“When Krishna, Balarama and Their friends entered the village of Vrindavana, They played Their flutes, and the boys praised Their uncommon activities in the forest. Their faces were decorated with tilaka and smeared with the dust raised by the cows, and Krishna’s head was decorated with a peacock feather.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 15)
All was now right again. The danger posed by Dhenukasura and his friends was no more. The cowherd boys could safely enter the forest area of Talavana and enjoy the fruits whose aroma had enticed them for so long.
Krishna and His elder brother Balarama were of uncommon activities. They were around the same age as their friends, but their strength extended beyond the material creation. Just as the tiny spirit soul can power an intelligent human being and a large elephant, so the potency in the origin of spirit is not limited to any perceived frame appearing like an ordinary form.
Upon returning home, everyone was happy to see the brothers again. A moment in their absence felt like an eternity. From a distance the decorations on Krishna’s body indicated His presence, which gives auspiciousness to objects otherwise considered ordinary.
If you come upon an English translation of this Sanskrit word, you might hear “religious mark” or “sect mark.” The connotation is faith or religion. The idea is that you distinguish yourself from followers of other faiths. Those belonging to different camps, ideologies, beliefs or what have you, perhaps wear something different on the forehead.
This tilaka mark actually symbolizes the lotus footprint of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Accepting the mark on the head is something like a reminder of the service mentality. The devotee serves the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, and even there indirectly. They serve the servant of the servant, who is so dear to Bhagavan.
नाहं विप्रो न च नर-पतिर् नापि वैश्यो न शूद्रो
नाहं वर्णी न च गृह-पतिर् नो वनस्थो यतिर् वा
गोपी-भर्तुः पद-कमलयोर् दास-दासानुदासः
nāhaṁ vipro na ca nara-patir nāpi vaiśyo na śūdro
nāhaṁ varṇī na ca gṛha-patir no vanastho yatir vā
gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ
“I am not a brahmana, I am not a kshatriya, I am not a vaishya or a shudra. Nor am I a brahmachari, a householder, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi. I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.” (Lord Chaitanya, Padyavali (74) quoted from Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 13.80)
Shri Krishna is God Himself, but the tilaka decoration indicates the piety in the people of Vrindavana. The people were worshipers of Vishnu, which is as far as their conception of God went. Vishnu is the personal side, so it is no wonder that as a reward for such allegiance the same Vishnu arrived in their community as the adorable Shri Krishna.
2. The dust raised by cows
We bathe on a daily basis to get rid of excess dust. The vacuum cleaner exists for this reason. It is said that cleanliness is next to godliness. Two youths playing in the fields the entire day are sure to get dirty along the way.
Yet the dust from the cows is different. Those animals are very dear to Krishna and so what they leave behind is considered auspicious. Even more so in this situation, they were protected by Krishna and Balarama and thus happy to fill their bags with milk.
3. The peacock feather
Goswami Tulsidas remarks that the peacock is not known for its good qualities. It is generally cowardly, but ever since it became associated with Krishna it went by the name “mora.” This word also means “mine,” and the double-meaning is not accidental.
तनु बिचित्र कायर बचन अहि अहार मन घोर |
तुलसी हरि भए पच्धर ताते कह सब मोर ||
tanu bicitra kāyara bacana ahi ahāra mana ghora |
tulasī hari bhae pacdhara tāte kaha saba mora ||
“The peacock has a strange body, speaks in a cowardly way, eats snakes for food, and has a ghastly mind. Tulsi says that Shri Hari still uses its feathers to adorn the head, and therefore everyone now says, ‘mine.’” (Dohavali, 107)
One look at a peacock feather can remind a person of the darling of mother Yashoda. He wears the peacock feather in His hair and people are able to more quickly notice His presence in the distance. That single image relieves the suffering borne of separation, which can also be cured through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Shri Krishna in distance to see,
Recognized by decorations three.
The tilaka mark for Vishnu praised,
Dust from sacred cows raised.
And peacock feather on the head,
By Him to liberation led.
Even from afar the separation curing,
Also through maha-mantra assuring.
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