“In this way, Shri Krishna, along with His elder brother Balarama, passed the childhood age known as kaumara and stepped into the age of pauganda, from the sixth year up to the tenth. At that time, all the cowherd men conferred and agreed to give those boys who had passed their fifth year charge of the cows in the pasturing ground. Given charge of the cows, Krishna and Balarama traversed Vrindavana, purifying the land with Their footprints.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 15)
In celebration of the auspicious day of Janmashtami, which commemorates the exact moment that the Supreme Personality of Godhead emerged from the womb of mother Devaki in the prison cell in Mathura, we review some of the daily pastimes in Gokula Dhama, the sacred place where Shri Krishna spent the childhood years.
1. Steal butter
If you get past doubting the existence of God, the next step may be to inquire into His features.
“What does He look like? Can the visual be fixed? I will look different ten years from now than I do today. There is even something on the internet called, ‘The Ten Year Challenge.’ You will be happy to know that I failed that miserably, but how does the Supreme Lord fare?”
Since He is without gunas in the way that they bind to the material world, Shri Krishna can manifest any form He chooses. He can be the impersonal Brahman, the awe-inspiring virata-rupa, the boar to lift the world out of danger, or even a half-man/half-lion to literally tear apart a wicked character.
The childhood pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavana are a gift to humanity. They provide sufficient information on what God likes to do. He is certainly more than an abstract. He is not just a theory to be discussed in academic circles.
One would be surprised to learn that in the farm community neighboring Mathura, the Supreme Lord likes to steal butter. This is blatant theft; not simply taking more than is offered to Him at a specific time. The victims are the neighbors, and they wise up to His tricks. They think of ways to hide their stores, but Krishna and His friends seem to outsmart them every time.
2. Ask for milk
First-time parents may be surprised by the behavior. They are amazed that the child knows. They insist on it, in fact. Forget that bottle filled with formula milk. Never mind the food sitting on the table. They want to be fed from the breast of the mother. They become so happy when the mother obliges.
It seems the behavior dates back to the time of Krishna’s advent. He would demand the mother stop what she is doing and feed Him. Yashoda would agree, but if she happened to get distracted by something occurring in the kitchen, Krishna would become upset and maybe break a pot of butter in anger.
3. Tend to the calves
Not simply playing at home all day. No time wasted watching television or remaining idle. The foster father, Nanda Maharaja, gives Krishna an important responsibility. The young child is in charge of the many calves belonging to the family. The neighboring children have similar responsibilities, and so everyone departs for the pristine pasturing grounds together, having endless fun along the way.
4. Tend to the cows
When the stage of childhood changes from kaumara to pauganda, Krishna gets additional responsibilities. He is now in charge of the cows. These are adult animals, and thereby more difficult to maintain. The life and soul of Yashoda has a trick, however. If the cows should happen to scatter about and not listen to calls for returning, Krishna ascends the sacred Govardhana Hill and plays His flute. That enchanting sound gets everyone’s attention.
5. Deal with Dhenukasura
The acharyas say that the difference between the Vrindavana of this world and the original found in Vaikuntha is that only here can the asuras be found. These are quintessential bad guys. They have no qualms about killing innocent women and children. Whatever is needed to fulfill a specific desire, they will do.
One of those asuras is Dhenuka. He set up shop in the forest area known as Talavana. While other asuras specifically came to where Krishna is to attack Him, after receiving orders from the supremely paranoid King Kamsa of Mathura, with this instance Krishna and His elder brother Balarama make the initial approach.
They were petitioned by their friends to go to the area because of the fruits found there. Something like a person smelling the aroma of food cooking in the kitchen and wanting a taste, the friends had an intense desire to have the fruits that were out of reach. Dhenukasura was scaring everyone away.
Krishna and Balarama oblige by entering Talavana and shaking the trees to get the fruits to fall. True to form, Dhenukasura then attacks. Balarama kills him, but then Dhenuka’s friends begin to attack the brothers in retaliation. They are also easily defeated; crisis averted.
On Janmashtami spirits to renew,
So Krishna’s pastimes to review.
Where in Gokula staying,
With friends in fields playing.
Butter of the neighbors stealing,
Flute sound to cows appealing.
Fruits of Talavana first out of reach,
But brothers lesson to Dhenuka to teach.