Krishna’s Childhood Pastimes

B.G. Sharma1

So…continuining our month long attempt to stay focused on the childhood pastimes of Krsna, during this month of Damodara (Kartika), we bring you another exciting chapter from; Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Today we are posting the chapter entitled “Killing the Demons Vatsāsura and Bakāsura”.

…All the cowherd boys would daily go to the bank of the river Yamunā to water their calves. Usually, when the calves drank water from the Yamunā, the boys also drank. One day, after drinking, when they were sitting on the bank of the river, they saw a huge animal which looked something like a duck and was as big as a hill. Its top was as strong as a thunderbolt. When they saw that unusual animal, they became afraid of it. The name of this beast was Bakāsura, and he was a friend of Kaṁsa’s. He appeared on the scene suddenly and immediately attacked Kṛṣṇa with his pointed, sharp beaks and quickly swallowed Him up. When Kṛṣṇa was thus swallowed, all the boys, headed by Balarāma, became almost breathless, as if they had died. But when the Bakāsura demon was swallowing up Kṛṣṇa, he felt a burning fiery sensation in his throat. This was due to the glowing effulgence of Kṛṣṇa. The demon quickly threw Kṛṣṇa up and tried to kill Him by pinching Him in his beaks. Bakāsura did not know that although Kṛṣṇa was playing the part of a child of Nanda Mahārāja, He was still the original father of Lord Brahmā, the creator of the universe. The child of mother Yaśodā, who is the reservoir of pleasure for the demigods and who is the maintainer of saintly persons, caught hold of the beaks of the great gigantic duck and, before His cowherd boy friends, bifurcated his mouth, just as a child very easily splits a blade of grass. From the sky, the denizens of the heavenly planets showered flowers like the cāmeli, the most fragrant of all flowers, as a token of their congratulations. Accompanying the showers of flowers was a vibration of bugles, drums and conchshells.

This description of Krishna killing the demon Bakasura by bifurcating his mouth, has always intriged me, and after years of hearing and reading this story I finially decided to look up the word bifurcate.

bi·fur·cate
verb
past tense: bifurcated; past participle: bifurcated
ˈbīfərˌkāt/
divide into two branches or forks.
“just below Cairo the river bifurcates”
(from Merriam Webster dictionary)

Full chapter

Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Chapter Eleven

Killing the Demons Vatsāsura and Bakāsura

When the twin arjuna trees fell to the ground, making a sound like the falling of thunderbolts, all the inhabitants of Gokula, including Nanda Mahārāja, immediately came to the spot. They were very much astonished to see how the two great trees had suddenly fallen. Because they could find no reason for their falling down, they were puzzled. When they saw child Kṛṣṇa bound up to the wooden mortar by the ropes of Yaśodā, they began to think that it must have been caused by some demon. Otherwise, how was it possible? At the same time, they were very much perturbed because such uncommon incidents were always happening to the child Kṛṣṇa. While the elderly cowherd men were thus contemplating, the small children who were playing there informed the men that the trees fell due to Kṛṣṇa’s pulling the wooden mortar with the ropes to which He was bound. ”Kṛṣṇa came in between the two trees,“ they explained, ”and the wooden mortar was topsy-turvied and stuck in between the trees. Kṛṣṇa began to pull the rope, and the trees fell down. When the trees fell down, two very dazzling men came out of the trees, and they began to talk to Kṛṣṇa.“

Most of the cowherd men did not believe the statement of the children. They could not believe that such things were at all possible. Some of the them, however, believed them and told Nanda Mahārāja, ”Your child is different from all other children. He just might have done it.“ Nanda Mahārāja began to smile, hearing about the extraordinary abilities of his son. He came forward and untied the knot just to free his wonderful child. After being freed by Nanda Mahārāja, Kṛṣṇa was taken onto the laps of the elderly gopīs. They took Him away to the courtyard of the house and began to clap, praising His wonderful activities. Kṛṣṇa began to clap along with them, just like an ordinary child. The Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, being completely controlled by the gopīs, began to sing and dance, just like a puppet in their hands.

Sometimes mother Yaśodā used to ask Kṛṣṇa to bring her a wooden plank for sitting. Although the wooden plank was too heavy to be carried by a child, still somehow or other Kṛṣṇa would bring it to His mother. Sometimes while worshiping Nārāyaṇa, His father would ask Him to bring his wooden slippers, and Kṛṣṇa, with great difficulty, would put the slippers on His head and bring them to His father. When He was asked to lift some heavy article and was unable to lift it, He would simply move His arms. In this way, daily, at every moment, He was the reservoir of all pleasure to His parents. The Lord was exhibiting such childish ativities before the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana because He wanted to show the great philosophers and sages searching after the Absolute Truth how the Supreme Absolute Truth Personality of Godhead is controlled by and subject to the desires of His pure devotees.

One day, a fruit vendor came before the house of Nanda Mahārāja. Upon hearing the vendor call, ”If anyone wants fruits please come and take them from me!“ child Kṛṣṇa immediately took some grains in His palm and went to get fruits in exchange. In those days exchange was by barter; therefore Kṛṣṇa might have seen His parents exchange fruits and other things by bartering grains, and so He imitated. But His palms were very small, and He was not very careful to hold them tight, so He was dropping the grains. The vendor who came to sell fruits saw this and was very much captivated by the beauty of the Lord, so he immediately accepted whatever few grains were left in His palm and filled His hands with fruits. In the meantime, the vendor saw that his whole basket of fruit had become filled with jewels. The Lord is the bestower of all benediction. If someone gives something to the Lord, he is not the loser; he is the gainer by a million times.

One day Lord Kṛṣṇa, the liberator of the twin arjuna trees, was playing with Balarāma and the other children on the bank of the Yamunā, and because it was already late in the morning, Rohiṇī, the mother of Balarāma, went to call them back home. But Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa were so engrossed in playing with Their friends that They did not wish to come back; They just engaged Themselves in playing more and more. When Rohiṇī was unable to take Them back home, she went home and sent mother Yaśodā to call Them again. Mother Yaśodā was so affectionate toward her son that as soon as she came out to call Him back home, her breast filled up with milk. She loudly cried, ”My dear child, please come back home. Your time for lunch is already past.“ She then said, ”My dear Kṛṣṇa, O my dear lotus-eyed child, please come and suck my breast. You have played enough. You must be very hungry, my dear little child. You must be tired from playing for so long.“ She also addressed Balarāma thus: ”My dear, the glory of Your family, please come back with Your younger brother Kṛṣṇa immediately. You have been engaged in playing since morning, and You must be very tired. Please come back and take Your lunch at home. Your father Nandarāja is waiting for You. He has to eat, so You must come back so that he can eat.“

As soon as Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma heard that Nanda Mahārāja was waiting for Them and could not take his food in Their absence, They started to return. Their other playmates complained, ”Kṛṣṇa is leaving us just at the point when our playing is at the summit. Next time we shall not allow Him to leave.“

His playmates then threatened not to allow Him to play with them again. Kṛṣṇa became afraid, and instead of going back home, He went back again to play with the boys. At that time, mother Yaśodā scolded the children and told Kṛṣṇa, ”My dear Kṛṣṇa, do You think that You are a street boy? You have no home? Please come back to Your home! I see that Your body has become very dirty from playing since early morning. Now come home and take Your bath. Besides, today is Your birthday ceremony; therefore You should come back home and give cows in charity to the brāhmaṇas. Don’t You see how Your playmates are decorated with ornaments by their mothers? You should also be cleansed and decorated with nice dress and ornaments. Please, therefore, come back, take Your bath, dress Yourself nicely, and then again You may go on playing.“

In this way mother Yaśodā called back Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma who are worshipable by great demigods like Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva. She was thinking of Them as her children.

When mother Yaśodā’s children, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, came home, she bathed Them very nicely and dressed Them with ornaments. She then called for the brāhmaṇas, and through her children she gave many cows in charity for the occasion of Kṛṣṇa’s birthday. In this way she performed the birthday ceremony of Kṛṣṇa at home.

After this incident, all the elderly members of the cowherd men assembled together, and Nanda Mahārāja presided. They began to consult amongst themselves how to stop great disturbances in the Mahāvana on account of the demons. In this meeting, Upananda, brother of Nanda Mahārāja, was present. He was considered to be learned and experienced, and he was a well-wisher of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. He was a leader, and he began to address the meeting as follows: ”My dear friends! Now we should leave here for another place because we are continually finding that great demons are coming here to disturb the peaceful situation, and they are especially attempting to kill the small children. Just consider Pūtanā and Kṛṣṇa. It was simply by the grace of Lord Hari that Kṛṣṇa was saved from the hands of such a great demon. Next the whirlwind demon took Kṛṣṇa away in the sky, but by the grace of Lord Hari He was saved, and the demon fell down on a stone slab and died. Very recently, this child was playing between two trees, and the trees fell down violently, and yet there was no injury to the child. So Lord Hari saved Him again. Just imagine the calamity if this child or any other child playing with Him were crushed by the falling trees! Considering all these incidences, we must conclude that this place is no longer safe. Let us leave. We have all been saved from different calamities by the grace of Lord Hari. Now we should be cautious and leave this place and reside somewhere where we can live peacefully. I think that we should all go to the forest known as Vṛndāvana, where just now there are newly grown plants and herbs. It is very suitable for pasturing ground for our cows, and we and our families, the gopīs with their children, can very peacefully live there. Near Vṛndāvana there is Govardhana Hill, which is very beautiful, and there is newly grown grass and fodder for the animals, so there will be no difficulty in living there. I therefore suggest that we start immediately for that beautiful place, as there is no need to waste any more time. Let us prepare all our carts immediately, and, if you like, let us go, keeping all the cows in front.“

On hearing the statement of Upananda, all the cowherd men immediately agreed. ”Let us immediately go there.“ Everyone then loaded all their household furniture and utensils on the carts and prepared to go to Vṛndāvana. All the old men of the village, the children and women were arranged on seats, and the cowherd men equipped themselves with bows and arrows to follow the carts. All the cows and bulls along with their calves were placed in the front, and the men surrounded the flocks with their bows and arrows and began to blow on their horns and bugles. In this way, with tumultuous sound, they started for Vṛndāvana.

And who can describe the damsels of Vraja? They were all seated on the carts and were very beautifully dressed with ornaments and costly saris. They began to chant the pastimes of child Kṛṣṇa as usual. Mother Yaśodā and mother Rohiṇī were seated on a separate cart, and Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were seated on their laps. While mother Rohiṇī and Yaśodā were riding on the cart, they talked to Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, and feeling the pleasure of such talks, they looked very, very beautiful.

In this way, after reaching Vṛndāvana, where everyone lives eternally, very peacefully and happily, they encircled Vṛndāvana and kept the carts all together. After seeing the beautiful appearance of Govardhana on the bank of the river Yamunā, they began to construct their places of residence. While those of the same age were walking together and children were talking with their parents, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana felt very happy.

At this time Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were given charge of the calves. The first responsibility of the cowherd boys was to take care of the little calves. The boys are trained in this from the very beginning of their childhood. So along with other little cowherd boys, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma went into the pasturing ground and took charge of the calves and played with Their playmates. While taking charge of the calves, sometimes the two brothers played on Their flutes. And sometimes They played with āmalakī fruits and bael fruits, just like small children play with balls. Sometimes They danced and made tinkling sounds with Their ankle bells. Sometimes They made Themselves into bulls and cows by covering Themselves with blankets. Thus Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma played. The two brothers also used to imitate the sounds of bulls and cows and play at bullfighting. Sometimes They used to imitate the sounds of various animals and birds. In this way, They enjoyed Their childhood pastimes apparently like ordinary, mundane children.

Once, when Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were playing on the bank of the Yamunā, a demon of the name Vatsāsura assumed the shape of a calf and came there intending to kill the brothers. By taking the shape of a calf, the demon could mingle with other calves. Kṛṣṇa, however, specifically noticed this, and He immediately told Balarāma about the entrance of the demon. Both brothers then followed him and sneaked up upon him. Kṛṣṇa caught hold of the demon-calf by the two hind legs and tail, whipped him around very forcibly and threw him up into a tree. The demon lost his life and fell down from the top of the tree to the ground. When the demon lay dead on the ground, all the playmates of Kṛṣṇa congratulated Him, ”Well done, well done,“ and the demigods in the sky began to shower flowers with great satisfaction. In this way, the maintainers of the complete creation, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, used to take care of the calves in the morning every day, and thus They enjoyed Their childhood pastimes as cowherd boys in Vṛndāvana.

All the cowherd boys would daily go to the bank of the river Yamunā to water their calves. Usually, when the calves drank water from the Yamunā, the boys also drank. One day, after drinking, when they were sitting on the bank of the river, they saw a huge animal which looked something like a duck and was as big as a hill. Its top was as strong as a thunderbolt. When they saw that unusual animal, they became afraid of it. The name of this beast was Bakāsura, and he was a friend of Kaṁsa’s. He appeared on the scene suddenly and immediately attacked Kṛṣṇa with his pointed, sharp beaks and quickly swallowed Him up. When Kṛṣṇa was thus swallowed, all the boys, headed by Balarāma, became almost breathless, as if they had died. But when the Bakāsura demon was swallowing up Kṛṣṇa, he felt a burning fiery sensation in his throat. This was due to the glowing effulgence of Kṛṣṇa. The demon quickly threw Kṛṣṇa up and tried to kill Him by pinching Him in his beaks. Bakāsura did not know that although Kṛṣṇa was playing the part of a child of Nanda Mahārāja, He was still the original father of Lord Brahmā, the creator of the universe. The child of mother Yaśodā, who is the reservoir of pleasure for the demigods and who is the maintainer of saintly persons, caught hold of the beaks of the great gigantic duck and, before His cowherd boy friends, bifurcated his mouth, just as a child very easily splits a blade of grass. From the sky, the denizens of the heavenly planets showered flowers like the cāmeli, the most fragrant of all flowers, as a token of their congratulations. Accompanying the showers of flowers was a vibration of bugles, drums and conchshells.

When the boys saw the showering of flowers and heard the celestial sounds, they became struck with wonder. When they saw Kṛṣṇa, they all, including Balarāma, were so pleased that it seemed as if they had regained their very source of life. As soon as they saw Kṛṣṇa coming towards them, they one after another embraced the son of Nanda and held Him to their chests. After this, they assembled all the calves under their charge and began to return home.

When they arrived home, they began to speak of the wonderful activities of the son of Nanda. When the gopīs and cowherd men all heard the story from the boys, they felt great happiness because naturally they loved Kṛṣṇa, and hearing about His glories and victorious activities, they became still more affectionate toward Him. Thinking that the child Kṛṣṇa was saved from the mouth of death, they began to see His face with great love and affection. They were full of anxieties, but they could not turn their faces from the vision of Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs and the men began to converse amongst themselves about how the child Kṛṣṇa was attacked in so many ways and so many times by so many demons, and yet the demons were killed and Kṛṣṇa was uninjured. They continued to converse amongst themselves about how so many great demons in such fierce bodies attacked Kṛṣṇa to kill Him, but by the grace of Hari, they could not cause even a slight injury. Rather, they died like small flies in a fire. Thus they remembered the words of Garga Muni who foretold, by dint of his vast knowledge of the Vedas and astrology, that this boy would be attacked by many demons. Now they actually saw that this was coming true, word for word.

All the elderly cowherd men, including Nanda Mahārāja, used to talk of the wonderful activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, and they were always so much absorbed in those talks that they forgot the threefold miseries of this material existence. This is the effect of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. What was enjoyed five thousand years ago by Nanda Mahārāja can still be enjoyed by persons who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness simply by talking about the transcendental pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and His associates.

Thus both Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa enjoyed Their childhood pastimes, imitating the monkeys of Lord Rāmacandra, who constructed the bridge over the ocean and Hanumān, who jumped over the water to Ceylon. And They used to imitate such pastimes among Their friends and so happily passed Their childhood life.

Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Eleventh Chapter of Kṛṣṇa, ”Killing the Demons Vatsāsura and Bakāsura.“

Text pasted from; Causeless Mercy

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