The Advent of Shri Krishna
The heart always fills up when preparations for the Nanda Utsav begin. What fun! All members of the family along with the neighborhood come together to join in the celebration. Making trips to the shops to buy the fabric, taking measurements, stitching cute dresses embroidered with rich tussle for Giridhar Gopal, selecting the jewelry to match the dress to adorn Gopal, all these arrangements start a month in advance. As the day of ‘Sri Krishna Janmashtami’ comes closer, ladoos are prepared and distributed in the neighborhood along with invitations to participate. At home, we get together to finalize the programme list, arrange the songs in order, practice with the accompaniment of tabla and mrudanga, and get ready to be drenched in the transcendental kirtans. Celebrating Krishna Avatar.
Avatar is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘descent’ and it refers to the supreme being descending to the earth for a higher purpose. Most avatars are classified into
Purusavatara - The three purushas associated with creation of the world;
Gunavataras - Those presiding over the three Gunas (Satva, Rajasika and Tamas);
Lilavataras – Those in which the Lord takes forms and carries out past times;
Yugavataras – Those which are related to the various ages, but they all originate from the one supreme absolute.
However, Krishna is Purnavatar. He is ‘Purnabrahma’ or ‘Bhagavan’.
Srimad Bhagavatam says, “Ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam” All these incarnations of the supreme absolute are either plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions of the Purusa Avataras. But Krishna is the super-soul or absolute. He doesn’t have a beginning but is the beginning of everything. In the Brahma Samhita, Brahma says,
“ishvarah paramah krishnah satchidananda vigrahah
anadir adir govindah sarva karana karanam”.
Krishna is the Supreme absolute. He encompasses truth, consciousness and bliss. He is Govinda, the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes. Narayana is that form of Krishna who is in yogic slumber under the celestial waters. He doesn’t manifest during creation. In Brahma Sutra, the reason for the supreme being’s manifestation is quoted thus,
“lokavat tu lila kaivalyam”
The creation is merely a sport of Brahman. His birth and everything he does is divine. Sri Suka Deva has narrated the supreme conscious and miraculous pastime of the Bhagavan in Srimad Bhagavatam to uplift the sinners who suffer in this Kaliyug.
In Srimad Bhadavad Gita the Lord says that,
“Whenever virtue subsides and wickedness prevails, I manifest Myself. To establish virtue, to destroy evil, to save the good I come from Yuga to Yuga (age to age).”
However, the wise have opined that God is all-powerful, and can kill the wicked merely by wishing it from Vaikunth. If any avatar could have accomplished this, then why did He have to descend?
Different opinions have been quoted about the reason of His descent. Some say that the sages of Dandakaranya were attracted by Shri Ram’s grace, charm and elegance during his time as Shri Ram and desired to be involved in his divine sport and so, their wish was fulfilled in Krishnavatar. These sages were born as the inhabitants of Vrij in Dwapara Yug and took part Krishna’s pastimes. Some say that Nanda and Yashoda were Dronabasu and Dharaa in their previous birth, who were given the boon to raise and care for the Lord in their next birth from Bramha. Some others opine that Sutapa and Prushni underwent severe penance and prayed to God to be born as their son. Happy with their penance, the Lord was born to them when they took birth as Vasudev and Devaki.
Though there are so many reasons, the main aim of the Lord was to orchestrate his divine play. He enjoys Himself and gives opportunity to the eligible souls to take part in His pastimes or divine leela. The beings are so intoxicated in the material world that there is a need of a stronger medication to help them give up their attachment. God is the source of all essence or ‘Rasa’. If the fallen souls could get a glimpse of his form, then they would bail themselves out of the worldly desires. Lord Krishna took human form. Listening to, singing and thinking about the pastimes of His sports and activities with the cowherd boys will liberate the fallen souls of Kaliyug.
After the Mahabarata war, when Krishna was ready to take leave of the Pandavas and return to Dwaraka from Hastinapur, Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas prayed to Him quoting the various reasons why God manifests or descends as an ‘Avatar’, which is explained in Srimad Bhagavatam:
“Bhave ‘smin klisyamananam avidya kama karmabhih,
Sravana smaranarhani karisyann iti kecana.”
“O Govinda! There are may reasons for your manifestation. Some say that you were born to take away the burden of Mother Earth. Some say that you were born to grace the dynasty of the Yadus. Yet others say that pleased by the penance of Vasudev and Devaki, you were born to them. But I think that the souls who have taken birth on this earth are suffering. From days of yore, their desires have been born out of ignorance. As a result they are attached to mundane jobs and relationships. Caught in this cycle, they take birth again and again. How will they free themselves? You appear and carry out your pastimes so that the conditioned souls suffering from material pangs can take advantage by hearing, remembering, worshipping these divine leelas and gain liberation.”
If God appears before all in His infinite nature of pure awareness and sheer knowledge as embodiment of pure consciousness which is divine and eternal, then the enslaved souls won’t be able to accept Him as their own. So, He descends in a human body, as the one holding the enchanting flute, dressed as a cowherd boy, His handsome lotus face as splendid as a million moons, and makes it easy for the souls on this earth to get attracted to Him, come close and establish a relationship with Him.
anugrahāya bhaktānāṁ mānuṣaṁ deham āsthitaḥ
bhajate tādṛśīḥ krīḍa yāḥ śrutvā tat-paro bhavet
- Srimad Bhagavatam
Whenever the Lord assumes a humanlike body to show mercy to His devotees, He engages in pastimes which would attract those who hear about them and they then become dedicated to Him.
Sri Krishna being the supreme absolute had descended in the form of a cowherd boy. When the three worlds tormented by the attrocities of Kamsa, cried for respite, the earth took the form of a cow and approached the creator Lord Brahma. Shedding tears, she narrated her misery. Brahma, overcome by her distress, took all the devas and the lord of the devas, Shankara, and arrived near the ocean of milk, the abode of Paramatma Kshirodakashayi Vishnu. There, Brahma started meditating and went into samadhi, when he heard Lord Vishnu addressing him. But no one else could hear Him. After listening, Brahma assured everyone and said, “To eradicate the suffering, the Lord will soon manifest on earth. It is time for all of you to take birth in the ‘Yadu’ dynasty and participate in His divine pastimes. The supreme Bhagavan will take birth as the son of Vasudev. Lord Sesh Naag will be born as the Lord’s elder brother. By the order of the Lord, Maa Yogamaya will also descend on earth. She will merge with Devi Paurnamasi in Braj Bhumi to aid in carrying out the divine leela.” Brahma assured the distressed mother earth and said, “Very soon the Lord’s lotus feet marked with ‘dhwaja’ and ‘vajra’ will roam on your bosom and you will be blessed.”
The time arrived. After the wedding of Vasudev with his sister Devaki, Kamsa was driving their chariot to the palace when he heard a voice from the sky announce, “The eighth born child of the sister on whom you are showering all your affection and carrying in your chariot will kill you.” On hearing this, a sudden change came over him. He held Devaki’s hair and pulled her out of the chariot. He was about to kill her when Vasudev pleaded with him to spare Devaki’s life. Vasudev promised that he will bring all the children that Devaki gives birth to and offer them to Kamsa. Kamsa imprisoned them and waited for the arrival of his sworn enemy.
Thereafter, Kamsa killed six children born to Devaki. When Devaki became pregnant with the seventh child, Ananta Sesha Deva resided in her womb. The Lord then ordered Yogamaya to carry the fetus Ananta Sesha (who is actually a part of the Lord) from Devaki’s womb and plant it in the womb of Rohini, the other wife of Vasudev who lived in the house of Nanda in Gopapura. Yogamaya obliged and descended on earth to carry Lord Sankarshan from Devaki and place him in Rohini’s womb. Since Yogamaya attracted the fetus from Devaki’s womb, he was named ‘Sankarshan’. Everyone thought, “Alas! Devaki lost this child also in her womb.”
The eighth day (Ashtami) of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in Bhadrapada month arrived. The skies were clear, twinkling with innumerable bright stars. An indescribable joy perpetrated through the water, land, flowers, blossoms, sky, wind, rivers, valleys and mountains. The star Rohini was up, water lillies were blooming in the ponds. A wave of auspiciousness whizzed through the meadows and villages, the forests were decorated with flowers, the birds started singng and the bees started buzzing. At that glorious instant, the heavens resounded with the sounds of kettle drums. The celestial beings started singing and chanting. The celestial nymphs were engrossed in dancing. The Devas showered flowers. The heavens and the earth were adorned to welcome the arrival of Sri Krishna.
The one who is unborn will be born. And the time for Him to manifest arrived. The one who is omnipresent as ‘Brahma’, who pervades all hearts as ‘Paramatma’, took form and was born from the womb of Mother Devaki.
Suka Deva has chronicled another information that Sri Krishna was also born from the womb of Mother Yashoda. The Lord was born in two places. Mother Yashoda is an embodiment of unalloyed devotion and is full of sweetness.
Sri Suka Dev wrote:
“Nandastvatmaja utpanne jatahlado mahamanah”
‘Atmaj’ means son born from the mother.
Lord Brahma has also accepted this truth in his Brahmamohana Leela.
It is clearly mentioned in the Brahma Jamala scripture –
“Nandopatnyam Yashodayam Mithunam Samajayata,
Sri Govinda Puman Kanya Sambika Mathuramgata.”
Nanda’s wife Yashoda had given birth to gemini twins, one boy and one girl. The son was Sri Govinda and the daughter was Ambika. The son that Vasudev brought merged with the son of Yashoda and Vasudev took back the daughter Ambika to Mathura.
Harivamsa has also quoted thus:
“Vasudevasutah Sriman Vaasudevohkhilatmani,
Leeno Nandasute Raajan Ghane Saudamini Yatha.”
Krishna, the son of Vasudev manifested in the womb of Devaki. The Lord of ‘Golaka’ manifested in the womb of Yashoda. The part (son of Vasudev) merged in the whole (Lord of Golaka) as lightning merges in the dark clouds.
Many Vaishnava seers also support this description. The great poet Karnapura writes in his ‘Ananda Vrindavan Champu’, when Vasudev brought ‘Vaasudeva Krishna’ to Gokul, the divine symbols of ‘Sankha’ (the conch), ‘Chakra’ (the disc), ‘Gada’ (the maze), and ‘Padma’ (the lotus) remained as signs on his palms and feet. The supreme personality of Godhead gave up his magnificient miraculous form and entered the world of sweet pastimes.