“While Vasudeva was carrying his son Krishna in the falling rain, Lord Shesha in the shape of a serpent spread His hood over the head of Vasudeva so that he would not be hampered by the rainfall. Vasudeva came onto the bank of the Yamuna and saw that the water of the Yamuna was roaring with waves and that the whole span was full of foam. Still, in that furious feature, the river gave passage to Vasudeva to cross, just as the great Indian Ocean gave a path to Lord Rama when He was bridging over the gulf.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 3)
This is your first visit during the day. The last time you went inside it was at night, when after a long wait due to the priests preparing an offering, you finally made it in. You were tired and thus couldn’t appreciate everything on the grounds. The accompanying guide provided relevant information at every stop, but not much was retained. With this visit you are fresh and awake, in the morning hours, and so you can notice more clearly what is on the walls and so forth.
There is controversy surrounding the Jagannath Temple in Puri, as the guards apply the worst kind of discrimination towards potential visitors. Judging solely on external appearance, they decide who is allowed to enter and who isn’t.
You pass the visual examination, though you strongly disagree with the policy. There is a crowd today, as there is likely every day, to see the Supreme Lord in a special manifestation. The Lord of the universe, who is known to meet with the people one time a year during a special parade called Ratha-yatra, has been worshiped in this city and place since before anyone can remember.
At the time of darshana on this visit, you are quite a distance from the altar. You can barely see the deities, but there is still an amazing feeling of peace and tranquility that overcomes you. The cause is an image on the ceiling area. You know that the depiction is of an amazing pastime. The same Jagannatha in the form of baby Krishna being carried across the Yamuna river by the birth-father, Vasudeva.
1. Not taking a spiritual dip
The Yamuna is a sacred river, on the level of the Ganges, who is known as Ganga Devi. The origin is Vishnu. It is something like the water that washes His lotus feet. In the temple the liquid is known as charanamrita, and any person who drinks it is benefitted.
Taking a dip in these sacred rivers is supposed to absolve sin. The original sin, guiding all other impious behavior, is the turn away from the eternal engagement of devotional service. Thus the actual removing of sin, so to speak, when submerging in sacred waters is to reignite the spark of devotion, to try to please the Supreme Lord with one’s thoughts, words and deeds moving forward.
Vasudeva was not crossing the ocean to earn pious credits. In fact, even if it were sinful to follow that path he would have proceeded. He was actually in the process of separating from his beloved son, who had emerged from the womb of his wife Devaki only a short time prior.
2. Thinking practically
This walk across the river was not recommended in shastra. It was not necessarily a prudent decision, either. What if a current swept him away? What if one of the prison guards followed them out of Mathura? The king of that city had kept Vasudeva and Devaki locked up for a while. Surely, someone would notice the absence.
Despite these forces aligned against him, Vasudeva thought practically. Krishna had spoken to the couple, while briefly displaying the four-handed form of Narayana. This was to prove Divinity, to let the parents know that their son was not ordinary. Krishna asked to be transferred to the nearby town of Gokula, and so Vasudeva obliged.
3. The tendency of Anantadeva to accompany
In the image there is rainfall. Vasudeva is crossing the ocean while holding baby Krishna above his head. Krishna is safe in the basket, but the falling rain would typically be a complication. No need to worry, however, as Anantadeva emerges to provide cover.
The incident is both historically accurate and symbolic. The Supreme Lord is never alone. His eternal associates are always close by, ready to assist Him in whatever way necessary. Just as Vishnu is always with Anantadeva, the amazing serpent of unlimited hoods serving as the force known as gravity, so any incarnations of Vishnu always have someone ready to protect them on earth.
4. Protection against material miseries
Severe rain belongs to the category of adhidaivika miseries. These are sourced in the heavens, often referred to as “acts of God” in insurance policies. No person is immune from the distresses caused by these incidents, which are impossible to predict. Enter a world consisting of the three modes of nature and a person automatically becomes subject to the various miseries.
Yet the Supreme Lord is always above material nature. Though Krishna is apparently with distinguishable qualities, saguna, He is simultaneously without them, nirguna. The image of Vasudeva crossing the ocean gives further evidence of how Krishna is transcendental. The falling rain could not harm Him. It causes distress to others, but the son of Vasudeva is not affected. Either the Supreme Lord handles these issues Himself, such as with lifting Govardhana Hill shown a while later, or He gets help from supporters like Anantadeva.
Always transcendental to nature living,
And others support to Him giving.
Like when Yamuna across going,
Anantadeva his hoods showing.
So that rain not on baby to fall,
For father not a tirtha visit to call.
To highest duty of bhakti bound,
So much appreciation in image found.
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