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Janmashtami: A birthday celebration

To focus on the Hindu festival of Janmashtami, and the importance of welcome.

by Alan Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To focus on the Hindu festival of Janmashtami, and the importance of welcome.

Preparation and materials

  • This assembly is suitable for the start of a new school year.
  • You will need an image of Krishna, who was the avatar, or human form, of the Hindu god Vishnu.
  • You may wish to get a group of children to mime or tell the story (section 4).You will need a short piece of flute music for the time of reflection.


  1. Reflect that faith communities often celebrate the birth of much loved prophets and gods. In a festival called Janmashtami, people of Hindu faith celebrate Lord Krishna’s birthday.

    The date of this celebration varies, but falls at the end of summer, normally between mid August and mid September.

  2. Display an image of Krishna. One meaning of his name is ‘dark blue’. So he is often depicted with blue skin.

    Krishna is playing the flute, a musical instrument associated with joy, peace and harmony.

  3. Explain that it’s believed that Krishna was born at midnight. So Hindus celebrate Janmashtami in their temple (or mandir) by singing traditional songs (bhajans) late into the night. They dance and make offerings.

    Images of the baby Krishna are bathed and placed in covered cradles. At midnight the covers are removed. Bells are rung. Everyone is glad to welcome Krishna.

    Favourite foods are shared.

    The story of Krishna’s childhood is sometimes retold in simple plays.

  4. Krishna

    Kamsa was an evil and horrible king.

    A voice had told him to beware. It had said that the eighth child born to his sister would destroy him.

    Kamsa was so terribly angry and jealous that he decided to imprison his sister, Devaki, and her husband Vasudeva. And when their children were born, the evil and horrible king had them all killed.

    But in heaven, Lord Vishnu had seen everything.

    Eventually, Devaki’s eighth child was born – a boy! But this was no ordinary baby boy. His name was Krishna. Lord Vishnu had come to save the world from evil.

    The skies and the earth rejoiced. There was peace and happiness.

    The gods helped Vasudeva to slip past the prison guards. He bravely carried Krishna across a wide river into a different land where a kind cowherd and his wife welcomed them. Krishna was left to grow up in their care. He was safe there.

    Vasudeva returned to Devaki with the cowherd’s baby daughter but she was a goddess and she was safe too. When King Kamsa tried to kill her she flew back to the heavens.

    As he grew up, Krishna became friends with other boys and girls who looked after the cows. He loved to have fun with them and to play his flute.

Time for reflection

Quietly play a short piece of flute music.

Invite the children to think about the story and the welcome given to Krishna.

Encourage them to consider what they can do to welcome others at the beginning of the new school year.

How does it feel to be a newcomer, perhaps one of the youngest, or from a distant place?

In what ways can school be made a safe and happy place? 


This is our school.

Let peace dwell here.

Let the rooms be full of contentment.

Let love abide here.

Love of one another.

Love of humanity.

Love of life itself.

And love of God.

                              (Source unknown)

Some may prefer this alternative version:

This is our school.

Let peace dwell here.

Let the rooms be full of friendship.

Let love be shared.

Love of one another.

Love of all humanity.

Love of learning.

Love of life itself.

                                    (Alan Barker


‘Peace is flowing like a river’ (Come and Praise, 144)
‘Today’ (Songs for Every Assembly, Out of the Ark Music)

Publication date: September 2012   (Vol.14 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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