The Nandotsav – Birth ceremony of Lord Sri Krishna Taken from Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto, 5th Chapter, translated by H.D.G. Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
As described in this chapter, Nanda Maharaja very gorgeously performed the birth ceremony for his newborn child. Then he went to Kamsa to pay taxes due and met his intimate friend Vasudeva.
There was great jubilation all over Vrindavana due to Krishna’s birth. Everyone was overwhelmed with joy. Therefore the King of Vraja, Maharaja Nanda, wanted to perform the birth ceremony for his child, and this he did. During this great festival, Nanda Maharaja gave in charity to all present whatever they desired. After the festival, Nanda Maharaja put the cowherd men in charge of protecting Gokula, and then he went to Mathura to pay official taxes to Kamsa. In Mathura, Nanda Maharaja met Vasudeva. Nanda Maharaja and Vasudeva were brothers, and Vasudeva praised Nanda Maharaja’s good fortune because he knew that Krishna had accepted Nanda Maharaja as His father. When Vasudeva inquired from Nanda Maharaja about the welfare of the child, Nanda Maharaja informed him all about Vrindavana, and Vasudeva was very much satisfied by this, although he expressed his grief because Devaki’s many children had been killed by Kamsa. Nanda Maharaja consoled Vasudeva by saying that everything happens according to destiny and that one who knows this is not aggrieved. Expecting many disturbances in Gokula, Vasudeva then advised Nanda Maharaja not to wait in Mathura, but to return to Vrindavana as soon as possible. Thus Nanda Maharaja took leave of Vasudeva and returned to Vrindavana with the other cowherd men on their bullock carts.
nandas tv atmaja utpanne
ahuya vipran veda-jnan
snatah sucir alankritah
karayam asa vidhivat
Sukadeva Gosvami said: Nanda Maharaja was naturally very magnanimous, and when Lord Sri Krishna appeared as his son, he was overwhelmed by jubilation. Therefore, after bathing and purifying himself and dressing himself properly, he invited brahmanas who knew how to recite Vedic mantras. After having these qualified brahmanas recite auspicious Vedic hymns, he arranged to have the Vedic birth ceremony celebrated for his newborn child according to the rules and regulations, and he also arranged for worship of the demigods and forefathers.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has discussed the significance of the words nandas tu. The word tu, he says, is not used to fulfill the sentence, because without tu the sentence is complete. Therefore the word tu is used for a different purpose. Although Krishna appeared as the son of Devaki, Devaki and Vasudeva did not enjoy the jata-karma, the festival of the birth ceremony. Instead, this ceremony was enjoyed by Nanda Maharaja, as stated here (nandas tv atmaja utpanne jatahlado maha-manah). When Nanda Maharaja met Vasudeva, Vasudeva could not disclose, “Your son Krishna is actually my son. You are His father in a different way, spiritually.” Because of fear of Kamsa, Vasudeva could not observe the festival for Krishna’s birth, Nanda Maharaja, however, took full advantage of this opportunity.
The jata-karma ceremony can take place when the umbilical cord, connecting the child and the placenta, is cut. However, since Krishna was brought by Vasudeva to the house of Nanda Maharaja, where was the chance for this to happen? In this regard, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura desires to prove with evidence from many sastras that Krishna actually took birth as the son of Yasoda before the birth of Yogamaya, who is therefore described as the Lord’s younger sister. Even though there may be doubts about the cutting of the umbilical cord, and even though it is possible that this was not done, when the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears, such events are regarded as factual. Krishna appeared as Varahadeva from the nostril of Brahma, and therefore Brahma is described as the father of Varahadeva. Also significant are the words karayam asa vidhivat. Being overwhelmed with jubilation over the birth of his son, Nanda Maharaja did not see whether the cord was cut or not. Thus he performed the ceremony very gorgeously. According to the opinion of some authorities, Krishna was actually born as the son of Yasoda. In any case, without regard for material understandings, we can accept that Nanda Maharaja’s celebration for the ceremony of Krishna’s birth was proper. This ceremony is therefore well known everywhere as Nandotsava.
dhenunam niyute pradad
tiladrin sapta ratnaugha-
Nanda Maharaja gave two million cows, completely decorated with cloth and jewels, in charity to the brahmanas. He also gave them seven hills of grain, covered with jewels and with cloth decorated with golden embroidery.
sudhyanti danaih santushtya
O King, by the passing of time, land and other material possessions are purified; by bathing, the body is purified; and by being cleansed, unclean things are purified. By purificatory ceremonies, birth is purified; by austerity, the senses are purified; and by worship and charity offered to the brahmanas, material possessions are purified. By satisfaction, the mind is purified; and by self-realization, or Krishna consciousness, the soul is purified.
These are sastric injunctions concerning how one can purify everything according to Vedic civilization. Unless purified, anything we use will infect us with contamination. In India five thousand years ago, even in the villages such as that of Nanda Maharaja, people knew know to purify things, and thus they enjoyed even material life without contamination.
gayakas ca jagur nedur
bheryo dundubhayo muhuh
The brahmanas recited auspicious Vedic hymns, which purified the environment by their vibration. The experts in reciting old histories like the Puranas, the experts in reciting the histories of royal families, and general reciters all chanted, while singers sang and many kinds of musical instruments, like bheris and dundubhis, played in accompaniment.
Vrajapura, the residence of Nanda Maharaja, was fully decorated with varieties of festoons and flags, and in different places, gates were made with varieties of flower garlands, pieces of cloth, and mango leaves. The courtyards, the gates near the roads, and everything within the rooms of the houses were perfectly swept and washed with water.
gavo vrisha vatsatara
The cows, the bulls and the calves were thoroughly smeared with a mixture of turmeric and oil, mixed with varieties of minerals. Their heads were bedecked with peacock feathers, and they were garlanded and covered with cloth and golden ornaments.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead has instructed in Bhagavad-gita (18.44), krishi-go-rakshya-vanijyam vaisya-karma-svabhavajam: “Farming, cow protection and trade are the qualities of work for the vaisyas.” Nanda Maharaja belonged to the vaisya community, the agriculturalist community. How to protect the cows and how rich this community was are explained in these verses. We can hardly imagine that cows, bulls and calves could be cared for so nicely and decorated so well with cloths and valuable golden ornaments. How happy they were. As described elsewhere in the Bhagavatam, during Maharaja Yudhishthira’s time the cows were so happy that they used to muddy the pasturing ground with milk. This is Indian civilization. Yet in the same place, India, Bharata-varsha, how much people are suffering by giving up the Vedic way of life and not understanding the teachings of Bhagavad-gita.
gopah samayayu rajan
O King Parikshit, the cowherd men dressed very opulently with valuable ornaments and garments such as coats and turbans. Decorated in this way and carrying various presentations in their hands, they approached the house of Nanda Maharaja.
When we consider the past condition of the agriculturalist in the village, we can see how opulent he was, simply because of agricultural produce and protection of cows. At the present, however, agriculture having been neglected and cow protection given up, the agriculturalist is suffering pitiably and is dressed in a niggardly torn cloth. This is the distinction between the India of history and the India of the present day. By the atrocious activities of ugra-karma, how we are killing the opportunity of human civilization!
gopyas cakarnya mudita
atmanam bhushayam cakrur
The gopi wives of the cowherd men were very pleased to hear that mother Yasoda had given birth to a son, and they began to decorate themselves very nicely with proper dresses, ornaments, black ointment for the eyes, and so on.
balibhis tvaritam jagmuh
Their lotuslike faces extraordinarily beautiful, being decorated with saffron and newly grown kunkuma, the wives of the cowherd men hurried to the house of mother Yasoda with presentations in their hands. Because of natural beauty, the wives had full hips and full breasts, which moved as they hurried along.
The cowherd men and women in the villages lived a very natural life, and the women developed a natural feminine beauty, with full hips and breasts. Because women in modern civilization do not live naturally, their hips and breasts do not develop this natural fullness. Because of artificial living, women have lost their natural beauty, although they claim to be independent and advanced in material civilization. This description of the village women gives a clear example of the contrast between natural life and the artificial life of a condemned society, such as that of the Western countries, where topless, bottomless beauty may be easily purchased in clubs and shops and for public advertisements. The word balibhih indicates that the women were carrying gold coins, jeweled necklaces, nice cloths, newly grown grass, sandalwood pulp, flower garlands and similar offerings on plates made of gold. Such offerings are called bali. The words tvaritam jagmuh indicate how happy the village women were to understand that mother Yasoda had given birth to a wonderful child known as Krishna.
citrambarah pathi sikha-cyuta-malya-varshah
nandalayam sa-valaya vrajatir virejur
In the ears of the gopis were brilliantly polished jeweled earrings, and from their necks hung metal lockets. Their hands were decorated with bangles, their dresses were of varied colors, and from their hair, flowers fell onto the street like showers. Thus while going to the house of Maharaja Nanda, the gopis, their earrings, breasts and garlands moving, were brilliantly beautiful.
The description of the gopis, who were going to the house of Maharaja Nanda to welcome Krishna, is especially significant. The gopis were not ordinary women, but expansions of Krishna’s pleasure potency, as described in the Brahma-samhita (5.37,29):
tabhir ya eva nija-rupataya kalabhih
goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhuto
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
lakshavriteshu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
Krishna is always worshiped by the gopis wherever He goes. Therefore Krishna is so vividly described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has also described Krishna in this way: ramya kacid upasana vrajavadhu-vargena ya kalpita. All these gopis were going to offer Krishna their presentations because the gopis are eternal associates of the Lord. Now the gopis were more jubilant because of the news of Krishna’s appearance in Vrindavana.
ta asishah prayunjanas
ciram pahiti balake
sincantyo ’janam ujjaguh
Offering blessings to the newborn child, Krishna, the wives and daughters of the cowherd men said, “May You become the King of Vraja and long maintain all its inhabitants.” They sprinkled a mixture of turmeric powder, oil and water upon the birthless Supreme Lord and offered their prayers.
krishne visvesvare ’nante
nandasya vrajam agate
Now that the all-pervading, unlimited Lord Krishna, the master of the cosmic manifestation, had arrived within the estate of Maharaja Nanda, various types of musical instruments resounded to celebrate the great festival.
The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (4.7):
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srijamy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.” Whenever Krishna comes, once in a day of Brahma, He comes to the house of Nanda Maharaja in Vrindavana. Krishna is the master of all creation (sarva-loka-mahesvaram [Bg. 5.29]). Therefore, not only in the neighborhood of Nanda Maharaja’s estate, but all over the universe—and in all the other universes—musical sounds celebrated the auspicious arrival of the Lord.
gopah parasparam hrishta
navanitais ca cikshipuh
In gladness, the cowherd men enjoyed the great festival by splashing one another’s bodies with a mixture of curd, condensed milk, butter and water. They threw butter on one another and smeared it on one another’s bodies.
From this statement we can understand that five thousand years ago not only was there enough milk, butter and curd to eat, drink and cook with, but when there was a festival it would be thrown about without restriction. There was no limit to how extensively milk, butter, curd and other such products were used in human society. Everyone had an ample stock of milk, and by using it in many varied milk preparations, people would keep good health in natural ways and thus enjoy life in Krishna consciousness.
nando maha-manas tebhyo
ye ’nye vidyopajivinah
tais taih kamair adinatma
The great-minded Maharaja Nanda gave clothing, ornaments and cows in charity to the cowherd men in order to please Lord Vishnu, and thus he improved the condition of his own son in all respects. He distributed charity to the sutas, the magadhas, the vandis, and men of all other professions, according to their educational qualifications, and satisfied everyone’s desires.
Although it has become fashionable to speak of daridra-narayana, the words vishnor aradhanarthaya do not mean that all the people satisfied by Nanda Maharaja in this great ceremony were Vishnus. They were not daridra, nor were they Narayana. Rather, they were devotees of Narayana, and by their educational qualifications they would satisfy Narayana. Therefore, satisfying them was an indirect way of satisfying Lord Vishnu. Mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika (SB 11.19.21). The Lord says, “Worshiping My devotees is better than worshiping Me directly.” The varnasrama system is entirely meant for vishnu-aradhana, worship of Lord Vishnu. Varnasramacaravata purushena parah puman/ vishnur aradhyate (Vishnu Purana 3.8.9). The ultimate goal of life is to please Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord. The uncivilized man or materialistic person, however, does not know this aim of life. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum (SB 7.5.31). One’s real self-interest lies in satisfying Lord Vishnu. Not satisfying Lord Vishnu but instead attempting to become happy through material adjustments (bahir-artha-maninah) is the wrong way for happiness. Because Vishnu is the root of everything, if Vishnu is pleased, everyone is pleased; in particular, one’s children and family members become happy in all respects. Nanda Maharaja wanted to see his newborn child happy. That was his purpose. Therefore he wanted to satisfy Lord Vishnu, and to satisfy Lord Vishnu it was necessary to satisfy His devotees, such as the learned brahmanas, magadhas and sutas. Thus, in a roundabout way, ultimately it was Lord Vishnu who was to be satisfied.
rohini ca maha-bhaga
The most fortunate Rohini, the mother of Baladeva, was honored by Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda, and thus she also dressed gorgeously and decorated herself with a necklace, a garland and other ornaments. She was busy wandering here and there to receive the women who were guests at the festival.
Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva’s, was also kept under the care of Nanda Maharaja with her son Baladeva. Because her husband was imprisoned by Kamsa, she was not very happy, but on the occasion of Krishna-janmashtami, Nandotsava, when Nanda Maharaja gave dresses and ornaments to others, he also gave gorgeous garments and ornaments to Rohini so that she could take part in the festival. Thus she also was busy receiving the women who were guests. Because of her good fortune in being able to raise Krishna and Balarama together, she is described as maha-bhaga, greatly fortunate.