“As soon as they heard that mother Yashoda had given birth to a child, all the cowherd women became overwhelmed with joy, and they also dressed themselves with various kinds of costly garments and ornaments and smeared scented cosmetics on their bodies.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 5)
1. Who did Yashoda give birth to?
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Technically, the birth already took place elsewhere. To the womb of mother Devaki, who had performed great austerities over several lifetimes to be blessed with such an honor.
It is for this reason that saintly people consider bhakti life to be the culmination of every kind of austerity and observance with respect to rules and regulations. As Krishna confirms in Bhagavad-gita, only after having exhausted sinful life does a person find devotion.
येषां त्व् अन्त-गतं पापं
भजन्ते मां दृढ-व्रताः
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
Despite the great honor of receiving the Supreme Lord as a son, Devaki was not able to celebrate for long. Extenuating circumstances dictated a drastic change. The newborn, named Krishna, would have to be transferred to Gokula. This was to intercept any forthcoming interference from the king of Mathura, Kamsa.
Devaki was in a prison at the time of birth. Her brother put her there. He had already killed her previous seven children, in a hideous manner, no less. Destiny was on the horizon; the king was anxiously anticipating the birth of the eighth.
Unfortunately for him, the arrival took place during the nighttime. At midnight, the transcendental janma occurred, and one who understands this about Krishna never has to take birth again in the material world.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
The newborn spoke to the parents. Devaki’s husband, Vasudeva, then took baby Krishna in his arms and crossed the Yamuna River in the middle of the night. He reached Gokula, the place where Nanda and his wife Yashoda lived.
2. What happened to the other child?
Yashoda had given birth to a female child. It is said that the labor experience was so traumatic that no one knew whether it was a boy or girl. Such is the magic of the illusory potency of the Supreme Lord, He works in ways undetected by those who are otherwise vigilant and alert.
Vasudeva essentially conducted a baby-swap. He took the female child back with him to Mathura. Kamsa later learned of the birth and thought that destiny had arrived. Devaki pleaded with him to show mercy.
“Don’t kill this child, too. The prophecy stated a male child would be his end.”
The demons never listen to reason. Kamsa went through with his plan to kill this child in the same manner that the others had perished. Except this time the baby slipped out of his hands. It was actually Goddess Durga. She mocked the asura leader for the futile attempt, informing him that his angel of death had already arrived.
3. What happened in Gokula?
Everyone celebrated the birth of the new child. Keeping with tradition, the family invited a priest to the home to follow the formalities associated with the arrival of a new member of the family. Nanda gave plenty of cows and grain to the brahmanas in charity. This is a measure of purification; instead of taking during special occasions the emphasis is always on giving.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the human existence is meant for tapasya. Austerity and penance for the purpose of happiness. It is easy to become attached to the accumulation of wealth, and in that pursuit there is always some improper or unwanted behavior associated. The best way to be free of the effects is to practice austerity, worship the Supreme Lord, and distribute in charity.
The men and women worshiped God directly, though they didn’t know it. They dressed up nicely for the occasion, sung joyous songs, and basked in the glory of the one whose effulgence lights up the entire universe, from top to bottom.
Friends and family inviting,
In joyous occasion delighting.
That the Supreme Lord had come,
But aware of the identity none.
Pleased for Yashoda’s baby new,
All-attractive in features who.
Celebrating Shri Krishna that day,
In nityotsava showing the way.
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