“From the movement of the different kinds of ornaments on their bodies, they were looking still more beautiful. In this way, they all reached the house of Nanda-Yashoda and blessed the child: ‘Dear child, You live long just to protect us.’ While they were blessing child Krishna in this way, they offered a mixture of turmeric powder with oil, yogurt, milk and water. They not only sprinkled this mixture on the body of child Krishna but on all other persons who were present there.” (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 5)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is described in the Vedas as purana-purusham. This means that He is the oldest purusha, or person. Purusha is the real definition of a person. It speaks to the spiritual life force, which dominates over the inanimate matter, which is prakriti. As He is the best purusha, the Supreme Lord is also described as purushottama. He is the adi-purusham as well, which is the original person. Since He is the oldest and original person, through basic deduction we see that He lives the longest. On the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami, we remember how He appeared on earth many thousands of years ago and answered the prayers of the gopis, who wished that He would live long to protect them.
The boy was named Krishna because He was all-attractive. He was considered the son of mother Yashoda in Vrindavana, but actually He appeared first from the womb of mother Devaki, who at the time was locked up in a prison cell in Mathura with her husband Vasudeva. Her child is the origin of matter and spirit, so He never actually takes birth. His birth from the womb of Devaki is more accurately described as an appearance. The sun rises in the morning and this is the dawn of a new day. There is a birth, but the sun has not come into existence suddenly. The morning is merely the changing of times within a specific frame of reference.
In the same way, Krishna’s birth is an appearance before our very eyes. He is actually all around us all the time. In His unmanifest form, He pervades the entire creation. The very fact that there is an existence means that Krishna is around in some capacity. He is the life of all existences. His physical appearance gives life to the devoted souls, who only want to serve Him in lifetime after lifetime.
Vasudeva transferred the child to Vrindavana in the middle of the night. He did so at the child’s direction, for Krishna briefly showed Himself to be the Supreme Lord in His form of Narayana. The vision temporarily allayed the fears of the parents, as they were afraid of what the king of Mathura, Kamsa, might do if he should come to learn that Devaki had given birth to an eighth child. Previously a prophecy had informed Kamsa that his sister Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. Therefore the fiendish king was in perpetual fear, constantly worried over his impending death, which would come to him directly from the hand of God.
Krishna was transported to Gokula in Vrindavana, where Nanda Maharaja was the king. His wife Yashoda was pregnant at the time, but due to the intensity of labor, she was not sure whether a girl or boy was born to her. The girl who came from her womb was transferred to Mathura in place of Krishna. The next morning, all the well-wishers came to greet the new child. The priests of the community performed all the auspicious rites, and the neighboring cowherd women dressed themselves nicely for having their first look at the child.
They prayed that the child would live long and protect them. The prayer is understandable, given the fact that the elders know that their time on earth is limited. Their abilities are limited as well. The parents can’t protect the child forever. Eventually the roles will switch; the child will have to protect the elderly parents. The gopis prayed that Yashoda’s boy would live very long and protect them.
This prayer was a little different in nature than the typical hope for good fortune for a new child. Since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna is full in six opulences. Thus His protection is not limited to bodily maintenance through strength. He would indeed protect Vrindavana using that strength. It was exhibited while within the body of a small child. As an infant, He protected the residents from a vicious whirlwind demon, a demon in the form of a bull, and a witch who masked her shape at will. When even the king of heaven, who usually is the one who protects the innocent, turned inimical for a brief period, Krishna lifted up a massive hill and held it over His head. Thus the prayers of the gopis didn’t take long to get answered.
Krishna lives the longest too, which means that His protection is ever-lasting. A few years after His appearance, Krishna had to leave for Mathura to deal with Kamsa and handle other affairs. Though He was no longer in Vrindavana, His presence was still felt. The memories of His pastimes remained with the residents. The gopis received protection from their beloved Krishna by remembering Him.
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
His presence in memory lasts for as long as the individual can continue to think. Memory of Krishna falls into the broader category of consciousness, and as Krishna Himself explains in the Bhagavad-gita, this consciousness carries over from lifetime to lifetime. It travels with the spirit soul to the next body, like the air carrying aromas. This means that the protection wished for by the gopis stayed with them in spite of where Krishna went.
Based on the ability to celebrate the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami, we know that Krishna’s protection continues to this day. He is brought into the memory by always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The gopis wanted only devotional service in life; they had no desire for wealth, fame, beauty, or intelligence. Krishna protected their foremost desire. Since He is the oldest and original person, that protection is guaranteed to remain for whosoever desires it.
At Yashoda’s son to have first look,
Trip to her house gopis took.
Decorated nicely, flowers in their hair,
At all-attractive Shri Krishna to stare.
Asked that He protection to give,
With all-attractiveness long to live.
Desires of devoted souls always met.
From Janmashtami same protection get.