Every year Shri Krishna Janmashtami is observed to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. Various Krishna Raslila are an inseparable part of Krishna Janmashtami celebrations. Raslila is an incident from Sri Krishna’s life enacted through songs and dance. Among all the stories of Krishna, the birth story of Krishna has greater significance, specially for Janmashtami as the festival itself is meant to celebrate the birth of Krishna!
Lord Krishna Birth Story
It was about 5500 years ago when Kansa, the evil ruler of Mathura had terrorized his kingdom with all his wrong doings. He had overthrown his own father King Ugrasen to access the throne of Mathura. Although Kansa was an evil person at his heart, he loved his cousin Devaki who got married to King Vasudev of Yadu dynasty. Just as the marriage ceremony of Devaki and Vasudev got over, Kansa got to know from Narad (the messenger from heaven) that he would be killed at the hands of the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva. On hearing this, kansa got anxious and angry. He then wanted to kill Devaki, her own sister. Afraid of the ill intentions of Kansa, Vasudeva pleaded to him not to kill Devaki and himself. He promised to Kansa that they would handover their children to Kansa if he feared that one of them would kill him.
Kansa accepted the words of Vasudeva but did not let him and Devaki free. He put them in his palace prison. Whenever a child was born to the couple, Kansa would come to the prison and slaughter the child by smashing his head to the prison wall not moved by the painful cries of the parents. This happened with all the seven children of Devaki and Vasudeva.
When Devaki was expecting her eighth child and on the night of eighth day of Shravan Krishna Paksha when she was about to deliver her baby, she and Vasudeva both got an ‘Akashvani’ (voice from the sky) which told them that they must take their child to Gokul and exchange him with the new born daughter of Nanda, the cowherd king of Gokul. They were told by the divine voice that their son who was about to take birth was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and he would eliminate all evil on earth and protect the innocent people. Nothing could stop Vasudeva from taking his son to Gokul and coming back to the prison with Nanda’s daughter.
As if a miracle, when Devaki gave birth to her eighth son, all the guards magically went to sleep and the doors of the prison opened. Vasudev and Devaki got freed from their shackles. It was raining heavily and Vasudeva had to cross the river Yamuna to reach Gokul. The river was in full spate and he had a just born child whom he should protect from all. Vasudeva, therefore, took a ‘chaaj’ (a basket type reed contraption which is used to remove pebbles etc. from lentil, rice, wheat etc.) and placed his son in it.
As Vasudeva stepped out and stood at the bank of river Yamuna, he was worried about his child but then was reminded of the divine voice that ensured him that nothing untoward would happen to the child. Thus, Vasudeva stepped into the river Yamuna submerging his half body in the cold water. As he looked upwards, he saw a five mouthed snake providing protection to his baby against the torrential rain.
On reaching Gokul, Vasudeva found the doors of Nanda’s house open and everyone in deep sleep. He took the baby girl of Nanda from beside her mother Yashoda and put his own son there. Then, as he had brought his son, he took the girl back to the prison in Mathura through the river with the five mouthed snake protecting the child. When he entered the prison, everything got normal as before- he and Devaki got shackles, prison doors got closed and guards were all awake. As soon as the guards saw a child beside Devaki, they informed Kamsa.
Kansa, who had waited all these years to kill the eighth child of Devaki and Vasudeva, came hurriedly to get rid of his destined slayer. Like always, he picked up the baby girl and threw her against the wall but this time a miracle happened. The little baby slipped from his hands and flew up into the air and took the form of the goddess, Yogmaya. She said to Kansa, “You want to kill me but the one who will kill you has taken birth and is safe somewhere out of your reach. One day, your slayer will come searching you and kill you. This is your destiny and you cannot change this!” Saying this, she laughed and vanished leaving behind the angry and dumbstruck Kansa.
In the later years, this eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva- the young Krishna- killed Kansa and his allies to free the people of Mathura from the cruel rule of the evil king and was called Kamsantak (the slayer of Kamsa), one of the many Shri Krishna Names. He liberated his parents Devaki and Vasudeva and reinstated King Ugrasena as the ruler of Mathura. However, till today, Lord Krishna is known as ‘Mathuradhish’- the Lord of Mathura. The famous temple of Krishna in Mathura is the live witness of this fact where his devotees come and offer prayers as if he was the King of Mathura!by