This month we celebrate the Holy Month of Kartik. In traditional terms, it is called Damodara Masa.
What is the Significance?
This month marks the importance of many to the Lord Krishna’s pastimes when He was on Earth five thousand years ago.
The most important divine event which took place during this month is when Yasoda bound Lord Krishna’s belly with ropes. This pastime is divine, sweet but also very instructive. It goes something like this:
Lord Krishna would daily visit the houses of various elderly women in Gokul, with His friends, and steal butter and other milk products from their houses. The boys would use countless strategies to achieve this. Outwardly the Gopis used to show that they were very annoyed and upset with Krishna’s pranky antics, but inwardly they would love it. From early morning they would count the moments till Krishna’s arrival as if stunned by time. To increase the fun, the Gopis would try and make it harder for Krishna to access the butter pots by hiding them or stringing them very high near the ceiling, just to see what new methodology Him and His friends would use. The whole affair was extremely amusing for everyone. Knowing that Krishna’s mother would love to hear about her son’s thieving stories, they would all go and tell Yasoda as if they were complaining, but it was a simply a barrel of laughs for Yasoda and the ladies. One by one each Gopi would recount her own story of Krishna in her house.
Though Yasoda could not get enough of her son’s stories (Katha), she one day thought, “We have so much butter in our own house, and yet Krishna steals from other people’s houses! Why does he do this? Perhaps the butter in our house isn’t good enough for Him.” She then decided that from her 900,000 cows, she would select just a few of the best cows that would give milk which had the flavor of divine lotus flowers.
After collecting this special milk, and turning into yogurt, Yasoda then woke up early one morning while Lord Krishna was still asleep and began to churn the yogurt to make it into butter. While she was churning butter she began to sing. These were not just some ordinary village songs. They were divine compositions of elevated poetry describing the pastimes which she had heard from her friends about her son stealing their butter. Such non-rehearsed renditions were flowing from her heart as she was smiling in divine ecstasy and laboring intensely. Thinking about her son with such intense love, milk began to flow out of her breasts. Soon after she began to sing, Krishna woke up – and seeing that His mother wasn’t next to Him, He came outside to be with her. He stopped her from churning the yogurt and immediately jumped onto her lap and began drinking His mother’s breast milk out of love. When one sings from the heart, the Lord comes without a doubt!!
Meanwhile, in the Kitchen, some milk which had previously been put to boil by Yasoda began to overflow. The milk thought to itself, “The love of Yasoda is unlimited and so her milk will never stop gushing out and my Lord Krishna will keep drinking this milk. If He doesn’t accept what is the use of me? My existence has become fruitless.” In the spiritual world, nothing is the dead matter like in this world. Everything is living and full of spiritual consciousness. Believe it or not, even milk is alive there. Thinking like this, and full of anxiety, the milk began to overflow out of the pot. Whenever any woman hears milk boiling over, it’s got to be the worst sound she has ever heard! Even worse than her husband’s shouting! In the same way, Yasoda panicked plonked Krishna on the ground and ran to the Kitchen to save the ‘suicidal milk’.
Lord Krishna, acting as an ordinary child began to throw a tantrum. He began to break yogurt pots around the house, but very quietly, so Yasoda wouldn’t hear Him. He then took some very old Makhan (butter) which had almost gone off and went out to the veranda of the House. He was feeling sorry for Himself he began eating the old yogurt to make himself sick. He also began to feed the monkeys (some of whom were the monkeys re-incarnated from Lord Rama’s time) who came to be near Him. When Yasoda returned she saw that Krishna has created a mess around the house and had run away. It wasn’t difficult to find Him because his footsteps were covered in butter. She spotted Him sitting on a wooden mortar on the veranda. As soon as Krishna saw Her, He ran for His life. She obviously chased Him in hot pursuit. She was the police and He was the villain. Krishna though small, made an impressive run. He ran around the whole village and all the people came out to see what was going on. Eventually, Yasoda caught her son! She began to scold him, telling Him off for everything He had done. To keep Him away from further mischief, she decided to tie Him. So out in their courtyard, next to some Yamalarjuna trees, Yasoda wanted to tie Krishna to a wooden grinding mortar. She needed rope, so she started off by using the one which she had on her braid. She tied the rope around the mortar and then tried to tie it around His small wait. But the rope was two fingers too short. She told her maids to get more rope from the house. They brought it and Yasoda added it to the existing rope and tried again. Shocking! It was still two fingers too short! By this time a crowd had gathered nearby. Everyone loved Krishna intensely but couldn’t understand why Yasoda was tying Him up. She then said to her maids, “Bring me all the rope in the house.” They did, and she tied these all together and tried again. But it was again two fingers too short. Some of Yasoda’s relatives even told her, “Yasoda it is not in His destiny to be tied, please leave Him alone.” Yasoda said, “No way! I am going to tie Him no matter what! Now please be useful and go and bring some rope your house,” and in this way, she sent all the Gopis for rope. No matter how much rope she used, it was always two fingers too short.” Eventually though, when Lord saw sweat beads coming out of her forehead and that she was getting tired from tying so much rope, His compassion arose and He got tied. The word ‘Damodara’ literally means one who gets tied by the waist.
This pastime is indicative of a very important lesson for everyone. It is impossible to tie the Lord because He is unlimited. How can the unlimited become bound with the limits of some ropes? All the rope in this universe cannot tie Him up. Hence it was always two fingers short. These two fingers represent something. The first finger represents the steadfast desire of the devotee to bind the Lord into His heart and the second finger represents the Lord’s mercy. Both need to be there! When the
Lord sees that an individual is trying very hard to attain Him, then the Lord’s compassion arises. When the Lord’s compassion arises, all His power and His opulence get rendered useless and He eventually gets caught in the ropes of love and becomes tied up.
In the Damodarastakam, it says in the eighth verse:
namas te ‘stu damne sphurad-dipti-dhamne
tvadiyodarayatha visvasya dhamne
namo radhikayai tvadiya-priyayai
namo ‘nanta-lilaya devaya tubhyam
8) O Lord Damodara, I, first of all, offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes.
A lamp ceremony is observed every day for this month in the Iskcon Temple in Ngara. All are welcome to come and participate in this sweet event. Please bring your children especially!