Yogamaya: The other child born on Janamasthami

Dhirendra Kumar 26 Aug 2013 1:09 AM

Janamasthami is the birthday of Lord Krishna, the prince of Mathura and later King Dwarka. The most colourful of the nine Vishnuavtars, Krishna is also the pivotal figure of the grand Indian epic Mahabharat. He is credited with performing many a miracle for the people who whole-heartedly remember him – be it Draupadi, the consort of the Pandava princes or Sudama, his childhood friend.

Even the legend of his birth, which falls on the eighth day of the Indian calendar month of Bhadrapad, is replete with celestial activities. Not surprising that for ages his birthday – Janamasthami – has come to be celebrated as a festival of gaiety and splendour. After celebrating Raksha Bandhan, preparations start to commemorate the birth of Lord Krishna.

The festival is celebrated not only across the country but with a lot of pomp by Krishna followers across the globe. In India, the festival is celebrated in a big way in Mathura and Mumbai. This year the festival is scheduled to be celebrated on 28 August. Coming back to the miracles of Krishna, they are as wide ranging as killing a number of demons since his childhood, saving Draupadi from disgrace at the Hastinapur court, winning the battle of Kurukshetra by acting as charioteer to Pandava prince Arjuna. The stories of his miracles are endless.

But how did he achieve all this. In Hindu religion, the Gods derive power from their female companion. As Shiva is nothing without Shakti, so was Krishna without Yogmaya. We all know the legend of how Lord Krishna (who was born at midnight on ashtami, in the Mathura King Kansa’s prison), as the eighth son of Vasudeva and Devaki, was replaced by a baby girl, who was born at the same time to Nand and Yashoda in the village of Gokul across the Yamuna.

On hearing of the birth of the child, Kansa arrived at the prison to kill the infant. But the girl child slipped out of the hands of Kansa, as he was about to bang her head against the prison wall, and went up in the sky. Thereafter there was an Akashvani (celestial broadcast), which said, ‘O foolish Kansa! Your slayer has been born and is safe in Gokul.’ The baby girl was an incarnation of goddess Yogmaya (divine illusion), according to Shvetashvatar Upnishad. God has many divine powers, such as knowledge (called chit tattva), almightiness, action (for example, the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the universe) and his most important personal power (swabhaviki) called Yogmaya or ahladini shakti. In the Hindu scripture Devi Mahatmyam, Maya covers Vishnu’s eyes in Yoganidra (divine sleep) during cycles of existence when all is resolved into one. By exhorting Mahamaya to release her illusory hold on Vishnu, Brahma was able to bring Vishnu to aid him in killing two demons — Madhu and Kaitabh. 19th century philosopher and preacher Ramakrishna Paramhansa often spoke of mother Maya as Krishna’s internal energy which arranged his pastimes and fostered spontaneous love for him by making his intimate devotees forget that he is a god. When Krishna descended to earth, Yogamaya appeared as his sister, Subhadra. Mahamaya, the material energy of illusion, is her partial expansion. As Krishna progressed in life both Yogmaya and Mahamaya (both are one) kept helping him. There is only one temple of Yogmaya in the entire world which is situated in Mehrauli in New Delhi. The deity is worshipped as the mother of all beings and is considered one of the personal powers of the divine. Another folk legend traces Mughal emperor Akbar-II’s association with the temple. His wife was distraught at the incarceration and exile of her son Mirza Jehangir who had fired from a Red Fort window at the then British Resident that had resulted in killing the Resident’s bodyguard. Yogmaya had appeared in her dream and after that the Queen praying for her son’s safe return had vowed to place pankhas (fan) made of flowers at the Yogmaya temple and at the nearby Sufi shrine of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. This practice has since continued to this day in the name of Phool Walon Ki Sair, a three-day festival held in October every year.