Can God be bound? Who can conquer God? If God is the Supreme Controller who can possibly control Him? Answers to these apparently unanswerable questions are pleasing to the heart when heard from bona fide sources. The simple answer is that God who cannot be bound or conquered or controlled by the feeble physical, mental and intellectual abilities of man, is easily conquered by the love and affection of His dear devotees. Here is an incident that testimonies the Lord’s quality of being controlled by devotee’s love – bhakti baddham, bhaktair jitatvam or bhakta vasyata.

About five thousand years ago, in the beautiful village of Gokula, in the month of Kartika, a fascinating incident took place that is revered by millions till date and continuing to enchant the hearts of devotees of Krishna. This event, popularly called as ‘Damodar lila’ is recorded in the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam and many other devotional literatures and is repeatedly described and relished by devotees.

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Early in the morning, on Deepavali day, Mother Yashoda was churning butter for her darling son Krishna while singing songs of His charming activities. Attracted by her loving service, little Krishna got up from sleep and approached Yashoda hungry for her milk. Yashoda very lovingly embraced Him and started feeding Him, enjoying the sight of His beautiful face that resembles a fresh blue lotus bathed in full moon light. Suddenly, Yashoda heard the sound of boiling milk overflowing in the kitchen. That was the most special milk of the Padmagandha cows. To stop her son from stealing butter from the houses of other gopis of Vrindavan, queen Yasoda would personally tend these cows and make butter herself, from their milk, for Krishna. Now, to stop that milk from spilling, Yashoda at once put Krishna aside and ran into the kitchen.

Left in a dissatisfied state by His mother, angry Krishna took a piece of stone and silently broke a pot of yogurt. He fled away from the scene of crime not noticing the clue He left, His butter footprints! He then climbed on a wooden grinding mortar, managed to reach the butter pot hanging from the ceiling and started eating it and distributing it to the monkeys of Vrindavan. That was the previous day’s butter. Krsna intended to become sick by eating it, thus teaching a lesson to Mother Yashoda. However He was fearful of the punishment and was carefully watching all directions.

Coming back from the kitchen after setting the overflowing milk pan in order, Yashoda wondered to see the yogurt flowing on the floor from the broken pot. Following the small butter footprints of her child, Yashoda silently approached Krishna with a stick concealed in her cloth, and suddenly stood in front of Him. Krsna was shocked to see His mother with stick for the first time, and ran in fear towards the main gate, hoping that she wouldn’t punish Him in public. Yashoda then started chasing Krishna. Krishna, whose sight makes fear personified tremble in fear, is now fearful of the stick in His beloved mother. He ran and ran, but was finally caught by His mother’s love. Krishna repeatedly pleaded His mother to throw away the stick, promising her not to do any mischief again. Yashoda felt compassionate and threw the stick, but feared that Krishna might run away into the forest. She wanted to tie Him to the grinding mortar so that He wouldn’t run away while she is involved in her household chores. However, despite all her determined attempts to tie Him, the rope would always fall two fingers too short. Finally Krsna agreed to be bound by His mother’s love, thus advertising to the devotees attached to His majesty, that He would only be captivated and controlled by the love of His devotees like Yashoda. This attractive form of Krishna whose belly is bound by the rope of His mother’s love is called Damodara.

This Damodar Lila shows the supreme quality of Lord Krishna that He is bound and conquered by the love (bhakti baddham, bhaktair jitatvam, bhakta vasyata) of His devotees.

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Restless Krishna thought of making the most of His bound up condition. He pulled the grinding mortar with the rope and crawled between the two huge trees standing in the courtyard. The trees fell down making a tumultuous noise, and two effulgent personalities came out of those trees. They are actually the two sons of the demigod Kuvera, namely Nalakuvara and Manigriva, who were cursed by Narada muni for their misbehavior, to become trees. Now Lord Damodara delivered them from their curse.

The Kartika month during which Lord Damodara performed this enchanting pastime is also called the Damodara maas. During Damodara month, Lord Damodara along with His Mother Yashoda, is offered lamps of love by millions of His devotees daily, while beautiful verses glorifying Lord Damodara (Damodarastakam) are being sung. The sight of the effulgent Lord dressed in colorful garments, decorated with fragrant flowers, adorned with beautiful ornaments, and glowing in the illumination of thousands of lamps offered lovingly and gracefully by His dear devotees, is incredibly stunning, especially on Diwali! According to Skanda Purana, one who offers a lamp in the temple of Vishnu during the month of Kartika attains wealth, good children, fame, and glory. Let’s utilize this opportunity and offer our lamps of love to Lord Damodara.

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