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Janmastami is the major annual festival for Vaisnavas and in that way could be likened to Christmas in the Christian calendar. It takes place in August or early September. Traditionally devotees fast until midnight, the hour of Lord Krishna's appearance, having spent the day performing devotional activities in honour of this most auspicious occasion.

Typical festive activities are:

  • Cooking 108 different delicacies for offering to the Lord at midnight. (All the foods and drinks are then served to all the guests and celebrants).
  • Darshan (viewing) of the Lord in His specially decorated murti (statue) form on the flower-laden altar.
  • Abhiseka (public bathing) of the form of the Lord using fruit juices and milk products.
  • Bhajanas (devotional songs) sung to traditional tunes accompanied by traditional instruments (and sometimes modern ones).
  • Dramas re-enacting the pastimes of Lord Krishna.
  • Dance in the traditional Indian style, sometimes with modern innovations, portraying the Lord's pastimes.
  • Readings from the scriptures, particularly the section describing the Lord's unique birth and the intriguing events leading up to and following His arrival.
  • Kirtana (group chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra) this is a daily affair in temples but on a festival day devotees consider the more kirtana there is the better it is.

Krishna periodically appears in other forms but this festival celebrates His arrival in his original form as a two-armed beautiful cowherd boy with bluish hued skin who plays a flute and enjoys family and village pastimes with His most intimate and loving devotees. Although, being God, He is Lord of all the worlds, He prefers to interact as a village cowherd boy and His Vaisnava followers aspire to one day join Him in His eternal blissful pastimes in His own home, Vrndavana. This is the essential religious sentiment and mood of Janmastami.

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