“Kamsa was the son of Ugrasena, of the Bhoja dynasty. It is said that Kamsa was the most demonic of all the Bhoja dynasty kings. Immediately after hearing the prophecy from the sky, he caught hold of Devaki’s hair and was just about to kill her with his sword.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 1)
In bhakti-yoga there are different rasas. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates the Sanskrit word as “transcendental mellow.” God is a person. He is known as Bhagavan in Sanskrit. He has so many names since there are so many ways to describe Him. Since He is all-attractive, Krishna is another name.
Due to being a personality, Krishna allows for interactions. He is not simply an order supplier. The classic prayer of, “God please grant me this wish; I’ll never ask for something again,” is a preliminary stage of religion. In the higher stages there are interactions, and since there is a taste that results from the relationship, not every moment would typically be considered good. Sometimes there is suffering when under the Divine energy, yogamaya. The plight of Devaki is one such case.
1. Near death on her wedding day
Very pious and chaste herself, Devaki had an arranged marriage to Vasudeva. As per tradition, the brother of the bride escorted the newlyweds to the home of the groom. This is the final seeing-off, if you will. It is supposed to help ease the transition for the bride, who has to leave the comfortable surroundings of home and family to live with her new family, who are likely all strangers to her. In arranged marriages the woman makes so many sacrifices, and due to the strength she gains her new family is benefitted tremendously.
The happy occasion turned sour quickly. En route a voice from the sky spoke to Kamsa, Devaki’s brother. That voice informed the king of Mathura that Devaki’s eighth child would be his doom. A loving brother might not make anything of the announcement. After all, in true love I am ready to give my life to protect my siblings.
Kamsa was of the demoniac nature, so he decided then and there to kill his sister. Self-preservation. The new husband, Vasudeva, used his intelligence to diffuse the situation. With his words of persuasion, Devaki’s life was saved.
The peace didn’t last for long. Vasudeva saved his wife’s life by promising to hand over every child to Kamsa as soon as it was born. Then there would be no reason to fear. After a while Kamsa reversed his decision. He changed his mind. Both Vasudeva and Devaki were imprisoned. Now the newlyweds couldn’t even enjoy life together. They were treated like criminals, though they had done nothing wrong.
3. The killing of her children
Pregnancy is not easy. There is work involved, and that work doesn’t always yield the desired result. Pregnancy is not like catching a cold. After bringing a child into this world, the mother usually feels a very strong bond. This is because she remembers the care, attention and time it took to see the pregnancy reach its successful end.
Devaki had the most horrible suffering you could imagine in this area. She had to see each of her first six children taken from her immediately after birth. Kamsa threw the babies against a stone wall to make sure they were dead. Though everything went as according to agreement and the deaths were not unexpected, no one can imagine the torment of the caring mother.
4. The departure of Krishna after birth
The seventh child was transferred to the womb of Rohini. He was a direct expansion of the Supreme Lord and He appeared in this world as Balarama.
That voice from the sky was telling the truth. The eighth child happened to be death personified, kala. He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. To assure the parents of His Divine nature, baby Krishna, who appeared at midnight, showed the four-handed form of Narayana, which is universally accepted as the form of God in Vedic culture.
The troubles would now end. The parents had suffered long enough. God was there to save them. Only one problem. Krishna asked to be transferred to the neighboring town of Gokula. He didn’t want Kamsa to know about His appearance. The all-attractive one, in His charming childhood form, immediately left the vision of the loving mother. She had to hold onto the memory of having seen Him.
5. Separation from her son during His childhood
Vasudeva brought Krishna to Gokula, and essentially did a baby swap with Nanda Maharaja, the king of the area. Vasudeva took back with him a baby girl. When Kamsa found out, he tried to do the same thing as before. When he went to throw the baby against the stone, she slipped out of his hands. Revealing her form of Durga Devi, she informed the king that the real eighth child was alive and well.
Krishna grew up in Gokula Vrindavana with the foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. Devaki missed out on the adorable pastimes, like stealing butter, riding through dirt by holding onto a calf’s tail, and the first words. Devaki made a tremendous sacrifice to satisfy the Divine will, and she remained Krishna conscious throughout. Eventually, the Lord would return to Mathura and end the reign of terror of Kamsa. The parents lived with their son in freedom until it was time to return to the spiritual world.
Demigods to her womb obeisances paid,
In life of service so many sacrifices made.
By Devaki, beloved wife and mother,
Who almost killed by wicked brother.
Kamsa both her and husband taking,
And prisoners in kingdom making.
Death of six children by her to see,
When Krishna came then finally free.
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