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Birth of Sri Krishna

The Birth Of Krsna
Decad 1 of Periyālvār’s Tirumoli 1 consists of 12 verses starting with Pallandu. The 2ndDecad of 10 verses describe the birth of Krsna and the joy experienced by the residents of Brindāvan.
In the town of Tirukottiyur having colourfully decorated storeyed houses,
On the joyous occasion of the birth of the divine Krsna (Kéśava),
The splendid courtyard became swampy with the mixture
Of oil and turmeric powder sprinkled on one another. 1
Periyālvār lived in Srīvilliputtūr and served the lord there by providing him garland from flowers grown in his garden. From the nearby city of Madurai ruled the mighty Pāndyan king, Vallabhadēvan. The king’s mentor on religious matters was Tirukottiyūr Nambi, a learned pundit. The king, a deeply religious person, desired to know which among the gods was supreme. He invited sages and savants from all over the country to his court to establish the truth. A prize of a sack of gold suspended from the roof was offered for the successful candidate. On being ordained by god in his dream, Periyālvār proceeded to the Pāndyan court. He was welcomed with great honours by the king and Nambi. The prize was won by Periyālvār for establishing the supremacy of Visnu.
In the opening verse, Periyālvār refers to Brndāvan, the home of Nandagōpāla, as Tirukottiyur, obviously impressed by the temple in Nambi’s native place.
The news that a son was born to Yaśoda having spread, there is great rejoicing in Brndāvan. The men and women rush to Nandagōpāla’s palace where they celebrate by throwing oil and turmeric powder on one another. The excess of oil and turmeric powder causes a slush in the wide and beautiful courtyard of the palace.
Some running helter skelter and falling on the ground,
Some expressing joy and shouting in ecstasy,
Some looking for the lord, some asking where he is,
Some playing diverse musical instruments,
Some singing and some dancing to the music,
Thus became the scene in Gokulam. 2
The denizens of Gokulam are driven to a frenzy when they learn of the arrival of Krsna. Even as the news spreads, the people rush towards Nandagōpāla’s palace, tripping over objects on the way, and shouting excitedly. Where is the lord, they ask excitedly, as they reach the palace. A few are playing on various musical instruments to which some are singing and some are dancing. Brindāvan thus became a scene of revelry as the inhabitants of the five lakh households welcomed the newborn.
That a lovable and dear child is born,
To see him they rush into the portals of the lord.
Is any male comparable to this perfect person?
Not even Visnu, the lord of Tiruvonam, they assert. 3
Lovable (Peni) has many meanings – to desire, to adorn, to protect. All these are applicable to Krsna. He was born to Yaśoda and Nandagōpāla in answer to their prayers. He came to adorn the cowherd community. He was conveyed into the protection of Nandagōpāla and away from the reach of the evil Kamsa. Nandagōpāla’s house was kept open for one and all to rush in and see the divine child. The cowherds are captivated by the splendor of the child who they feel is perfect and is destined to rule the world. The divine attributes excel even those of Visnu, whose constellation is Tiruvonam, they assert.
As they dance, they crash the pots from the suspended ropes,
They smear themselves with sweet smelling milk and curd,
They untie their soft and thick locks and as in a trance,
The cowherds appear bereft of their senses. 4
In the rampage caused by their celebrations, the cowherds upset the milk and curd pots that are kept suspended by ropes. They smear themselves and others with milk and curd. Their hair becomes disheveled as they dance wildly. They seem to lose their sanity.
To this day, the birth of Krsna is celebrated with wild enthusiasm. Breaking the pot suspended from a height is a game which is very popular on this occasion.
With the ropes holding pots thick and long,
With sticks elegantly fixed with sickle,
With thatched leaf beds
and teeth like jasmine blossoms,
The cowherds enter the palace and bathe
after smearing ghee on themselves. 5
The cowherds who have spent the night in the fields after grazing the cows are now returning to Brndāvan. They have with them their sickle-ended sticks with which they manage the cows and with which they clear the jungle. On their shoulders they have suspended a stick on either end of which milk pots are hanging by ropes. Rushing directly from the field as they do, they carry their thatched beds made of palm and coconut leaves. Their teeth are well-formed and bright as jasmine blossoms. They rush in and join in the festivities by smearing ghee on themselves and taking the ritual bath.
Massaging the hands and legs and
pouring hot water from the cauldron,
Delicately bathing the child,
She scrapes the tender tongue with a turmeric chunk,
And behold, in his mouth the entire universe is seen. 6
The ritual bathing of the child is described here. After gently massaging him with oil, the mother pours warm water from the cauldron with a coconut shell and bathes the baby. She then takes a piece of turmeric to scrape the baby’s tongue with. When she opens the mouth, she is amazed to see inside, the entire universe.
The simple but noble women viewing inside the mouth say,
This is no mere cowherd child but one radiating rare qualities,
Elusive and with divine attributes.
So muse the cowfolk gathered around him. 7
Desiring to share her experience with her friends, Yaśoda calls them and beckons them to see inside the baby’s mouth. As they share Yaśodha’s experience, the astonished women tell each other that this is no mere cowherd boy but the great god himself. His radiance and divine features mark him as the elusive god, the women talk in delight.
After ten days and two have passed,
With victory columns and festoons all around,
The lord who bore the churning mountain
They embraced and rejoiced. 8
The Twelfth Day after birth, taboos on the mother and child which keep them isolated are lifted. There is great celebration to mark this. The town is decorated with festoons and a number of victory staff are planted. The cowfolk ceremoniously lift the child and embrace him. The sea of milk was churned by the gods and demons in order to obtain nectar. The mountain Mandara was used as the churner and the serpant Vāsuki was used as the rope. The mountain was too heavy to be lifted from the bottom of the sea. Here, Visnu took the incarnation of the Boar and lifted the mountain. But when it came to the cowfolk to lift him, the lord made himself light.
Kicking in his sleep he breaks the cradle,
While being carried he breaks the hip,
While being embraced he kicks at the stomach,
He has made me thin and emaciated, my friend. 9
In this beautiful verse, Periyālvār for the first time imagines himself to be Yaśoda and converses with the other women. They ask Yaśoda what is the reason for her looking so thin and weak. The child breaks the cradle when he kicks in his sleep. Hence I have to keep a vigil, Yaśoda says. When I lift him and hold him, he breaks my hip. When I put him to my breast in embrace he pushes me hard on the stomach. Is there any wonder then that I have become lean, she asks.
In Tirukottiyūr surrounded by fertile rice fields,
The birth of the perfect lord who resides there
Is described with music by the brahmin Visnucitta.
Those who recite this would be redeemed from sins. 10
This is the signature verse identifying the composer of this poem and the benediction. Compliment is paid to Tirukottiyūr which is surrounded by lush, green fields. The writer is Visnucitta who wears the sacred thread. Those who recite this poem set to music, will be freed from their sins.

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