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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Note:: Special thanks to Jaya Tirtha Caran prabhu from NZ for allowing us to use
some of the content from his site to compile these pages.