“Once Mother Yashoda addressed one of her friends in this way: ‘Nanda Maharaj, the leader of the cowherdsmen, worshiped Lord Vishnu along with me, and as a result of this worshiping Krishna has been saved from the clutches of Putana and other demons. The twin arjuna trees were, of course, broken due to a strong wind, and although Krishna appeared to have lifted Govardhan Hill along with Balarama, I think that Nanda Maharaj actually held the mountain. Otherwise how could it have been possible for a little boy to lift such a great hill?’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)
Child worship is a real thing. It doesn’t seem that way to the parents. It is not like they are visiting a house designated for that purpose. There are no regular prayers offered or prostrations in obeisance to high commands. There are no enumerated sacrifices or professions of faith. There is no fear of condemnation for violating certain laws.
Nevertheless, the consciousness of the parents is focused on a specific person. There is service, offered without motive and without interruption. Even in the most difficult times, when the person served is not cooperating in the least, there is still the same attention to duty. No one had to teach this to the parents. It is called instinct. The love is natural and spontaneous.
Mother Yashoda in Vrindavana offered service in this mood, with a notable distinction. Her son happened to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Shri Krishna is the visible manifestation, the detail behind the abstract, whose appearance in this world is annually celebrated on the occasion on Janmashtami. He could appear as Yashoda’s son because the innermost desires of the devotees eventually get fulfilled.
In that lovingly affectionate mood, known as vatsalya-rasa, Yashoda never considered her son to be Divine, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Even some of the more amazing things Krishna did as a child were explained away with a different cause.
1. The Putana escape due to prayers to Vishnu
Yashoda and her husband, Nanda Maharaja, were devotees of Lord Vishnu. He is the personal form of God most often referenced in the Vedic tradition. That is to say His name is prominent in Puranas, Upanishads and the original Vedas. Another name for Vishnu is Narayana, which means “the source of all men.” To consider even powerful gods like Brahma and Shiva to be equal to Narayana is a grave mistake.
“A pashandi is one who considers the great demigods such as Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana.” (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 1.17)
The benefit of worshiping Narayana is that there is purification in the process. You might not get specifically what you ask for. Vishnu is also Hari, which means a person who takes away. For your benefit God might remove things and people from your life to whom you are strongly attached.
Such is His merciful nature that Yashoda thought Vishnu played a hand in protecting her son against a powerful witch. Named Putana, she had come to Gokula in a false guise. Pretending to be a benevolent nurse, ready to care for the jewel of the town, Putana had smeared poison on her breast, intending to feed Krishna His death.
The reverse occurred, and in the process the witch displayed her true, hideous form. The people were amazed that such a small child could survive against a gigantic witch. Yashoda offered prayers to Narayana immediately afterwards, and considered her boy’s survival to be due to His grace.
“Mother Yashoda was firmly convinced of the Vedic injunctions about the importance of cows and the holy name of Vishnu; therefore she took all shelter in the cows and the name of Vishnu just to protect her child Krishna. She recited all the holy names of Vishnu so that He might save the child.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
2. The twin arjuna trees due to a strong wind
In another pastime, Shri Krishna intentionally broke a pot of yogurt in anger. Yashoda chased after Him to offer a mild form of punishment. She eventually caught Him and then bound Him to a mortar. Tied by the belly, Krishna earned the name Damodara, who is worshiped annually during the month of Kartika through a prayer known as the Damodarashtakam.
Krishna wasn’t tied for long, nor was it a particularly stern punishment. Yashoda went back to the house for a while, and when she returned she saw that the mortar had gone through two large trees. Again astonished that her boy survived, she considered the incident to be due to a strong wind. She could not believe the truth, that Krishna had dragged the mortar through the trees, to knock them down, to release the two demigods who were previously cursed to remain in those forms for a long time.
3. Govardhana Hill in the air due to Nanda Maharaja
This excuse is more wonderful to behold, since everyone saw Krishna perform the feat with their own eyes. It was a panic situation, though, so perhaps it is easier to be mistaken in the observation. The area was inundated with rain, due to the vengeance of the king of heaven, Indra. Threatened to be washed away, the people were saved by taking shelter under Govardhana Hill.
Not the side of the hill. Not in some cave, for there weren’t enough to fit the entire town, who had come to worship the hill just moments prior, all at Krishna’s direction. Not under a large tree. Not under many of the cows who were happily moving about.
Everyone got under the hill itself. This was possible because Krishna lifted it and held it aloft. The large mass of land rested on the pinky finger of Krishna’s left hand. Only a small boy at the time, the feat was possible because God retains full power, bala, in whichever form He manifests. That hill is in the same place today, and one notices that the circumference is many miles.
How could Krishna do this? Yashoda considered that it was due to Nanda Maharaja. After all, many people came to give help immediately afterwards. They used sticks in order to prop up the hill. They thought they were holding it up, when in reality it was only Krishna’s strength that was saving them from the combined forces of rain and gravity.
This attitude from the mother may be considered ignorance, but it is due to yogamaya, which is the auspicious kind of illusion. May every person be so blessed to love God at such a high level that there is true forgetfulness of His transcendental and superior position. And may He be celebrated with great pomp and ecstasy on the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami.
Different calamities explaining away,
Like with Putana from prayers to say.
Vishnu the one protecting all,
So Yashoda His names to call.
Not by Krishna’s mortar the trees,
Rather from a strong breeze.
Nanda that hill actually holding,
Motherly vision to pastimes unfolding.