Even as a child, Lord Krsna demonstrated His divinity by performing superhuman feats. The following account of His slaying the witch Putana is taken from Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
After consulting with his demoniac ministers, Kamsa instructed a witch named Putana, who knew the black art of killing small children by ghastly, sinful methods, to kill all kinds of children in the cities, villages and pasturing grounds. Such witches can play their black art only where there is no chanting or hearing of the holy name of Krsna. It is said that wherever the chanting of the holy name of Krsna is done, even negligently, all bad elements witches, ghosts and dangerous calamities immediately disappear. And this is certainly true of the place where the chanting of the holy name of Krsna is done seriously especially in Vrndavana when the Supreme Lord was personally present. Therefore, the doubts of Nanda Maharaja were certainly based on affection for Krsna. Actually there was no danger from the activities of Putana, despite her powers. Such witches are called khecari, which means they can fly in the sky. This black art of witchcraft is still practiced by some women in the remote northwestern side of India. They can transfer themselves from one place to another on the branch of an uprooted tree. Putana knew this witchcraft, and therefore she is described in the Bhagavatam as khecari.
Putana entered the county of Gokula, the residential quarter of Nanda Maharaja, without permission. Dressing herself just like a beautiful woman, she entered the house of Mother Yasoda. She appeared very beautiful with raised hips, nicely swollen breasts, and flowers in her hair. She looked especially beautiful on account of her thin waist. She was glancing at everyone, with attractive looks and smiling face, and all the residents of Vrndavana were captivated. The innocent cowherd women thought that she was a goddess of fortune appearing in Vrndavana with a lotus flower in her hand. It seemed to them that she had personally come to see Krsna, who is her husband. Because of her exquisite beauty, no one checked her movement, and therefore she freely entered the house of Nanda Maharaja. Putana, the killer of many, many children, found baby Krsna lying on a small bed, and she could at once perceive that the baby was hiding His unparalleled potencies. Putana thought, "This child is so powerful that He can destroy the whole universe immediately."
God is Always God
Putana's understanding is very significant. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is situated in everyone's heart. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita that He gives one necessary intelligence, and He also causes one to forget. Putana was immediately aware that the child whom she was observing in the house of Nanda Maharaja was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. He was lying there as a small baby, but that does not mean that He was less powerful. The materialistic theory that God-worship is anthropomorphic is not correct. No living being can become God by undergoing meditation or austerities. God is always God. Krsna as the child-baby is as complete as He is as a full-fledged youth. The Mayavada theory holds that the living entity was formerly God but has now become overwhelmed by the influence of maya. Therefore they say that presently he is not God, but when the influence of maya is taken away, then he again becomes God. This theory cannot be applied to the minute living entities. The living entities are minute parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; they are minute particles or sparks of the supreme fire, but they are not the original fire, or Krsna. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even from the beginning of His appearance in the house of Vasudeva and Devaki.
Krsna showed the nature of a small baby and closed His eyes, as if to avoid the face of Putana. This closing of the eyes is interpreted and studied in different ways by the devotees. Some say that Krsna closed His eyes because He did not like to see the face of Putana, who had killed so many children and who had now come to kill Him. Others say that something extraordinary was being dictated to her, and in order to give her assurance, Krsna closed His eyes so that she would not be frightened. And yet others interpret in this way: Krsna appeared to kill the demons and give protection to the devotees, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4.8): paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam. The first demon to be killed was a woman. According to Vedic rules, the killing of a woman, a brahmana, cows or of a child is forbidden. Krsna was obliged to kill the demon Putana, and because the killing of a woman is forbidden according to the Vedic sastra, He could not help but close His eyes. Another interpretation is that Krsna closed His eyes because He simply took Putana to be His nurse. Putana came to Krsna just to offer her breast for the Lord to suck. Krsna is so merciful that even though He knew Putana was there to kill Him, He took her as His nurse or mother.
There are seven kinds of mothers according to Vedic injunction: the real mother, the wife of a teacher or spiritual master, the wife of a king, the wife of a brahmana, the cow, the nurse and the mother earth. Because Putana came to take Krsna on her lap and offer her breast's milk to be sucked by Him, she was accepted by Krsna as one of His mothers. That is considered to be another reason He closed His eyes: He had to kill a nurse or mother. But His killing of His mother or nurse was no different from His love for His real mother or foster mother Yasoda. We further understand from Vedic information that Putana was also treated as a mother and given the same facility as Yasoda. As Yasoda was given liberation from the material world, so Putana was also given liberation. When the baby Krsna closed His eyes, Putana took Him on her lap. She did not know that she was holding death personified. If a person mistakes a snake for a rope, he dies. Similarly, Putana killed so many babies before meeting Krsna, but now she was accepting the snake that would kill her immediately.
A Sword in a Decorated Case
When Putana was taking baby Krsna on her lap, both Yasoda and Rohini were present, but they did not forbid her because she was so beautifully dressed and because she showed motherly affection towards Krsna. They could not understand that she was a sword within a decorated case. Putana had smeared a very powerful poison on her breasts, and immediately after taking the baby on her lap, she pushed her breastly nipple within His mouth. She was hoping that as soon as He would suck her breast, He would die. But baby Krsna very quickly took the nipple in anger. He sucked the milk-poison along with the life air of the demon. In other words, Krsna simultaneously sucked the milk from her breast and killed her by sucking out her life. Krsna is so merciful that because the demon Krsna came to offer her breast milk to Him, He fulfilled her desire and accepted her activity as motherly. But to stop her from further nefarious activities, He immediately killed her. And because the demon was killed by Krsna, she got liberation. When Krsna sucked out her very breath, Putana fell down on the ground, spread her arms and legs and began to cry, "Oh, child, leave me, leave me!" She was crying loudly and perspiring, and her whole body became wet.
As she died screaming, there was a tremendous vibration both on the earth and in the sky, in all directions, and people thought that thunderbolts were falling. Thus the nightmare of the Putana witch was over, and she assumed her real feature as a great demon. She opened her fierce mouth and spread her arms and legs all over She fell exactly as Vrkasura when struck by the thunderbolts of Indra. The long hair on her head was scattered all over her body. Her fallen body extended up to twelve miles and smashed all the trees to pieces, and everyone was struck with wonder upon seeing this gigantic body. Her teeth appeared just like ploughed roads, and her nostrils appeared just like mountain caves. Her breasts appeared like blind wells, and her two thighs appeared like two banks of a river; her two hands appeared like two strongly constructed bridges, and her abdomen seemed like a dried-up lake. All the cowherd men and women became struck with awe and wonder upon seeing this. And the tumultuous sound of her falling shocked their brains and ears and made their hearts beat strongly.
When the gopis saw little Krsna playing on Putana's lap, they very quickly came and picked Him up. Mother Yasoda, Rohini and other elderly gopis immediately performed the auspicious rituals by taking the tail of a cow and circumambulating His body. The child was completely washed with the urine of a cow, and the dust created by the hooves of the cows was thrown all over His body. This was all just to save little Krsna from further inauspicious accidents. This incident gives us a clear indication of how important the cow is to the family, society and to living beings in general. The transcendental body of Krsna did not require any protection, but to instruct us on the importance of the cow, the Lord was smeared over with cow dung, washed with the urine of a cow and sprinkled with the dust upraised by the walking of the cows.
After this purificatory process, the gopis, headed by Mother Yasoda and Rohini, chanted twelve names of Visnu to give Krsna's body full protection from all evil influences. They washed their hands and feet and sipped water three times, as is the custom before chanting mantra. They chanted as follows: "My dear Krsna, may the Lord who is known as Maniman protect Your thighs; may Lord Visnu who is known as Yajna protect Your legs; may Lord Acyuta protect Your arms; may Lord Hayagriva protect Your abdomen; may Lord Kesava protect Your heart; may Lord Visnu protect Your arms; may Lord Urukrama protect Your face; may Lord Isvara protect Your head; may Lord Cakradhara protect Your front; may Lord Gadadhara protect Your back; may Lord Madhusudana, who carries a bow in His hand, protect Your eyesight; may Lord Visnu with His conchshell protect Your left side; may the Personality of Godhead Upendra protect You from above, and may Lord Tarksya protect You from below the earth; may Lord Haladhara protect You from all sides; may the Personality of Godhead Hrsikesa protect all Your senses; may Lord Narayana protect Your breath; and may the Lord of Svetadvipa, Narayana, protect Your heart; may Lord Yogesvara protect Your mind; may Lord Prsnigarbha protect Your intelligence, and may the Supreme Personality of Godhead protect Your soul. While You are playing, may Lord Govinda protect You from all sides; and when You are sleeping, may Lord Madhava protect You from all danger; when You are working, may the Lord of Vaikuntha protect You from falling down; when You are sitting, may the Lord of Vaikuntha give You all protection; and while You are eating, may the Lord of all sacrifices give You all protection."
Thus Mother Yasoda began to chant different names of Visnu to protect the child Krsna's different bodily parts. Mother Yasoda was firmly convinced that she should protect her child from different kinds of evil spirits and ghosts namely Dakinis, Yatudhanis, Kusmandas, Yaksas, Raksasas, Vinayakas, Kotara, Revati, Jyestha, Putana, Matrkas, Unmadas and similar other evil spirits who cause persons to forget their own existence and give trouble to the life air and the senses. Sometimes they appear in dreams and cause much perturbation; sometimes they appear as old women and suck the blood of small children. But all such ghosts and evil spirits cannot remain where there is chanting of the holy name of God. Mother Yasoda was firmly convinced of the Vedic injunctions about the importance of cows and the holy name of Visnu; therefore she took all shelter in the cows and the name of Visnu so that He might save the child. Vedic culture has taken advantage of keeping cows and chanting the holy name of Visnu since the beginning of history, and persons who are still following the Vedic ways, especially the householders, keep at least one dozen cows and worship the Deity of Lord Visnu, who is installed in their house.
The elderly gopis of Vrndavana were so absorbed in affection for Krsna that they wanted to save Him, although there was no need to, for He had already protected Himself. They could not understand that Krsna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead playing as a child. After performing the formalities to protect the child, Mother Yasoda took Krsna and let Him suck her own breast. When the child was protected by Visnu mantra, Mother Yasoda felt that He was safe. In the meantime, all the cowherd men who went to Mathura to pay tax returned home and were struck with wonder at seeing the gigantic dead body of Putana.
Nanda Maharaja recalled the prophecy of Vasudeva and considered him a great sage and mystic yogi; otherwise, how could he have foretold an incident that happened during his absence from Vrndavana? After this, all the residents of Vraja cut the gigantic body of Putana into pieces and piled it up with wood for burning. When all the limbs of Putana's body were burning, the smoke emanating from the fire created a good aroma of aguru. This aroma was due to her being killed by Krsna. This means that the demon Putana was washed of all her sinful activities and attained a celestial body. Here is an example of how the Supreme Personality of Godhead is all-good: Putana came to kill Krsna, but because He sucked her milk, she was immediately purified, and her dead body attained a transcendental quality. Her only business was to kill small children; she was only fond of blood. But in spite of being envious of Krsna, she attained salvation because she gave her milk to Him to drink. So what can be said of those who are affectionate to Krsna in the relationship of mother or father?
The pure devotees always serve Krsna with great love and affection, for He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul of every living entity. Therefore it is concluded that even a little energy expended in the service of the Lord gives one immense transcendental profit. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita: sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat. Devotional service in Krsna consciousness is so sublime that even a little service to Krsna, knowingly or unknowingly, gives one the greatest transcendental benefit. The system of worshiping Krsna by offering flowers from a tree is also beneficial for the living entity who is confined to the bodily existence of that tree. When flowers and fruits are offered to Krsna, the tree that bore them also receives much benefit, indirectly. The arcana process, or worshiping procedure, is therefore beneficial for everyone. Krsna is worshipable by great demigods like Brahma and Lord Siva, and Putana was so fortunate that the same Krsna played in her lap as a little child. The lotus feet of Krsna, which are worshiped by great sages and devotees, were placed on the body of Putana. People worship Krsna and offer food with great reverence and devotion, but automatically He sucked the milk from the body of Putana. Devotees therefore pray that if simply by offering something as an enemy Putana got so much benefit, then who can measure the benefit of worshiping Krsna in love and affection?
One should only worship Krsna if for no other reason than so much benefit awaits the worshiper. Although Putana was an evil spirit, she gained elevation just like the mother of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is clear that the cows and the eldergopis who offered milk to Krsna were also elevated to the transcendental position. Krsna can offer anyone anything, from liberation to anything materially conceivable. Therefore, there cannot be any doubt of the salvation of Putana, whose bodily milk was sucked by Krsna for such a long time. And how can there be any doubt about the salvation of the gopis who were so fond of Krsna? Undoubtedly all the gopis, cowherd boys, cows and everyone else who served Krsna in Vrndavana with love and affection were liberated from the miserable condition of material existence.
When all the inhabitants of Vrndavana smelled the good aroma from the smoke of the burning Putana, they inquired from each other, "Where is this good fragrance coming from?" And while conversing, they came to understand that it was the fumes of the burning Putana. They were very fond of Krsna, and as soon as they heard that the demon Putana had been killed by Krsna, they offered blessings to the little child out of affection. After the burning of Putana, Nanda Maharaja came home and immediately took up the child on his lap and began to smell His head. In this way, he was quite satisfied that his little child was saved from this great calamity. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami has given a blessing to all persons who hear the narration of the killing of Putana by Krsna: they will surely attain the favor of Govinda.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Sixth Chapter of Krsna, "Putana Killed."