The primary purpose behind Krishna leelas is to provide souls with a basis for engaging in loving devotion. During His descension on earth, God manifests His Divine name, form, virtues, pastimes, abode and associates, contemplating on which, leads to the welfare of the souls. If we wish to experience loving devotion toward the Lord, we must learn to harbor divine sentiments toward Krishna leelas. There is an inherent sweetness behind every divine Krishna leela and a loving instruction for souls. Thus, we need to comprehend these leelas not with the material intellect, but with a vision of the love that Krishna showered on his selfless devotees as a child, cowherd, brother, beloved, and myriad other roles.
Like the divine Lord Himself, His leelas are also infinite. Yet, only a few are presented here on the occasion of the grand Janmashtami celebration at the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen). These Krishna Leelas are filled with the sweet and sublime nectar that create magic when narrated by Swami Mukundananda. Nothing can beat the charm of listening to these Krishna Leelas in Swamiji’s inimitable style of a master story-teller, however, you will get the flavor of his narration in this humble piece dedicated to Shree Krishna and Swamiji – who teach us the essence of loving devotional sentiments for God.
Was anything ever straight about the lovable but crooked Shree Krishna? Even his birth was mysteriously divine!
Shree Krishna was born at midnight on the eighth tithi (or Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (i.e., dark fortnight in the moon cycle) in the month of Bhadrapada. His parents were Vasudev and princess Devaki, who had been imprisoned by Kansa. So, instead of being born in the palace, Shree Krishna emerged in the prison house of Kansa in Mathura. While ordinary human beings have a material birth, Shree Krishna’s birth was divine.
According to Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shree Krishna was not born from Devaki’s womb. Instead, Lord Vishnu suddenly manifested in front of Vasudev and Devaki in his four-armed, six-foot form holding his shanka (i.e., conch shell), chakra (i.e., celestial discus), gada (i.e., mace) and padma (i.e., lotus flower). On seeing this form, Devaki knew that He was not her child but Lord Vishnu. She wondered why the Lord had manifested in front of her in the four-armed six-foot form. She started reciting stutis (i.e., prayer chants) in His praise. She remembered that in her previous life, Lord Vishnu had granted her a boon that she would be His mother in the next birth so she could experience Vatsalya Bhav or maternal affection for the Lord. Devaki asked Lord Vishnu how she could possibly visualize Him as her child and pleaded with Him to hide His opulent form and become her child.
The Lord knows the bhav of his devotees. So, using His Yogamaya power, the Lord made Devaki forget His birth and suddenly appeared as little baby Krishna. The Yogamaya also enveloped Shree Krishna so He would forget that He was God and could experience his mother’s maternal love. Thus, the Krishna leelas began to unfold.
The guards in the prison cell were asleep when Shree Krishna manifested; the doors of the prison opened by themselves, and the shackles of Vasudev broke. Vasudev picked up the little Baby Krishna and walked to the river Yamuna which was beginning to surge and flood due to heavy rain. Vasudev carried little Krishna on his head in a small basket as the Yamuna was flooding to touch His little divine feet. Surprisingly, Vasudev found a ford that he could walk through to get across the river. He went to the house of Nanda and Yashoda in the land of Braj. Yashoda had just delivered a baby girl and was unconscious. Vasudev replaced the girl with Shree Krishna and took the girl child and returned to the prison in Mathura.
Thus, all over the world, Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated with devotional dances and songs, aarti, blowing of the Conch, and rocking the cradle of the little Shree Krishna. On this day, temples and homes are wonderfully decorated and illuminated to commemorate the sweet pastime of Shree Krishna’s divine birth!
This Krishna Leela teaches us that ordinary material souls may not be able to comprehend God’s extraordinary leelas, thus need to put the intellect aside and digest it with faith.
When Krishna was a little over two years old, one time, Mother Yashoda was churning yogurt. She was contemplating on Krishna, how much He loved butter, and how she would feed the butter to him when it was churned. The Lord knows the thoughts of His devotees, so Krishna toddled into the kitchen and jumped into Yashoda’s lap! Overcome with maternal affection, Yashoda started feeding milk to her sweet little child, while she continued to churn the yogurt.
A very interesting circumstance emerged during this time. The Supreme Lord Krishna, who tests the devotion of even the most elevated of his devotees, decided to test Mother Yashoda’s love. In the adjacent part of the kitchen, Yashoda had put a pot of milk on the stove to boil, which started rising and boiling over. Yashoda thought that if the milk spilled over, it would be an unnecessary waste, and she should salvage the remaining milk in the pot. She lifted baby Krishna up from her lap even though he was suckling, put him on the floor, and rushed to the other room to remove the pot from the stove. Yashoda did not have the awareness that her child was the Supreme Lord, so did not realize her mistake! She chose to salvage the pot of milk instead of her child’s love.
Shree Krishna was very annoyed! He took a rod and started hitting all the clay pots that contained yogurt or butter! The room looked like a battlefield! Krishna started eating the butter himself and also feeding the monkeys outside! When Yashoda returned, she was shocked at the sight! It appeared as if a storm had struck! Now it was Yashoda’s turn to get annoyed! She picked up a stick and went outside to beat Krishna! When he saw his mother’s formidable form with a stick and anger all over her face, Krishna got terrified! At that time, Kunti Devi, the mother of the Pandavas, who was visiting Yashoda and Nand, observed this scene and marveled at the Lord’s leela. He, who is the master of the universe, the beholder of infinite powers that scare all beings in all the universes, feels scared of a little stick in his mother’s hand!
When Krishna saw Yashoda approaching him, he sprinted as fast as he could with his mother right behind! She tried to get hold of him but who can get hold of the Lord? The chase lasted for some time until Yashoda was panting for breath. Krishna saw his mother and felt pity at her state. The compassionate Lord decided to give up! He slowed down and let Yashoda grab him. She was angry and scolded him. She brought the mortar wheel and started tying him with a rope. Interestingly, as she started to tie him up, the rope fell short by a length of two fingers. Yashoda’s sahkees brought another rope to join to the first one, but it too fell short by two fingers. All the ropes ended up being short by two fingers no matter how many she used. Everyone was wonderstruck. The news reached Radha Rani. She gave her sakhee a silk lace and told her to pass it on to Mother Yashoda. Finally, Yashoda managed to tie up Krishna to the mortar wheel! This is how he got the name of Damodar – the one who got tied with a rope around his belly!
After tying Krishna to the grinding mortar wheel, Yashoda left to take care of her chores inside the house. Krishna then dragged the mortar wheel toward nearby twin trees. These trees were none other than the two sons of Kuber, the celestial god of wealth. These sons, by the names of Nalakuber and Manigriva, had been previously cursed by Narada ji for displaying inappropriate behavior. However, Narad ji’s curse was a blessing in disguise where they would be relieved of the curse when liberated by the Lord Himself. So, when Krishna forcefully dragged the mortar wheel between the two trees, the trees came crashing down and liberated both men! They bowed down to Krishna in obeisance and departed.
When Yashoda and Nanda heard the loud noise of the trees crashing down, they ran outside fearful for Krishna’s safety. They untied him and showered their love upon him!
There are so many subtle messages hidden in this lovely Krishna leela. Identify the messages and share your comments with us!
One Gopi was determined to catch the Makhan Chor (i.e., butter thief, Krishna) because her mother-in-law was unsuccessful in trapping him. The Gopi strategically placed the butter pot to attract Makhan Chor and hid behind the furniture ready to catch him red-handed. However, in her mind she was meditating on Krishna, willing him to arrive.
The Lord knows the bhav of his devotees, so he came into the hut, found the pot and started to relish the taste of the fresh butter. The Gopi came from behind and grabbed his hand. Krishna started yelling, “Let me go! I promise not to steal again!” He repeatedly begged her to let him go, swearing by the Gopi’s family members' names that he would not steal again! However, the Gopi held him tight and said that she would take him to Mother Yashoda who had told the Brajwasis that she would believe their words only if they presented evidence of Krishna stealing butter from their homes. She told Krishna that the butter smeared all over his face was the evidence that would prove her point to Mother Yashoda.
Still holding Krishna’s hand, the Gopi pulled down her ghunghat (i.e., veil) and started walking toward Mother Yashoda’s house. God’s hand was captured by the Gopi, which could not have happened without His will. He showered her with the bliss of divine contact where she felt ecstatic and became totally absorbed in the blissful experience. She had no clue that little Krishna’s friend had joined as they were walking toward Yashoda’s house. The friend teased Krishna, “How come you got caught today? All your boasting that nobody could catch you, has proven to be false!” So, Krishna told his friend to keep walking along so he would be able to witness what happened next.
When they got to Yashoda and Nand’s palace, Krishna started his dramatic leela! He started shouting at the Gopi that she had held his hand too tight and that she was so cruel and badly hurting his hand! The innocent Gopi told Krishna to not worry and asked him to hold out his other hand. Shree Krishna took his friend’s hand and put it on the Gopi’s hand! The Gopi still had her veil so did not realize Krishna had switched hands!
They continued to walk inside the palace grounds and got to the verandah where Yashoda was sitting. Krishna raced ahead of them and very quickly jumped into her lap.
When the Gopi reached the verandah, she complained to Yashoda, “Today, I have caught your Lala (child) red-handed! His mouth and hands are smeared in butter that he was stealing at my house!” Yashoda was taken aback! She asked the Gopi to lift up her veil to see whom she had brought along! When the Gopi lifted her veil up, she realized that she was holding her little brother-in-law’s hand, not Krishna’s! Shree Krishna told Yashoda that the Gopi was blaming him for no reason and her words should not be believed! He cooked up all kinds of tales to discredit the Gopi and she was left speechless!
Such are the sweet pastimes of the loving and blissful Shree Krishna!
Little Krishna lived in Vrindavan with his parents, Nanda and Yashoda, and his older brother, Balaram. The village used to receive a good amount of rain during the monsoon season, which enhanced their agricultural efforts. The people of Vrindavan celebrated their economic prosperity every year by thanking the celestial god, Indra.
When Krishna was seven years old, one time He saw the villagers preparing for the celebration. He asked his father, “Baba, what is this celebration for?” Nanda replied, “Kanhaiya, we are worshipping Indra because he blesses us with rain.” Hearing his father’s words, the Supreme Lord thought about the purpose of His descension and the teachings He would communicate to Arjun in future, during the Mahabharat war. Shree Krishna thought that if the people of Vrindavan worship Indra, a celestial god, while He, the Supreme Lord was present, then future devotees would find it contradictory to Bhagavad Gita, in which the Lord would teach Arjun to worship the Supreme God alone. With that in mind, Krishna first called his little friends and convinced them to worship Govardhan Giri instead of Indra. He explained, “We play over the Govardhan Mountain and it provides food for our cattle too. But above all, Govardhan is the physical form of Lord Vishnu himself.” Then Krishna along with his sakhaas (friends) called the other villagers and convinced them to worship Govardhan Giri instead of Indra.
When the villagers started worshipping the mountain Govardhan with all their offerings, Indra came to know about it and perceived it as a personal insult. He ordered the biggest cloud in his armory named Samvartak to pour rain over Vrindavan profusely and continuously. Very soon, the entire village got flooded with water. Shree Krishna told all of them to not worry. He then lifted up the Govardhan Mountain with the little finger of his left hand and the whole village along with all the cattle took shelter under it. His friends saw this and placed their sticks to lift up the mountain thinking that their sakha was just pretending to lift the mountain while they were doing all the heavy-lifting! Krishna rejoiced at their innocence and remained silent.
Finally after seven long days and nights, Indra realized his mistake and went to Shree Krishna to ask for forgiveness. Krishna forgave him. All the villagers and his sakhaas felt totally awed when they found out that Krishna was the Supreme Lord. So, the all-pure and loving God made them forget his true identity and everything went back to normal as it was previously. Since this event, Krishna also came to be known as Giridhari or Giridhar Govardhan Dhari, the upholder of the Giridhar mountain.
Even the celestial gods are unable to recognize God in his sweet and loving personal form. Thus, material souls like us should just enjoy the heart-warming Krishna leelas if we wish to engage in His devotion.
One time, Shree Krishna and his cowherd friends made a plan to ambush the Gopis when they passed through the narrow lanes of Braj. Shree Krishna stood at the end of the lane and blocked the Gopis in their path and asked for “tax” (i.e., butter) to receive permission to pass through.
One day the Gopis made a plan to ambush Krishna and his cowherd friends in return. They decided that only one Gopi would pass through the narrow lane so the sakhaas (or cowherd friends) would think that she was alone and corner her to pay the tax. Then, she would scream, “Radhey ju!” and all the Gopis would come running and pounce upon Krishna and His sakhaas.
They executed the plan perfectly! Having planned ahead of time to ambush Krishna and his friends, this time, twenty-five Gopis cornered Krishna and his four sakhaas. The Gopis outnumbered the sakhaas and tied all of them to the branches of trees by their shikhas (i.e., thick lock of hair on the head). The Gopis experienced such internal bliss upon tying all of them up, especially Shree Krishna, that they started clapping their hands, laughing and cheering themselves. They used all kinds of unflattering names to make fun of them as they rejoiced in their revenge.
Such a state is possible only when the love for God is true and selfless where the devotees think of God as their own otherwise, they would never be able to interact with Him in this way. Their style of interacting with Shree Krishna masked His true identity from Kansa and other enemies, and it also masked their own love for Him, which was in Madhurya bhav. Had they openly expressed their love, it would not have been considered appropriate as per social norms. Thus, they resorted to intense teasing.
God bestows divine love only when a soul is free of all material desires and the only desire is to please Him in any of the bhavs (i.e., Dasya bhav like Hanuman ji, Sahkya bhav like the cowherd friends, Vatsalya bhav like that of Mother Yashoda, or Madhurya bhav like that of the totally selfless Gopis).
Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj has described a beautiful Maan Bhanjan Leela (i.e., appeasing Radha Rani who is upset with Shree Krishna) in Prem Ras Madira. As beautifully narrated by Swamiji in his divine lectures, this heart-melting leela is described here to evoke the loving sentiments of readers.
Material souls like us can never understand the divine leelas of Shree Radha-Krishna, but they both display leelas exclusively for each other’s pleasure. Radha Rani often gives viyog (i.e., the sentiments of separation) to Shree Krishna to elevate His sentiments of sanyog (i.e., union). Shree Krishna does the same to increase the loving bliss of Radha Rani!
One time, Shree Krishna was supposed to visit Radha Rani at her palace but instead, he went to visit another Gopi by the name of Chandravali. In their divine leelas, Radha Rani and Chandravali compete with each other for Shree Krishna’s attention. So, when Radha Rani figured out that Shree Krishna went to Chandravali’s house, she became very upset with him because she was certain that he would have received greater pleasure had he come to visit her. It was then that Radha Rani assumed very severe maan bhav (i.e., became upset). She refused to even look at Krishna. He requested Radha Rani’s sakhees to help him but they refused because he had made a mistake and were exclusively devoted to Radha Rani!
Shree Krishna came up with an infallible plan! He dressed up like a Veenavari lady (i.e., a lady who plays the Veena instrument). He wore a saffron saree, tied his hair back and adorned the head with flowers, and picked up a Veena in his hand. He went to a lake called Kusum Sarovar, which was a favorite hangout of Radha Rani. Krishna sat by the lake that was surrounded with beautiful flowers. He posed as an austere sadhavi (i.e., lady saint) with his hands on his chin, eyes on the ground as if in deep contemplation, and poised to avoid eye contact with Radha Rani or her sahkees to conceal his identity. Krishna looked exquisitely beautiful in the form of a woman. When Radha Rani arrived in a pensive mood, she saw the gorgeous lady (Krishna) sitting there by herself and was immediately and spontaneously attracted to her persona.
Out of curiosity, Radha Rani asked Veenavari a bunch of questions about her identity, name of her husband, the name of her village, etc. Krishna wonder about how to respond to avoid getting identified! So, Veenavari declares that she is an unmarried lady from Devlok (i.e., celestial abode) who has renounced the material world and became a sadhvi. Radha Rani was extremely impressed and asked Veenavari to visit her house and become her Guru. Krishna initially played hard to get but was watching out for the opportunity to break Radha Rani’s maan! Eventually he agreed saying that if she wanted her to be the Guru, she would need to follow all her instructions! Radha Rani agreed wholeheartedly.
When they went to Radha Rani’s house, she did her Guru’s Aarti, washed her feet with reverence, and requested her instruction for the new disciple. Looking for the perfect opportunity, Krishna told Radha Rani to go to the blue complexioned boy sitting under a tree and beg his forgiveness for becoming upset with him and giving him the pain of separation. Radha Rani complied to her Guru’s instruction and the united with Shree Krishna again!
The personal leelas of Radha and Krishna are beyond the intellect. The message is that faith and doubt cannot coexist. So, we must acquire the right knowledge to comprehend God’s leelas, cast doubts aside to experience the bliss, and develop deep faith which in turn leads to devotion and love for God.
Shree Krishna and Sudama became friends when they were receiving tutelage at Rishi Sandipani's ashram. One day their Guru asked Krishna and Sudama to collect firewood from the forest. Gurumata (i.e., the Guru’s wife) gave some chana (or roasted gram) to both of them to share and eat when they got hungry. After the day's tiring work, when they were resting, they heard the loud roar of a tiger. They quickly climbed up a tree to be safe. Since it was getting dark, they decided to spend the night on the tree. Sudama felt hungry and started eating the chana without sharing with Krishna. When Krishna asked Sudama for the chana, he lied to cover his deed. The following morning, when Gurumata discovered what Sudama did, she cursed him of poverty. This incident did not influence Shree Krishna's loving sentiments or his friendship with Sudama.
As time passed, Shree Krishna became the King of Dwarka while Sudama remained a poor Brahmin struggling to make ends meet. One day, Sudama’s wife requested him to go to Dwarka to seek assistance from his friend Krishna to receive his blessings and be absolved of their misery. Sudama's wife borrowed some flattened rice to be taken as an offering for Shree Krishna because they did not have anything else. Upon her insistence, Sudama left for Dwarka. He had grown into such a selfless devotee that he did not want to ask for anything but hoped that Krishna's darshan would free him of his past karma.
When he reached Dwarka, Sudama was mesmerized with the beauty and opulence. At the palace gate he told the guards to tell his friend Krishna that Sudama has come to visit him. The guards saw his pitiful condition and mocked him in disbelief, but Sudama waited patiently until one guard felt pity and decided to inform Shree Krishna. On hearing Sudama’s name, Shree Krishna ran barefoot to receive his old friend. The sight of destitute Sudama brought such a wave of tears in Krishna’s eyes, that he washed his dirty feet with just his tears.
For the next few days, Shree Krishna and Sudama recounted their childhood memories until it came time for Sudama to leave. Although Sudama had brought flattened rice for Shree Krishna, he could not make this humble offering out of embarrassment. Shree Krishna asked Sudama about what was in his bag, being certain that it was a gift for him. Sudama tried to dodge for some time out of shame, but Shree Krishna managed to grab the bag and peek inside. When he found the treat, he relished it with love. This leela liberated Sudama of his accrued bad karma which resulted in poverty. Finally, Krishna embraced Sudama and bid him farewell.
On the way back, Sudama was still worried about what he was going to tell his wife, since his selfless devotion prevented him from asking any favor. On reaching his village, Sudama could not locate his hut, rather he saw a big palace in its place. It seemed that some king took away his house and banished his family while he was away. After waiting for some time, he saw his wife emerge in elegant clothes calling him to come inside the palace. Sudama was overwhelmed by the generosity of his friend Krishna. Sudama and his wife expressed their deep gratitude to the ever-loving Shree Krishna, who always takes care of those who surrender to him selflessly.
The underlying message in these Krishna Leelas is to never doubt the actions of God or God-realized saints.
We invite you to participate in the glorious and grand Janmashtami celebration at the Radha Krishna Temple. Join us in-person to personally view the Exhibition with these exquisitely beautiful Krishna Leelas, Dahi Handi, Swamiji’s divine lecture, soulful kirtans and so much more. Do register for the event to stay connected with us.