Janmashtami is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. He was born on the Ashtami Tithi of the Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadrapad. This year, it will be observed on September 2, 2018.
There is a ritual called Chhath Puja which is performed on the day when a newborn becomes six days old. This puja is performed for the good health and long life for the baby. However, this ritual is also performed on the day before the birth anniversary of Krishna every year, in his hometown Gokul, UP. Hindu scriptures say that this ritual has to be performed only after the child becomes six days old. It is strange that for Krishna it is performed before his birth on Janmashtami. Why is it performed a day before the birth itself? Let us find out.
Krishna Was Replaced With A Baby Girl
Lord Krishna was the eighth child of Vasudev and Devaki. Vasudev and Devaki were living as captives in the prison of Kamsa. When Krishna was born, his father Vasudev had exchanged him with the daughter of Nanda, who was born on the same day. The girl's mother Yashoda did not realize when the babies got exchanged. It was done in order to protect Krishna from Kamsa, his maternal uncle who wanted to kill him, fearing the prophecy that the eighth child of Devaki would bring death to him. (The girl was Goddess Durga incarnated to aid Krishna's escape).
Kamsa Sent Demoness Putana
Since Kamsa did not know where Vasudev hid the child, he sent the demoness Putana to go and kill every child born in the last six days, breastfeeding them with her poisoned milk. As per the orders of Kamsa, she went on killing six days old babies in Gokul. As she heard this, Krishna's mother Yashoda started panicking and in an attempt to hide the baby from the demoness, she forgot to perform the Chhath Puja for him.
Krishna Killed The Demoness
However, as the demoness had reached there before Yashoda could hide the baby, the demoness came as a beggar and asked for alms. When Yashoda went inside leaving Krishna sleeping in the swing there itself. Putana took baby Krishna away and hid from Yashoda. As she tried feeding baby Krishna, he bit her hard and the demoness died. Thus Lord Vishnu, in the form of Krishna, killed the demoness.
When Krishna's First Birthday Came
When after a year, Krishna's first birthday was to come, the elderly women in the neighbourhood told that the first birthday cannot be celebrated if the Chhath Puja has not been performed. Yashoda decided to consult a priest. The priest saw the horoscope and suggested that Chhath puja for Krishna can be performed on the day before his birthday.
Why Is The Ritual Performed A Day Before Janmashtami?
Yashoda performed the puja on the day before Krishna's birth anniversary. Thereafter, she decided to observe this Chhath puja every year. Thus, the ritual continues to be observed by the devotees until this day. Though, it looks strange that while all the followers of Hinduism perform the Chhath puja for their baby as per the scriptures, (when the child becomes six days old), it is not so for Lord Krishna. But the story of his divinity explains why it is being done this way.