When Krishna deflates an arrogant god to protect His loved ones, they wonder, “Who is this boy?”
As a charming village lad, Krishna owned the simple hearts of His family, friends, and neighbors. So when the villagers gathered to worship Indra, god of the skies, Krishna easily sweet-talked them out of the ritual. Why, He argued, worship Indra, who sends rain even where it’s not needed? Better to offer thanks to the true source of our wealth, Govardhan Hill.
The simple cowherd men, headed by Krishna’s father Nanda, agreed to redirect their worship to Govardhan Hill. Amidst a joyous festival of singing, dancing, and feasting, only one person was displeased.
When he saw Nanda rearrange the honors meant for him,
Lord Indra grew as angry as a god has ever been.
He called his most destructive cloud (Samvartaka by name),
and, feeling like the king of all, stood smartly and proclaimed:
“These forest-dwelling bovine-tenders, rich and drunk with pride,
have let their Krishna cast my rightful sacrifice aside.
They’re like those fools who try to cross the ocean of distress
in leaky boats of mundane quotes while truth goes unexpressed.
These cowherds dare to anger me so they can idolize
a foolish boy who talks too much and thinks Himself so wise?
They think they can ignore me? How their wealth has made them proud.
Samvartaka! Destroy their cows! This cannot be allowed!
The wind-gods will be helping you rebuke this land of Vraj.
My elephant, Airavata, will lead the entourage.
Together we shall smash this village! Then we’ll see them bow
to he who gives them rain and thus maintains their precious cows.”
Samvartaka, who saturates the very universe,
began to rain on Vrindavan until it was immersed.
The clouds poured water ceaselessly on Nanda’s small domain
and frightened all the residents with lightning bolts and rain.
Torrential rain in massive columns fell in endless flow.
The high ground could no longer be distinguished from the low.
The cows began to shiver from the rain and freezing wind.
Their hands aloft, Lord Krishna’s friends and family cried to Him,
“O Krishna, Krishna! No one is as kind and great as You!
Protect our cows from Indra’s wrath and please, protect us too!”
On seeing their distress and reams of storm clouds gone berserk,
Lord Krishna knew the blasting wind and hail was Indra’s work.
Lord Krishna thought, “My intervention led this god to send
unseasonable rain, fierce wind and hail to harm my friends.
A god like Indra, strong and proud, is prone to such mistakes.
I’ll help him keep in mind he’s here to give and not to take.
This god is meant to act in goodness, not from foolish pride.
I’ll humble him. His ego has grown over-magnified.
Since Indra has harassed My friends and brought them to their knees,
I’ll save them now, for I have vowed to guard My devotees.”
Lifting Govardhan Hill
And then, just as a child might pluck a mushroom from the lawn, Lord Krishna stretched His youthful hand and lifted Govardhan.
“Oh Mother, Father, friends!” He called, “take shelter here for now.
Be safe beneath this gracious hill. And don’t forget your cows.
Your rescue from the wind and rain already has been planned.
Fear not, for I will safely hold this hill up with My hand.”
Their minds relieved by Krishna’s words, the people all conformed
and with their wagons, cows and priests, escaped the deadly storm.
As Krishna held the hill aloft the people stared, amazed,
and felt no hunger, sleepiness or thirst for seven days.
They gazed with fascination at the sight of Nanda’s son
supporting the gigantic hill and pleasing everyone.
King Indra, on the other hand, could not believe his eyes.
He said, “Our rainfall floods the ground, but then, at once, it dries!
Samvartaka, your lightning falls like flowers on that hill.
Stop pushing air someone down there has greater strength and skill.”
Lord Krishna saw the tempest stop and sunshine fill the sky.
“It’s over,” He informed the men. “You’ll all be safe and dry.
The river has receded. Let us go on with our lives.
Go home now with your property, your children and your wives.”
Collecting their respective cows and filling up their carts,
the people under Govardhan got ready to depart.
Soon everybody stepped outside. And then, with strength and grace,
the little son of Nanda put the hill back in its place.
The residents of Vrindavan, in waves of ecstasy,
came up, by age and rank, to thank the Lord accordingly.
Some blessed Him; some embraced Him; others chose to genuflect.
The women gave Him yogurt and whole grains to show respect.
His father, mother, brother and stepmother then appeared
and hugged Lord Krishna feelingly while shedding happy tears.
Completely overwhelmed with bliss, they blessed their darling boy,
while denizens of heaven showered flowers out of joy.
While drums and song resounded through the heavens high above,
the cowherd boys, the Lord’s dear friends, surrounded Him in love.
The boys left Govardhan and let their cows eat grass and roam.
The gopis, rapt in thoughts of Krishna, ambled to their homes.
The Puzzled Cowherd Men
The cowherd men, amazed by Krishna, found themselves confused,
so they requested their beloved Nanda for his views.
They said, “Your son lifts mountains and kills demons without fuss.
Since He is our superior, why does he stay with us?
Your son is only seven, yet He has tremendous powers.
He picks up hills as elephants might pick up lotus flowers.
In fact, when He was just an infant, yet to cut a tooth,
He sucked the life from Pütana as time sucks out one’s youth.
At three months, with His toe, He kicked a pushcart to the ground.
And then He rode a whirlwind in the air and brought it down.
Your toddler Krishna then uprooted two arjuna trees.
Can you explain the meaning of your son’s activities?
He killed the demon Vatsa masquerading as a calf.
He seized the demon Baka’s beaks and tore the rogue in half.
He spun the giant asses round and hurled them into trees
and danced around Kaliya’s heads with much dexterity.
With all the feats and superhuman powers He deploys
how can we think of Krishna as a seven-year-old boy?
And Nanda, let us ask you this: now, why is everyone
so caught up in affectionate relations with your son?”
King Nanda said, “My friends, my friends, please do not tax your heads.
When Gargamuni studied Krishna’s horoscope, he said
that Krishna would do miracles, and that is what He’s done.
Let me tell you exactly what he said about my son:
“Your Krishna has appeared before in many ages past,
in white and red and yellow shades and sundry social castes.
He was a son of Vasudeva, the timeless stars proclaim,
so in this lifetime ‘Vasudeva’ shall also be His name.
Your son will gather countless names by His activities.
He’ll keep your subjects happy and prevent calamities.
Lord Visnu comes when gods have failed and evil floods the Earth,
and your son is like Visnu. Serve Him well in this new birth.”
Continued Nanda, “I’ve seen Krishna, ever since that time,
behave so much like Visnu one might think that He’s divine.”
The ecstatic Sukadeva concluded:
The cowherd men, enlivened and relieved by what they’d heard,
began to honor Krishna with sweet offerings and words.
They saw how Indra pelted them with hail as sharp as knives,
till Krishna lifted Govardhan and saved their threatened lives.
The strength and grace and kindness He displayed, as we discussed,
are typical of Krishna. Oh, may He be pleased with us!
EPIOGUE: Some people think of God as a friendless orphan, but that is not the case. He enjoys mystifying His closest devotees to think themselves His parents or friends. Sometimes even His friends and parents temporarily recognize His divinity, which leads to still more transcendent fun.
Soon after Indra relented, Krishna’s father was detained by Varuna, god of the waters. When Krishna released him, the cowherd men surmised that Krishna must be God Himself. Detecting their curiosity, Krishna took the cowherd men to His own abode in the spiritual world.
The atmosphere was like Vrindavan, a setting they all knew,
but Krishna, there, was worshiped something they would never do.
The Vedic texts personified surrounded Nanda’s son
and prayed to Him incessantly. The cowherd men were stunned.
Teacher and author Kalakantha Dasa serves as chaplain of the popular Krishna House student center at the University of Florida in Gainesville, USA. The poetry here was adapted from A God Who Dances, the author’s poetic rendition of the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Available from the Krishna.com Store.