The festival marks the birth of Krishna, the most highly venerated God in the Hindu pantheon.
Krishna is perceived by most Hindus to be an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, who is regarded as the highest avatar. It is believed that all other deities are manifestations of him. Krishna is considered to be a warrior, hero, teacher and philosopher by Hindus.
Krishna's birthday is celebrated eight days after Raksha Bandhan in the month of Sravana and celebrations are spread over two days. The first day is called Krishan ashtami or Gokul ashtami. The second day is known as Kaal ashtami or more popularly Janam ashtami.
For the 48 hour period Hindus are likely to forego sleep and instead sing bhajans, which are traditional Hindu songs. It is believed that Krishna was born at midnight and it is at this time that the true festivities commence. Food is prepared from milk and curds said to have been favoured by Krishna. Some Hindus choose to fast for the first day of Janamashtami, choosing only to eat after the midnight celebrations. Dances and songs are used to venerate and remember this supreme God.