“Krishna replied, ‘My dear mother, they have plotted together and lodged a complaint against Me so that you will punish Me. My elder brother, Balarama, has joined them. Actually, I have not done this. Take My words as true. Do not be angry and chastise Me.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.34 Purport)
The neighborhood boys have conspired against the young Shyamasundara. He is innocent and playful, though He is already notorious for His naughty behavior. First He would go into other people’s homes and steal their butter. Then He would find young babies in different rooms and pinch them to make them cry. Sometimes He would open up the sheds where the calves were and let them out. The calves then rushed to their mother cows and drank all the milk in their bags before any of the cowherd men could come and take milk. Thus it was not surprising for Krishna to eat dirt, something a child shouldn’t do. But this time He was raising opposition directly before His mother, which was a little strange. The difference in behavior was not without a purpose, though.
Previously, when accused of things He actually had done, Krishna just let His charming smile do the magic. The cowherd women, the gopis, would lodge complaints to mother Yashoda with Krishna standing right there. Yet when they would look at Him, He’d play innocent and just smile. From that enchanting glance, the women would forget their anger and advise Yashoda not to punish Him. Being let off the hook that way gave Damodara the license to continue playing pranks and having fun as a child.
Yashoda’s son earned the name Damodara through an act of defiance committed directly against the mother. She had to get up one day while feeding Him, and since Krishna didn’t like this, He broke a pot of butter in anger. This butter had just been churned from yogurt, so He knew that it was important to His mother. Krishna then ran away, taking butter smeared footprints with Him to give away His location.
Yashoda mildly punished Krishna by tying Him to a mortar, thus earning the boy the nickname of Damodara. That punishment is marveled at by devotees who hear about it from reciters of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is also known as the Bhagavata Purana. The listener must wait until the tenth canto to hear accounts of such a charming incident. You see, the ordinary punishment of an ordinary child is not so noteworthy, but when you hear about this child’s transcendental features and supreme position from the first nine cantos of the work, you are better situated in consciousness to appreciate His childish play in the sacred town of Vrindavana.
The complaints by Krishna’s friends represented another chance for Damodara to show His magic, to give pleasure to His mother in a whole new way. The young boys would play out on the field during the day, taking the calves with them. The cows need to eat grass to survive, and based on natural love the mothers feel for their children, they produce milk. In this way milk becomes a special sort of food, one that is not ordinary. It is not produced out of necessity for personal gratification; it is completely rooted in affection for someone else. That milk which is then offered to society provides so many uses, proving how vital the cow and its protection are to society.
On this day Krishna was accused of eating dirt. Why would He do something like that? Earth can be used for so many purposes, such as a marked area for a sacrifice, the foundation for a house, and even pots and dishes, but it is never to be eaten. Young children don’t know any better, so it is not surprising for them to eat things that they shouldn’t. That is why part of the “baby proofing” process is securing the kitchen cabinets with locks. This way the curious young child can’t open the cabinets and ingest poisonous chemicals that are used as cleaning agents.
Yashoda asked her son if He had eaten dirt and He responded that He hadn’t. He blamed the incident on His friends, saying that their accusations were fabricated. Surprisingly, even Balarama was labeled a suspect by Krishna. Balarama was the elder brother, so it was strange for him to be against Krishna in this way. From everyone else’s point of view, the presumption was that Krishna was lying. He had already stolen butter and done so many other naughty things, so what would stop Him from eating dirt and disturbing the worrying mother?
Krishna does always get away with His tricks. When Damodara was tied to a mortar, within that position He caused two arjuna trees to drop, so how tied up could He actually have been? Previously there was no punishment for the other pranks, and Krishna also seemed to escape every attack made against Him. Vicious creatures from the neighboring town of Mathura were sent to kill Krishna because the young boy had actually appeared from the womb of mother Devaki, who was Kamsa’s sister. Kamsa, the king of Mathura, was told previously that his sister’s eighth child would kill him, but Krishna can never be killed, and so He managed to make it to Vrindavana unharmed.
None of the attacking demons left Vrindavana alive, and it was all Krishna’s doing. But now the young boy was in a trap. If He had eaten dirt, the evidence would be in His mouth, and since Yashoda was there this time, no one would be around to save Him. Finally the boy who never got caught for anything would get punished directly by the mother. The Supreme Controller would be under the control of others, instead of the other way around.
Of course the entire incident was orchestrated by Bhagavan Shri Krishna to give His mother more pleasure than she already felt. Within that sweet mouth was not dirt, but instead a vision of the entire creation. Through the excuse of the dirt, Krishna granted His mother a vision rarely seen. In this way she would see the opulence of Bhagavan but at the same time not abandon her parental affection towards Him, for He lay seated on her lap. The Supreme Personality plays these games with His most affectionate supporters. Krishna actually supports them in their devotion and gives them the cherished association that they desire so much.
Complaint to mother Yashoda was brought,
So this time Krishna sure to get caught.
Krishna ate dirt Balarama and friends said,
Hopefully to punishment He would be led.
Young boy’s mouth she’d have to examine,
But inside a vision one couldn’t imagine.
In this way Krishna always does play,
In final outcome He has the real say.
Devotees cherish that charming incident,
For in it God’s love for votaries evident.