The Meeting of Nanda and Vasudeva
Although Kṛṣṇa was the real son of Vasudeva and Devakī, because of Kaṁsa’s atrocious activities Vasudeva could not enjoy the birth ceremony of his son. But Nanda Mahārāja, the foster father, celebrated the birth ceremony of Kṛṣṇa very joyfully. The next day, it was declared that a male child had been born to Yaśodā. According to Vedic custom, Nanda Mahārāja called for learned astrologers and brāhmaṇas to perform the birth ceremony. After the birth of a child, the astrologers calculate the moment of the birth and make a horoscope of the child’s future life.
Before the birth ceremony, the family members take baths, cleanse themselves and decorate themselves with ornaments and nice garments; then they come before the child and the astrologer to hear of the future life of the child. Nanda Mahārāja and other members of the family dressed and sat down in front of the birthplace. All the brāhmaṇas who were assembled there on this occasion chanted auspicious mantras, according to the rituals, while the astrologers performed the birth ceremony. All the demigods are also worshiped on this occasion, as well as the forefathers of the family. Nanda Mahārāja distributed to the brāhmaṇas 200,000 cows, which were well decorated with cloth and ornaments. He gave the brāhmaṇas not only cows in charity but also hills of grain decorated with ornaments and golden-bordered cloth.
In the material world we possess riches and wealth in many ways, but sometimes not in very honest and pious ways, because that is the nature of accumulating wealth. According to Vedic injunction, therefore, one should purify such wealth by giving cows and gold in charity to the brāhmaṇas. A newborn child is also purified by gifts of grains in charity to the brāhmaṇas. In this material world it is to be understood that we are always living in a contaminated state. We therefore have to purify the duration of our lives, our possession of wealth and our self. We can purify our duration of life by taking a daily bath and cleansing the body inside and outside and accepting the ten kinds of purificatory processes. By austerities, by worship of the Lord, and by distribution of charity, we can purify the possession of wealth. We can purify our self by studying the Vedas in order to understand the Absolute Truth and achieve self-realization. It is therefore stated in the Vedic literature that by birth everyone is born a śūdra, that by accepting the purificatory process one becomes twice-born, that by studying the Vedas one becomes a vipra, which is the preliminary qualification for becoming a brāhmaṇa, and that when one perfectly understands the Absolute Truth he is becomes a brāhmaṇa. And when the brāhmaṇa reaches further perfection, he becomes a Vaiṣṇava, or a devotee.
In Kṛṣṇa’s birth ceremony all the assembled brāhmaṇas began to chant different kinds of Vedic mantras to invoke all good fortune for the child. There are different kinds of chanting, known as sūta, māgadha, vandī and virudāvalī. Along with this chanting of mantras and songs, bugles and kettledrums sounded outside the house. On this occasion, the joyous vibrations could be heard in all the pasturing grounds and all the houses. Within and outside of the houses there were varieties of artistic paintings, done with rice pulp, and scented water was sprinkled everywhere, even on the roads and streets. Ceilings and roofs were decorated with different kinds of flags, festoons and green leaves. The gates were made of green leaves and flowers. All the cows, bulls and calves were smeared with a mixture of oil and turmeric and painted with minerals like red oxide, yellow clay and manganese. They wore garlands of peacock feathers and were covered with nice colored cloths and gold necklaces.
When all the ecstatic cowherd men heard that Nanda Mahārāja, the father of Kṛṣṇa, was celebrating the birth ceremony of his son, they became spontaneously joyful. They dressed themselves with very costly garments and ornamented their bodies with different kinds of earrings and necklaces and wore great turbans on their heads. After dressing themselves in this gorgeous way, they took various kinds of presentations and thus approached the house of Nanda Mahārāja.
As soon as they heard that Mother Yaśodā 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.
As the dust on the lotus flower exhibits the exquisite beauty of the flower, all the gopīs (cowherd women) applied the dust of kuṅkuma on their lotuslike faces. These beautiful gopīs took their different presentations and very soon reached the house of Mahārāja Nanda. Overburdened with their heavy hips and swollen breasts, the gopīs could not proceed very quickly toward the house of Nanda Mahārāja, but out of ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa they proceeded as quickly as possible. Their ears were decorated with pearl rings, their necks with jeweled lockets, their lips and eyes with different kinds of lipstick and ointment, and their hands with nice golden bangles. As they were very hastily passing over the stone road, the flower garlands which were decorating their bodies fell to the ground, and it appeared that a shower of flowers was falling from the sky. From the movement of the different kinds of ornaments on their bodies, they were looking still more beautiful. In this way, they all reached the house of Nanda-Yaśodā and blessed the child: “Dear child, You live long just to protect us.” While they were blessing child Kṛṣṇa in this way, they offered a mixture of turmeric powder, oil, yogurt, milk and water. They sprinkled this mixture not only on the body of child Kṛṣṇa but on all other persons who were present there. Also on that auspicious occasion, there were different bands of expert musicians playing.
When the cowherd men saw the pastimes of the cowherd women, they became very joyful, and in response they also began to throw yogurt, milk, clarified butter and water upon the bodies of the gopīs. Then both parties began to throw butter on each other’s bodies. Nanda Mahārāja was also very happy to see the pastimes of the cowherd men and women, and he became very liberal in giving charity to the different singers who were assembled there. Some singers were reciting great verses from the Upaniṣads and Purāṇas, some were glorifying the family ancestors, and some were singing very sweet songs. There were also many learned brāhmaṇas present, and Nanda Mahārāja, being very satisfied on this occasion, gave them different kinds of garments, ornaments and cows in charity.
It is very important to note in this connection how wealthy the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana were simply by raising cows. All the cowherd men belonged to the vaiśya community, and their business was to protect the cows and cultivate crops. By their dress and ornaments, and by their behavior, it appears that although they were in a small village, they still were rich in material possessions. They possessed such an abundance of various kinds of milk products that they were throwing butter lavishly on each other’s bodies without restriction. Their wealth was in milk, yogurt, clarified butter and many other milk products, and by trading their agricultural products, they were rich in various kinds of jewelry, ornaments and costly garments. Not only did they possess all these things, but they could give them away in charity lavishly, as did Nanda Mahārāja.
Thus Nanda Mahārāja, the foster father of Lord Kṛṣṇa, began to satisfy the desires of all the men assembled there. He respectfully received them and gave them in charity whatever they desired. The learned brāhmaṇas, who had no other source of income, were completely dependent on the vaiśya community for their maintenance, and they received gifts on such festive occasions as birthdays and marriages. While Nanda Mahārāja was worshiping Lord Viṣṇu on this occasion and was trying to satisfy all the people there, his only desire was that the newborn child Kṛṣṇa would be happy. Nanda Mahārāja had no knowledge that this child was the origin of Viṣṇu; he was praying to Lord Viṣṇu to protect Him.
Rohiṇīdevī, the mother of Balarāma, was the most fortunate wife of Vasudeva. She was away from her husband, yet just to congratulate Mahārāja Nanda on the occasion of the birth ceremony of his son, Kṛṣṇa, she dressed herself very nicely. Wearing a garland, a necklace and other bodily ornaments, she appeared on the scene and moved hither and thither. According to the Vedic system, a woman whose husband is not at home does not dress herself very nicely. But although Rohiṇī’s husband was away, she still dressed herself very nicely on this occasion.
From the opulence of the birth ceremony of Kṛṣṇa, it is very clear that at that time Vṛndāvana was rich in every respect. Because Lord Kṛṣṇa took birth in the house of King Nanda and Mother Yaśodā, the goddess of fortune was obliged to manifest her opulences in Vṛndāvana. It appeared that Vṛndāvana had already become a site for the pastimes of the goddess of fortune.
After the birth ceremony, Nanda Mahārāja decided to go to Mathurā to pay the annual tax to the government of Kaṁsa. Before leaving, he called for the able cowherd men of the village and asked them to take care of Vṛndāvana in his absence. When Nanda Mahārāja arrived in Mathurā, Vasudeva got the news and was very eager to congratulate his friend. He immediately went to the place where Nanda Mahārāja was staying. When Nanda saw Vasudeva, he felt that he had regained his life. Nanda, overwhelmed with joy, immediately stood up and embraced Vasudeva. Vasudeva was received very warmly and offered a nice place to sit. Anxious about his two sons, who had been put under the protection of Nanda without Nanda’s knowledge, Vasudeva inquired about Them with great anxiety. Both Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa were the sons of Vasudeva. Balarāma was transferred to the womb of Rohiṇī, Vasudeva’s own wife, but Rohiṇī was kept under the protection of Nanda Mahārāja. Kṛṣṇa was personally delivered to Yaśodā and exchanged for her daughter. Nanda Mahārāja knew that Balarāma was the son of Vasudeva, but he did not know that Kṛṣṇa was also Vasudeva’s son. Vasudeva, of course, was aware of this fact and inquired very eagerly about both Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma.
Vasudeva then addressed Nanda, “My dear brother, you were old and very anxious to beget a son, and yet you had none. Now by the grace of the Lord you are fortunate to have a very nice son. I think that this incident is very auspicious for you. Dear friend, I was imprisoned by Kaṁsa, and now I am released; therefore this is another birth for me. I had no hope of seeing you again, but by God’s grace I can see you.” In this way, Vasudeva indirectly expressed his anxiety about Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa was sent incognito to the bed of Mother Yaśodā, and after Nanda very pompously celebrated Kṛṣṇa’s birth ceremony, he went to Mathurā. So Vasudeva was very much pleased and said, “This is a new birth for me.” He never expected that Kṛṣṇa would live, because all his other sons had been killed by Kaṁsa.
Vasudeva continued, “My dear friend, it is very difficult for us to live together. Although we have our family and relatives, sons and daughters, by nature’s way we are generally separated from one another. The reason for this is that every living entity appears on this earth under different pressures of fruitive activities; although they assemble together, there is no certainty of their remaining together for a long time. According to one’s fruitive activities, one has to act differently and thereby be separated. For example, many plants and creepers are floating on the waves of the ocean. Sometimes they come together, and sometimes they separate forever: one plant goes one way, and another plant goes another. Similarly, our family assembly may be very nice while we are living together, but after some time, in the course of the waves of time, we are separated.”
The purport of this expression by Vasudeva is this: although he had eight sons born in the womb of Devakī, unfortunately they were all gone. He could not even keep his one son Kṛṣṇa with him. Vasudeva was feeling His separation, but he could not express the real fact. “Please tell me about the welfare of Vṛndāvana,” he said. “You have many animals – are they happy? Are they getting sufficient grass and water? Please also let me know whether the place where you are now living is undisturbed and peaceful.” This inquiry was made by Vasudeva because he was very anxious about Kṛṣṇa’s safety. He knew that Kaṁsa and his followers were trying to kill Kṛṣṇa by sending various kinds of demons. They had already resolved that all children born within ten days of the birthday of Kṛṣṇa should be killed. Because Vasudeva was so anxious about Kṛṣṇa, he inquired about the safety of His residence. He also inquired about Balarāma and His mother, Rohiṇī, who were entrusted to the care of Nanda Mahārāja. Vasudeva also reminded Nanda Mahārāja that Balarāma did not know His real father. “He knows you as His father. And now you have another child, Kṛṣṇa, and I think you are taking very nice care of both of Them.” It is also significant that Vasudeva inquired about the welfare of Nanda Mahārāja’s animals. The animals, and especially the cows, were protected exactly in the manner of one’s children. Vasudeva was a kṣatriya, and Nanda Mahārāja was a vaiśya. It is the duty of the kṣatriyas to give protection to the citizens, and it is the duty of the vaiśyas to give protection to the cows. The cows are as important as the citizens. Just as the human citizens should be given all kinds of protection, so the cows also should be given full protection.
Vasudeva continued to say that the maintenance of religious principles, economic development and the satisfactory execution of meeting the demands of the senses depend on cooperation among relatives, nations and all humanity. Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to see that his fellow citizens and the cows are not put into difficulty. One should see to the peace and comfort of his fellow man and the animals. The development of religious principles, economic development and sense gratification can then be achieved without difficulty. Vasudeva expressed his sorrow due to not being able to give protection to his own sons born of Devakī. He was thinking that religious principles, economic development and the satisfaction of his senses were therefore all lost.
On hearing this, Nanda Mahārāja replied, “My dear Vasudeva, I know that you are very much aggrieved because the cruel king Kaṁsa has killed all your sons born of Devakī. Although the last child was a daughter, Kaṁsa could not kill her, and she has entered into the celestial planets. My dear friend, do not be aggrieved; we are all being controlled by our past unseen activities. Everyone is subjected to his past deeds, and one who is conversant with the philosophy of karma and its reactions is a man in knowledge. Such a person will not be aggrieved at any incident, happy or miserable.”
Vasudeva then replied, “My dear Nanda, if you have already paid the government taxes, then return soon to your place, because I think that there may be some disturbances in Gokula.”
After the friendly conversation between Nanda Mahārāja and Vasudeva, Vasudeva returned to his home. Nanda Mahārāja and the other cowherd men, who had come to Mathurā to pay their taxes, also returned home.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the fifth chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “The Meeting of Nanda and Vasudeva.”