Luminary Of The Month: Krishna

The birth of Lord Krishna took place in a prison.

Even though born a human being, there was a supernatural glow about his face. The very look of him could make people see God in him. The birth took place at the stroke of midnight. Devaki and Vasudeva, the mother and father of Lord Krishna, became very glad that an incarnation had been bestowed upon them in the form of their son.

Lord Krishna was the eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva. Their previous seven children had been killed by Kansa, the brother of Devaki. Kansa was very iond of Devaki before her marriage with Vasudeva. But after the marriage an astrologer predicted that the eighth child of Devaki would kill Kansa. Hearing this Kansa became afraid and he decided to Kill Devaki then and there so that the very possibility of bearing children might be wiped out. But his father Ugrasen and his brother-in-law Vasudeva pleaded for her life. They argued that she was innocent and therefore she should not be killed. Vasudeva, however, assured him that he could kill all the children of Devaki as soon as they would be born. Kansa was satisfied with this condition because he thought that he was out of danger if each child could be killed soon after its birth. Nevertheless he put Devaki, Vasudeva and Ugrasen into prison. They had to live there at his mercy.

When the eighth child was about to be born Kansa became so restless that he could not even sleep soundly. The fear haunted him day and night He did not want to waste even a minute. He was only strong in physique but weak in mind. He became uneasy for days together.

Devaki aod Vasudeva were worried because Kansa was sure to swoop down any moment and kill the child. They then heard a voice from without saying: “Do not worry about the child. Take it to the house of Yashoda and Nanda at Gokul and exchange it for their female child. Bring that female child and keep it with you. All will be well”. They were agreeably surprised to bear this instruction.

Soon Devaki and Vasudeva wrapped the child in a piece of cloth. Vasudeva quietly took it out of the prison when the guards were fast asleep and came over to cross the river Jamuna. The river was fully flooded, and it was pitch dark. Still he could easily cross the river as the water parted in the middle and made a path for him. When he came to the house of Nanda and Yashoda, he found every one there fast asleep. He quietly placed child Krishna inside tins house and came out with the female child of Yashoda and Nanda.

As he was returning he found the water of the river Jamuna still rising. But again the water gave him way and Vasudeva could easily cross the river and reach the prison where Devaki had been waiting for him. Next morning, Kansa rushed to the prison and saw the new born baby. He immediately seized it and was about to dash it to the ground. Devaki started crying; she pleaded that the child was only a girl and therefore could do him no harm. “Please spare its life” she begged of her brother. But Kansa was not moved by her tears. He said that an enemy was an enemy no matte- of what sex. So saying he lifted the child to dash it to the ground, when the baby girl broke loose from his grip and soared in the air thundering: “You are a sinner, 0, Kansa! You will never be saved in your life. The child that is going to kill you is already born.” So saying the baby girl vanished from his sight.

This incident was a great eye-opener for Kansa. That a tiny baby could free itself from his grip and soar in the air uttering a warning like a grown-up person was something which his pride could not tolerate. He knew by his past experience in killing children that a human child did not even try to put up a fight when being killed; it died just crying a little. It had not taken Kansa anything more than a few moments to squeeze out life from a child; he had just to dash it to the ground within moments it would be all over. But this tiny female child seemed quite unlike the previous ones. And to cap it all, it had issued a warning even as it refused to be killed at his hands. If Devaki’s eighth child had already taken birth, and he had not yet been able to trace its whereabouts, could it be that the sands of time -were running out for him? The fear which he always used to experience whenever he thought of sister Devaki’s children, now became boundless. It was & shivering and shuddering Kansa who ran back to the safety of his palace on hearing the child’s warning. To those of his retinue it appeared as if the King was running for his life.

Kansa knew that like all mortals he to would die one day. His fear was because of the prophesy that he would be killed in the prime of his life by Devaki’s eighth child. It was this kind of unnatural death which he feared. For one like Kansa to whom it was given to enjoy life to the full as a King alone could, heady with his own importance, intoxicated with power which his position permitted him, the prospect of being murdered in cold blood could certainly be dis-quietening. Yet that was the prophesy which precisely was the cause of the king’s great fear.

Once within the palace, Kansa lost no time in planning and plotting. His first concern was to find the eighth child of Devaki. Towards this end he despatched couriers to allthe corners of his kingdom. In due course news about a wonderful child at Yashoda’s place reached the King’s ears, and piecing together all the information, he could come to the correct conclusion that this should be the eighth child.

His next concern was to kill the child, just as he had done seven times in the past. He could not do it now personally as the Child Krishna was at Yashoda’s place in Gokul which was not a part Of his Kingdom, Mathura. Gokul on the other side Of Jamuna was independent of Matbura though for all practical purposes the people of the two kingdoms mingled freely. This. was no great problem, for as the King of 1Mathura, Kansa could have easily contrived to get the child within his kingdom. But after his latest experience with the female child, he hesitated to undertake the task him* self. For all he knew, this child, too, might escape and he would appear a laughing stock before his people. He, therefore, decided to entrust the Job to someone else who could accept failure-which God forbid-if it became necessary.

At this time, as if a God-sent succor, Kansa secured the services of a witch named Pootana. She convinced the King of her special ability for such tasks. She demonstrated how she could transform herself into any desirable shape and pass off for any being but a witch. When Kansa saw that the witch Pootana could be transformed into a comely maid, he needed no further persuasion to entrust the task to her.

Kansa briefed her thoroughly on her treacherous assignment. She was to go about her task in a stealthy manner so as to arouse no suspicion. Either by dress or by looks she was not to appear like a killer, and above all she was to accomplish the task without using a knife or a chopper.

The evil genius that she was, Pootana set about her task with a thoroughness of a professional. She transformed herself into a milk-maid–Gopi–and strayed into Yashoda’s place. She congratulated Yashoda on her having become Hie proud mother of Child Krishna. She then pretended to be possessing a heart which overflowed with love for little children. Soon she took in her arms the tiny Child Krishna, and after fondling it for some moments, settled down to breastfeed the baby. All this appeared so natural that even mother Yashoda suspected no foul play. Only Pootana, in the guise of the milkmaid, knew what lay behind her gesture to feed the baby: she had applied deadly poison on her breasts and the child which suckled was sure to die of it.

If King Kansa, Pootana and Child Krishna were the only characters in the real life drama that was taking place at Yashoda’s place, there would not have been even a ghost of a chance for the suckling child to survive. But there was another character, too, without which no drama could be complete. It is an invisible character whose existence could never be doubted. Generally, people call it Divine, for good reasons too, as many a time this fourth element upsets the apple-cart of the other characters and brushes aside all their well laid plans. Perhaps because of this, it is often said that the ways of the Divine are inscrutable and strange. Sometimes with the backing of the mighty force of the Divine, even an ant could beat hollow a giant: a phenomenon which the logic of normal events would never accept, but which nevertheless can be possible.

It was given to Pootana to understand this truth first. In the beginning she began feeling pleased with herself as the baby began suckling. She should have congratulated herself on her skill in having carried out Krishna’s instructions to perfection. But soon some strange fears crossed her mind when she found the Child Krishna still vigorously suckling though by now the poison should have spread all over his little body Was the poison not deadly enough for the child, Pootana wondered. She began having a vague feeling that something had gone wrong with her; the feeling became certain when she tried and failed to stop the Baby from suckling further. Presently she began feeling giddy with the Child still at her breast, and shortly she fell down with a heavy thud, the Baby still clinging to her breast. The milk-maid of a few moments before, now lay there as the witch Pootana, a huge mass of ugly flesh, writhing in pain, as if Child Krishna bad suckled out blood from her body. Soon she was dead.

When this news reached Kansa, he could hardly believe his ears. Failing to find any explanation for Pootana’s failure, he became speech-less and spellbound.

The Divine which had spared Child Krishna from the poisoned feed of Pootana, had its own special reason for doing so. It was manifesting itself through this Child. Here was a people terrorized by a tyrant whose atrocities knew no bounds. Ever since he had heard the Prophesy about his death at the hands of a Child, he made children the special target of his cruelty. Innumerable were the instances when the King got displeased at the sight of a child and passed orders that it be killed. Parents dared not appear in public place with their young ones for fear of inviting on themselves the royal wrath. The very atmosphere was surcharged with fear-the fear that under Kansa’s rule no child could breathe freely.

It was amidst such people that Child Krishna was born to fulfill the great purpose of the Divine that a Child alone could allay the fears of the people terrorised by a child-fearing Kansa. Only a lovable little child like Krishna could ease the mind of the people saddened with horror-tales of Kansa’s attitude to children. Here was a little Child, now barely three years old, freely pulling itself in and out of many a house in Gokul, a sweet smile always on its face, oozing sunshine and happiness all around. No doubt the people took Child Krishna to their heart. Soon it came to pass that the people would feel sore if the Child did not stray into their houses at least once in a day. At its playful pranks they relaxed and laughed. “Here, indeed, is an Avatar!” they exclaimed.

Child Krishna was very mischievous and he always wanted to eat away curds and sweets from many a house. One day as he was stealthily eating curds, the housemaid caught him and questioned him about the theft. Child Krishna replied that he was not eating the curds, but that he was only removing the ants which had fallen in the curds. Hearing this clever answer the maid forgot her anger and instead kissed the Child. The next day, Child Krishna was caught by the same maid while again eating curds. This time she took him to Yashoda with her complaints. When his mother asked him why he was doing such a thing. Child Krishna clenched his hands behind him replying that he had not stolen curds, but that others had poured some into his mouth just to show him up as the culprit. At this humorous reply, the maid started laughing together with Yashoda and other women gathered at the place.

On another day. Child Krishna went into a neighbourhood house to steal curds. Seeing that the pot of curds was kept hanging from a high place he called a few of his friends and made them kneel one above the other. When he thought that the elevation thus achieved was adequate, he climbed up and stood on top of all of them and raised his hands to empty the pot of curds. All this caused some noise, which brought to the place a few ladies, among them the lady of the house. At this, all the boys took to their heels,-all except Child Krishna. The woman of the house caught hold of Child Krishna and took him to mother Yashoda, Even as she was busy complaining. Child Krishna cleverly extricated himself from her hold and replaced her own son instead without her knowledge. Noticing what had happened Yashoda and the other ladies could not help laughing and soon the one who had rushed thither with the complaint only a little while ago, also broke into laughter, as she discovered that the child she was holding was her own. Such were the childhood pranks of Child Krishna who endeared himself to one and all by stealing curds and hearts.

When Lord Krishna was three years old, he would often eat mud. One day Mother Yashoda noticed this. and she immediately came forward to take away the mud from the child’s mouth. She asked Child Krishna to open his mouth and spit out the mud. The Child did no such thing; he kept his mouth tightly closed. Yashoda became angry at this and she slapped the Child on the cheek. Child Krishna now opened his mouth and lo! there Yashoda saw not the mud, but the whole of the universe: the earth, the sky, the sun, the moon, the cities, the forests, men, animals, saints and so on- indeed the entire creation. Krishna had opened before Mother Yashoda a spectacle for the glimpse of which sages do penance for long years. What she beheld within the mouth of her Child was indescribable: it made her the happy recipient of Joy Supreme. Yashoda realized how she was indeed a blessed Soul to have for her child the Lord Himself.

During all this time Kansa was far from quiet; indeed, how could he be? A tyrant and a sinner would never be silent when they begin to reap the whirl-wind of what they had sown. Nor would it be like them to accept the inevitable, and mend their ways at the eleventh hour. As the day of reckoning approached, they would become alt the more desperate and be in dead earnest to win if possible, or in the alternative, to go down fighting. This was true of Kansa who now began sending demon after demon to do away with Child Krishna. He hoped that at least one of the demons would return with success, and not go the way of the witch Pootana. In this at least, Kansa believed in the saying: “Try, Try and Try Again!”

The demon now chosen for the purpose was Bakasura. He set about the task disguising himself as a ferocious bird called Bakula. When Child Krishna was out in a field with his playmates, Bakula swooped down on them at great speed and tried to snatch away the three-year old enemy of Kansa. All the playmates were greatly frightened at this; they ran away for safety in all haste. Child Krishna was the only one who did not move from the place; he caught hold of Bakula’s Beak and tore it into two pieces. The giant Bakula flew no more: it lay dead in the field.

The death of Bakasura made Kansa all the more disturbed. He now sent another giant called Aghasura.

Taking the form of a ferocious horse, Aghasura charged at Child Krishna. As the horse opened its mouth as if to gobble up the Child, Krishna thrust his hand deep into its throat till it fell dead.

Krishna thrusts his hand into the horse’s mouth Once more did Kansa find himself upset; he was gradually getting desperate beyond words. He now chose one of the strongest giants called Narakasura. Appearing in the form of a donkey, Narakasura tried to kick down Child Krishna. Even before it could de liver its first kick. Child Krishna caught hold of on. its legs and dashed the beast against the ground. Braying madly with pain, the donkey dragged on its life for a few more moments before death silenced it once and for all.

Child Krishna was now nine years old. He was one day playing with a ball in the company of his play mates. All of a sudden the ball happened to fall into a nearby river. No one was prepared to jump into the water and get the ball because of a ferocious cobra called Kaleeya which had made that part of the river its abode. The very mention of the name of the deadly serpent made people quiver with fear. But as he knew no fear. Child Krishna jumped into the river and began searching for the ball. His playmates on the bank of the river became very panicky and they raised such a hue and cry that within moments almost the whole of Gokul gathered at the place. Mother Yashoda and Father Nanda were also in the gathering. Everyone looked anxiously into the dark waters of the river for a sign of Krishna,–dark because of the poison constantly emitted by Kaleeya.

Child Krishna who went down into the water, found the ball adorning the hood of the deadly Kaleeya. At once he jumped on to the hood of the Cobra and began giving it such a pounding with his legs that Kaleeya started vomiting blood instead of poison. But unlike the giants we have seen so far, Kaleeya had the good sense to plead for mercy from Lord Krishna; it promised to stop its evil ways and be no longer a terror to the locality. Lord Krishna was; indeed, glad to spare its life. When those assembled at the river bank witnessed the spectacle of Kaleeya rising up from within the water, proudly carrying a smiling young Krishna on its hood, as if to assure them that it should not be feared any more, they could find no words to express what they saw. “This is a miracle!” they all shouted. “Blessed is Mother Yashoda!” But the great Mother Yashoda who by now knew the real nature of her son, calmly stood there, her eyes filled with tears-tears of joy that her little Son was safe.

At this time. Lord Indra was being popularly worshipped by the people of Gokul. Lord Krishna exhorted his people to worship the cows of Gowardhana and not Lord Indra. When this reached the ears of Lord lndra, he became very angry and decided to teach to the people of Gokul a lesson of their life. He lashed at Gokul with rain and thunder tin the place was threatened to be submerged in a deluge. All the people of Gokul approached Lord Krishna for a way out of the calamity. Krishna bade them to be calm. He soon raised the Mountain Gowardhan and kept it over Gokul as a protection from the downpour. Seeing the miracle of a mountain being raised and held over a vast place like a protective umbrella. Lord Indra calmed down and halted the downpour.

Kansa was still busy planning to kill Child Krishna. One day he announced that a wrestling contest would be held in his kingdom. All those who could fight with his men, of whom the wrestler Chanoor was the mightiest, were invited to take part. Kansa secretly arranged with his men that when Krishna would enter the arena, he should be crushed by a mad elephant called Kuvalyapeeda. Lord Krishna wanted to challenge Chanoor for a wrestling bout. As he entered the arena, the mahut let the elephant Kuvalyapeeda on him: Seeing the elephant rushing towards him. Lord Krishna at once jumped on to its head and began hitting it with both his hands. The elephant died almost immediately and the mahut was nowhere to be seen.

Lord Krishna turned his attention now to Chanoor, the renowned wrestler of the time. When Krishna challenged Chanoor to come down to the arena and take part in a bout of wrestling, the latter declared that he never set foot in the arena without proper ceremony and music. Lord Krishna wondered why there should be any ceremony and music when Chanoor was sure to lose his life in the bout. So saying he pulled down Chanoor from his seat and threw him to the ground. Chanoor, the great wrestler on whom Kansa had pinned his high hopes in the present contests could not even get up from the ground. Such was the effect of the knock out he received at the hands of Lord Krishna.

Seeing Chanoor writhing in pain, Kansa became tongue-tied with shock. He knew from his innermost depths that nothing could now save him. If this little Child, not more than ten years old, could put to death such demons as Bakasura or Narakasura, and if he could vanquish such renowned wrestlers like Chanoor. what chance of victory did he himself have? For he was neither a demon nor a wrestler. It had appeared quite an easy thing to dash to the ground and kill Devaki’s previous seven children. He could not repeat the same act with this eighth Child.

How he wished that some one from the vast gathering assembled round the arena would come forth to help him! What a pity that not even one soul stood up in support of the King of Mathura! On the other hand, there was an expectant mood in the gathering. Perhaps they were looking forward to the greatest drama of their life-time-the end of cruel Kansa. Their hopes were not belied; for in no time Kansa was seen being dragged and rolled to the ground so suddenly that he did not even have enough time to pull out his sword from its sheath. Lord Krishna was now sitting on the broad chest of the tyrant Kansa, delivering such heavy blows on the latter’s face and chest as to make red, hot blood spurt forth with each blow. Soon Kansa was dead.

The people of Gokul became Jubilant because the tyrant was killed. They asked Lord Krishna to be their King. But Lord Krishna suggested that Ugrasen, the father of Kansa, be made the King of Mathura. After crowning Ugrasen as the King of Mathura, Lord Krishna with his brother Balaram studied Vedas and Shastras at the feet of Sage Sandeepany. He grew to ripe old age. In his later life. Lord Krishna authored the epic work of wisdom-the Sacred Geeta.

Thus ends the story of Krishna’s childhood. What lessons could we draw from this? Could we just repeat the widely-held belief that Krishna was an incarnation and hence he deserved our veneration? Let us also not forget that this belief has the sanction of time behind it. On the other hand, what do we see when Krishna is viewed as just a human being? The answer to this is more valuable for a proper study of Krishna. Strip a divine being of his divinity and scrutinise what remains. If the scrutiny yields some shades of greatness in the character, we should then ungrudgingly grant him his claim to divinity. For none could be divine, who could not be a great human being.

Viewed in this light, Krishna deserves to be considered great for two reasons. One, he did nothing for himself and everything for others. He had no scores to settle with any of the demons that came to kill him. Nor did he consider himself an enemy of- any of them. He had to do away with them for the sake of peace and security of his people. This was equally true of his killing the tyrant Kansa.

The second reason is that Krishna was a willing instrument in the hands of the Divine which manifested itself through him. He had no part to play other than what the Divine wanted him to. Later on in his life, as he exhorted Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, every action was performed by the Divine and one did nothing by oneself. The truth of this saying is borne out by the incidents that took place in Krishna’s childhood. The Divine plan to end the tyranny of Kansa was worked out through Lord Krishna. He lived and worked only so long as he was useful lo the Divine and when the time came for Him to die, this great man gladly accepted an end in which he was shot down by a hunter-“-again as the Divine had designed it. He never bargained for any “better treatment” in the last scene of His life.

These two reasons are, indeed, sufficient for us to confer upon Krishna the halo of divinity. Perhaps it is guided by this consideration that people believe that they receive divine blessings, when doing the Japa:



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