Janmashtami Stories and Legends

As it is with other sacred Hindu occassions, the origin of Janmashtami is steeped in supernatural happenings and divine incidents. All these have given rise to a plethora of fascinating stories and legends, vehemently dismissed by atheists but strongly believed by millions of pious Hindus. Here we bring you some of the popular legends and tales related to Janmashtami. Go through these interesting Janmashtami legends and stories and click here to share them with your friends and dear ones. Happy Janmashtami!
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In the era of the Svayambhuva Manu, prajapati Sutapa and his wife Prsni were instructed by Lord Brahma to have progeny. They performed severe austerities for twelve thousand years of the demigods to have the Lord as their child. Pleased by their austerities the Lord appeared and granted them this benediction. Since He gave them this benediction three times, in Satya-yuga He first appeared as the son of Prsni and Sutapa and was called Prsnigarba. In Treta-yuga they were Aditi and Kasyapa Muni and the Lord appeared as Vamanadeva. Finally in the Dvapara yuga, Krishna in His original form, appeared as the child of Devaki and Vasudeva. Krishna appeared specifically on the request of Bhudevi, the presiding deity of the Earth planet. Distressed by the burden of many demons who had appeared as powerful Kshatriyas and were ruling the planet impiously, she assumed the form of a cow and pleaded to Lord Brahma for help. Lord Brahma with all the demigods prayed to Lord Vishnu in Svetadvipa by chanting the Purusa-sukta prayers. At this time the Lord informed Brahma that in order to establish religiosity and destroy evil, He would soon appear as His original Self. In the meantime the various demigods were instructed to take birth in various families in the Yadu dynasty and prepare for the appearance of the Lord.

Draped in silk and decorated with Jewels, Krishna, was born in his four-armed form of Vishnu Avatar. Sri Krishna appeared on the Earth with four weapons- the conch, club, disc and lotus. Parents of Sri Krishna wished and prayed to almighty to turn Sri Krishna into an ordinary baby as it was really very important for them to hide the little baby from Kamsa. The Lord listened to them and asked Vasudeva, the father of Sri Krishna, to take him to Vrindavan in order to exchange Sri Krishna with a newly born baby girl. It was due to the Lord’s grace Sri Krishna turned in a baby.

It was surprising that suddenly all the shackles and chains of the prison of Kamsa broke to make way for Vasudeva. All the guards of the prison fell asleep to make the process smooth and hassle-free. Vasudeva went out carrying his little baby without throwing questions to anyone. Vasudeva went across the holy Jamuna River to Vrindavana. When all the cowherds were asleep, Vasudeva entered into the house of Nanda with Krishna quietly. He placed his son on the bed of Yasoda. While returning back to his own shack, he picked up the newly born baby girl.

The omen said that the eight son of Vasudeva would kill Kamsa. So, there was a chance that Kamsa would spare the baby girl. However, Kamsa listened to no one; he dragged the little girl and thrashed her against a stone. He didn’t even bother to lend an ear to Devaki’s entreat. Suddenly, the girl slipped out of his hands and magically took the shape of the holy Hindu deity, Durga. Draped in fine garments and jewels, she rose above the head of Kamsa. Devi Durga uttered, "The enemy you contemplate is living somewhere else. You are a fool to hurt innocent children. Krishna will kill you."

Showing regret, the repentant Kamsa, begged to Devaki and Vasudeva to forgive him for his sins. He released both of them from shackles and opened the chains. He cried falling down on their feet. On the very next day, nevertheless, he was suggested and advised by all his ministers to kill all the new born babies in and around the entire territory. He gave up his emotional and sentimental attitude in order to kill all the newborn babies.

The Birth Of Krishna

About five and a half thousand years ago, there ruled in Mathura in the modern day Indian state of Uttar Pradesh a despotic king known as Kans. The people of the city had a trying time bearing the whims and oppression of their tyrannical ruler. Kans had overthrown his own father Ugrasena to gain access to the royal throne and was infamous for his fierce ambition that spared none, not even his loved ones.

But even the fearsome Kans had a soft corner for his cousin Devaki, whom he loved very much and wanted to marry her off to a decent man. Soon the day of Devaki's marriage came near and King Vasudeva of the Yadu dynasty won her hand. But when the marriage ceremony was almost complete, the great sage Narada told Kans that he would die in the hands of the eighth child born of Devaki and Vasudeva. This filled Kans with anxiety and anger and he proceeded to kill his beloved cousin in fear for his own life. Then Vasudeva pleaded with the tyrant and promised to surrender every one of the children born to them to Kans. Being fond of his sister and pleased with this agreement, Kans forced the newly wed couple to live in his palace prison as captives till their eighth child was born. This was soon carried out and the duo were under constant watch by the royal guards. Each time a child was born to the couple, Kans would personally pay a visit to their cell and smash the head of the infant on the prison wall unmoved by the heartbreaking cries of Devaki and the entreaties of Vasudeva. He did this for seven times until nine years had passed and Devaki was to have a baby for the eighth time.

But the night the eighth child was about to be born, a miracle happened. All the guards magically went to sleep, the doors of the prison opened by themselves and the shackles of Vasudev and Devaki opened by themselves and dropped to the ground. Soon Devaki gave birth to a baby. The child was very dark in complexion but a beautiful boy beyond comparison. As Vasudeva marvelled at his new-born child, a voice from the sky (akashvani) ordered him:

"O Vasudev, take your child to the Gokul kingdom, ruled by your friend King Nanda. Nanda and his queen Yashoda has just given birth to a daughter. Exchange your son for their daughter. They are asleep and will not know about the exchange. Take their little girl and return to the prison immediately. Make haste or else Kans will come to know about the birth of this child and kill it. This child has been born to subjugate all evil and protect the innocent. He will even save you one day. Now hurry before it gets too late".

The Gokul kingdom was across the river Yamuna, which flowed near the city of Mathura. Vasudev knew that he had to carry his baby. Suddenly his eyes caught the sight of a "chhaaj" (reed contraption by which all foreign matter is removed from any lentil, rice, wheat etc.). He cleared the dirt from it, placed his little baby in the basket and took him to the banks of the great river Yamuna. It being the rainy season, the river was in full spate, and it was still raining. On stepping into the river, poor Vasudev had more than half of his body submerged in the water. He tried to save the baby from the rising river by holding him higher and higher. But there was no way he could shield it from the torrential rain. Then, he saw a huge five-mouthed snake following him from behind and providing a canopy over the baby with its hood. The sight struck fear in the heart of Vasudev, but then he remembered the akashvani, which is the voice of angels, andz he was reassured that he and his baby was being protected and that he would surely reach his destination.

At Gokul, Vasudev entered the house of his friend Nand, who was asleep and so was his wife Yashoda, and so were all the attendants. He saw a sweet baby near Yashoda and quickly scooped it in his arms after placing his own son in the empty space next to Yashoda.

With Sheshnag assisting him like before, Vasudev returned to the prison with the girl-child. He entered his dark cell and laid the baby by Devaki's side. Soon the shackles were back in place, the doors shut and the guards woke up.

On seeing the baby, the attendants rushed up to their master Kans to give him the news. Kans came in a great hurry, Because it was the eighth child. He picked up the baby and threw it against the wall, but the little girl flew up into the air. With a blinding flash of light, the baby took the form of a fierce goddess sky, who taunted Kans:

"O Kans, your destroyer has already been born, and is elsewhere. He is now well and alive in a safe place. And one day, he will come in search of you and kill you! You can not change your destiny, how hard you may try!"

Along with the sound of laughter, the goddess disappeared leaving behind the dumbstruck Kans. This little girl has come to be worshipped under various names - Durga, Tara, Ishani and Mandakini.

This legend of the birth of Lord Shrikrishna is recounted on every Janmashtami and the praises of the friend-god are sung in almost every temple dedicated to the divine being. Pious Hindu's hold this account of the birth of the Lord very dear to their hearts.


Krishna And Kalia

This story recounts a well-known incident from the childhood of Lord Krishna.

Some years had passed since the birth of Lord Krishna and the blue-skinned god had grown up to be a mischievous but lovable boy. In Vrindavan, where the Lord resided, there was none who did not love him. Little Krishna had a gang of little friends whom he played and hanged out with.

One fine morning, Krishna and his friends were having a wonderful time beside the village lake. The boys were playing with a ball and having some good fun. After an hour of play, they grew tired and were having some rest when Krishna expressed his wish to build a big-tree house for them all. Then Kusela, one of his closest friends, said that there was a big tree, possibly the biggest in Vrindavan, in the eastern part of the Yamuna River next to the village and surrounded by dense forests. Krishna immediately declared that he was going to try and build a house on that same tree. It would give them a nice spot to hang out and have fun. Followed by his friends, the little god started walking eastwards.

Now it so happened that a many-hooded snake called Kalia and his brood had settled in the eastern part. They were venomous beings who poisoned the very ground they slithered on. Wherever they went, the grass they moved on turned black, the trees they passed by lost their colour, the air around the area turned toxic and any bird died immediately if it happened to fly nearby.

When Krishna and his friends arrived at the eastern part, they were shocked to see how fearsome the place looked. The water of the river Yamuna which was flowing nearby was still bluish but the grass around the lake had turned black. A big tree stood at the ground adjoining the lake.

"This must be the tree my father had spoken about." remarked Kusela. "But how terrible it looks"!

The tree indeed seemed to die. It had no leaves and its branches were all blackened. It seemed as if the whole place was damned; cursed by some monstrous evil. There was an eerie silence all about the place.

Krishna was thoughtful for a moment. Then he said "Let us drop the idea of the tree house then. We shall play here instead."

So the boys began to play with the ball again. Soon the ball slipped and fell into the water.

"Plop!"

It disappeared with a soft sound. The boys let out a cry of lamentation.

"Don't worry friends! I will go and fetch the ball in a moment." saying so, Krishna jumped into the water without paying a heed to the warnings of his playmates. Before his friends could stop him, he went under the bluish waters of Yamuna.

The water was cold beyond comfort but it hardly made a difference to Krishna. He swam lower, searching for the ball and found that all the plants below had been burnt and badly bent.

"Hiss!"

A huge snake slid out of its underwater hole and stood behind Krishna. The little god turned to see the fearsome snake slithering on the ground before him, baring its numerous hoods.

Kalia was at first amazed to see the little boy but then he was pleased that he was having his food so readily available.

"Hey all of you..." he called his family "come and have a share of your food".

Saying so, he tried to gobble up Krishna who moved fast and skilfully escaped the huge mouth of the snake. Again and again Kalia tried to devour the little god, but his jaws narrowly missed the divine being. Kalia and his kin were surprised at how this mere boy was fooling him. Little did they know that the boy was indeed the almighty god, born to rid the earth of evil and protect the innocent.

Soon Krishna overpowered the snake and began to dance on its head. This incident is known as "Kalia daman" (the subjugation of Kalia). Every footstep of the Lord was as if a blow of a huge hammer on Kalia's head. Fearing for their husband's life, Kalia's wives pleaded with Krishna. Krishna assured that he would spare Kalia's life only if he and his family promise to leave the place and settle elsewhere. When they promised to do so, Krishna ordered Kalia to rise above the water.

He rose to find all his friends, most members of his village and his parents waiting anxiously for him. It had been a long time since he had dived into the water and his playmates, who had grown highly anxious, had rushed back to the village informing the folks of all that they had been through. At the sight of Krishna, his mother Yashoda let out a cry of joy. Tears of relief fell down her cheeks. His father Nanda heaved a sigh of relief after having prepared himself for the worst.

The snake bent his head in respect as Krishna landed on the shore. Yasodha and Nanda rushed to embrace him. All the villagers and his playpals shouted with joy.

With Kalia and his family out of the place, the river and its surroundings regained the old glory. Soon Krishna and his friends built their tree-house over the same tree which was dying but had come back to its former majesty. Every playmate of Krishna realized that the boy they knew was no ordinary soul. Tale of his antics spread far and wide and are remembered even to this day.


The Witch Putana

Kamsa enlisted a demon named Putana to kill newborn babies. The demon dressed as a beautiful woman and flew on her broom to Krishna's nursery, hoping to kill Him with the poison she had smeared on her nipples. Krishna's mother innocently let Putana pick the baby up and put it to her breast. Krishna closed His eyes and sucked out her life air, killing her, without taking her poison. When Putana's soul departed, her body returned to its real form: a gigantic witch that smashed trees as it fell, stretching twelve miles across the landscape. Putana's soul attained liberation due to the benevolent act of offering her breast milk to Krishna and the inhabitants of Vrindavana cremated the body.

After Krishna killed Putana, the elder gopis (women of the village) picked Him up and performed auspicious rites for His protection and purification. They bathed Him and chanted religious mantras to prevent further attacks.


The Snake Demon Aghasura

One day the cowherd boys were playing their games, such as imitating peacocks and running after birds' shadows on the ground, when they came upon a mountain cave. This was actually a demon-brother of Putana's, who had expanded himself into an eight-mile long snake to kill the boys. The opening to the cave was his mouth. The boys felt a hot wind blowing that smelled like fish, or the serpent's intestines.

The scriptures say that when the boys walked into the cave Krishna became momentarily aggrieved because He knew it was one of Kamsa's tricks. He considered for a moment, then decided to enter the cave Himself. Demons all over the world became joyful when Krishna went inside. The demigods, who had been hiding among the clouds to see what would happen, became distressed. For a time it seemed as if the snake-demon had killed Krishna, but when Krishna heard the demigods' pleas He grew larger and choked the demon to death. Aghasura's life air burst through a hole in his skull and waited there for Krishna to come out, then it merged into His body. Krishna showed His benevolent nature by rescuing His friends and giving liberation to Aghasura.


Lord Brahma Kidnaps the Cowherd Boys

When Aghasura died, the demigods offered prayers, threw flowers, and beat drums. Hearing the commotion, Lord Brahma arrived on the scene. At that time Brahma kidnapped the children, an offense unbecoming of a demigod. Krishna was unhappy because due to Brahma's misdeed, because He would have to go back to the village alone. Instead, He decided to expand himself into substitute boys and calves that looked exactly like the originals, and he returned to the village with them. No one could tell the difference, but families showed increased spontaneous affection to their sons (who were actually expansions of God). Balarama, Krishna's brother, noticed the parents' behavior and asked Krishna what was going on. Krishna explained how Lord Brahma had kidnapped the real boys and calves.

Brahma made a mistake in trying to test Krishna's power. Life went on like this for a year before Brahma returned. Brahma's time passes much more quickly, so it seemed to him only a moment. However, when he returned he was shocked to see the boys and calves playing with Krishna, as though nothing had happened. Krishna knew Brahma was perplexed so He transformed all the boys and calves into four-armed Vishnu forms. Brahma heard music and saw many Brahmas, Shivas, demigods and jivas (souls) singing God's names and dancing. Brahma's mind opened at first to the vision, but then he became bewildered, so Krishna ended the dazzling scene.

When Brahma woke up, he realized that he was face to face with Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who was enacting His eternal pastimes as a cowherd boy in the spiritual land of Vrindavana. Brahma immediately got down from his swan-carrier and fell prostate at Krishna's feet to beg forgiveness. After offering glorious prayers and penance for his behavior, Brahma circumambulated Krishna three times and returned to his planet.

Exactly one year before, Krishna had left his friends eating lunch on the bank of the Jamuna River. When he returned, they had just begun the meal, and thought Krishna had only been gone for a second. None of the boys realized that a whole year had gone by and that they had been kidnapped, asleep in a cave. When the children returned to their homes and told their parents about the aghasura demon, the demon's corpse had decomposed so the parents thought it was just a wild tale from the children's imagination.


Krishna Lifts Govardhana Hill

Vishnu in his many forms is an icon of protection and Krishna was (among other things) an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu. It is said that the residents of Vrindavana were sometimes aware of this and at times depended on Krishna to protect them. A good example was when Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill. Every year the residents of Vrindavana worshiped Lord Indra for supplying rain. One year when Krishna was a youth, He asked Nanda to worship Govardhana Hill instead of Indra. Krishna argued, "We do not derive any special benefit from Indra. Our specific relationship is with Govardhana Hill and Vrindavana forest. Let us have nothing to do with Indra."

King Nanda finally agreed with Krishna and prepared to offer the sacrifice to Govardhana Hill. This made Lord Indra angry and jealous. Forgetting the divine position of Krishna, Indra reasoned, "These cowherd men in Vrindavana have neglected my authority on the advice of this talkative boy who is known as Krishna. He is nothing but a child, and by believing this child, they have enraged me." Indra then sent a storm to devastate Vrindavana. All the people and animals came to Krishna for shelter, and in a miraculous show of strength, Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill with one finger to make the mountain into a huge umbrella. Everyone crowded underneath it and remained safe until the rains stopped. Later, Lord Indra realized his mistake in attacking Krishna and apologized. This is an example of one of the demigods behaving like a demon. Krishna Book explains, "Indra became angry because he thought that he was all in all within this universe and that no one was as powerful as he."


The Yamala-Arjuna Trees

Yasoda was engrossed in her household duties. Sri Krishna thought of liberating the two Arjuna trees who had been sons of Kubera in their previous life, Nala Kubara and Manigreeva by name. They were endowed with immense wealth, beauty and splendour; but, on account of their pride, they had been turned into trees, by Narada’s curse.

The two sons of Kubera were playing with Gandharva girls in a river, in a naked state. Narada happened to pass that way. The celestial damsels felt ashamed at their nudity, and at once put on their clothes, as they were afraid of the curse by the Rishi. But the two Yakshas did not care to do so. Hence Narada gave a curse, “These two sons of Kubera are extremely ignorant and insolent. Let them become trees. But, they shall not lose memory by my favour. After one hundred Deva years, the touch of Sri Krishna shall save them.” These sons of Kubera became a pair of Arjuna trees in Brindavan.

Sri Krishna approached the trees, Yamala and Arjuna, drawing the husking-stand behind him by force. He placed Himself between the trees and uprooted them. They fell down with a terrible crash. Two Siddhas came out of the trees and illuminated the place with their lustre. They praised Lord Krishna and then rose upwards.

Hearing the terrible noise, the Gopas and Gopis came to the spot. They all saw the two Arjuna trees fallen to the ground. The boys told them what they had seen. They said, “This is all Krishna’s doing. He gave a pull and the two trees fell down with a crash. We further saw two persons coming out of the trees.” But the Gopas and the Gopis could not believe what the boys said. They thought that it was not possible for the small child to uproot the two trees, and they were wonder-struck.




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