsters, called Govinda Pathaks, travel around in trucks trying to break as many handis as possible during the day.
Over 2,000 Govinda Pathaks and 4,000 compete with each other, for especially for the handis that dole out hefty rewards as also for the cash and gifts that are offered by the political parties, and rich community groups. Some of the most famous handis are held at Dadar, Lower Parel, Worli, Mazgaon, Lalbaug, Thane and Babu Genu, Mandai in Pune.
In Manipur is Krishna Janma is celebrated at two temples, one at Govindaji temple and the second at the ISKCON temple. It is celebrated at all ISKCON temples, thought out the world.
In the south, Lord Krishna’s idol is placed in a decorated mantapa. dekucacues (like hand nade chakli cheedai, avalakki abd bellada panaka) are prepared and offered to Lord Krishna..
In Orissa, around Puri and West Bengal in Nabadwip, people celebrate it by fasting and doing puja at midnight. Purana Pravachana from Bhagavata Purana are done from the 10th Skandha which deals with pastimes of Lord Krishna. The next day is called Nanda Utsav or the joyous celebration of Nanda Maharaj and Yashoda Maharaani. People break their fast, on this day and offer cooked sweets during the early hour.
Street plays, inspired by Pandurang Shastri Athavale of the Swadhyay Pariwar are also performed worldwide, to spread the message of Lord Krishna, as mentioned in the Bhaghawat Gita i.e. love and compassion for all living beings, to become a Karma Yogi.and seek happiness in solely doing one’s duty, without expecting any rewards for the same, and finding happiness, peace and prosperity, therein.