The mistake we make with the story of Lord Krishna’s birth is that we think it is only about that one night, which we now call Janmashtami. But what we fail to understand is that the story had begun ages ago, so many threads and so many characters had to come together to create that one historic night, when Lord Krishna was born and it was prophesied that he would be the one to kill Kansa. One thread that we have already discussed is that of Kansa himself.
Now another character takes center stage, and she is none other than Devaki, the biological mother to Lord Krishna. Even with Devaki’s history, there are two storylines that must be discussed in order for one to truly understand why Devaki was destined for bearing so much pain in her lifetime. The first storyline is that of Devaki herself. Hence it makes sense that we look at this side of events first.
Right in the beginning it was mentioned that Devaki is the second reincarnation of Prsni, who had, with her devotion, been granted a boon by Lord Vishnu, that he would be born to her thrice. The first time Prsni was reincarnated, she was Aditi, King Daksha and Queen Panchajani’s daughter. She had many other siblings, but the one who is of interest in this story is one of her sisters, Diti. Diti, Aditi and 11 other daughters of Daksha and Panchajani married Kashyapa Muni, who in turn was a reincarnation of Prajapati Sutapa.
Hence, Lord Vishnu’s chosen couple had come together again and as discussed earlier, Lord Vishnu took birth as their son Upendra or Vamana. But right now the focus is on Aditi’s other offspring. Aditi also mothered Indra, the God of lightning, thunder, rain and war. Diti was jealous of Aditi and especially of the fact that she had such a powerful son as Indra. Many of Diti’s children fought Indra, and a lot of them died.
At this point, Diti had only one aim in life, and that was to bear a son more powerful than Indra. At last, Diti appealed to their husband Kashyapa Muni that he grant her a boon, by which she would give birth to such a son. Kashyapa Muni warned her that the pregnancy would last a hundred years and that she would have to perform certain rituals every day. If she ignored any of these rituals, ever, then she and her child would both become vulnerable. Diti accepted the terms without hesitation.
It was the 99th year of Diti’s pregnancy and she was glowing with the aura of the powerful child inside her, who was almost ready to be born. On the other hand, Aditi was perturbed and decided to converse on the matter with Indra. Indra seemed nonchalant about the fact that Diti was soon to become a mother again but when Aditi explained to him that the primary objective of this child would be to vanquish him, he paled.
Mother and son knew that fair play would not work in this situation, hence they resorted to trickery. One fine day, Indra appeared in Diti’s chambers on the pretext of wanting to meet her. He noticed how radiant she looked and understood that everything his mother had warned him about was true. He showed concern about Diti’s well being and health and offered to stay with her and serve her until her child was born.
Diti knew she could not refuse Indra, but she also knew that the sacred rituals she performed every day would keep her safe. She accepted his offer.
One night while Diti was fast asleep, Indra used his weapon Vajra or thunderbolt on her womb. But he was aghast when the weapon diverted on its own and did not even go near her. Indra understood that Diti’s rituals were keeping her safe. He would just have to wait for a chance. When and if Diti made a mistake, that would be his opportunity.
Indra was patient, but Diti was so close to giving birth that he began to lose hope. And then one night, it happened. Weighed down by her swollen belly, Diti was so exhausted that night that she forgot to perform the ritual of washing her feet before going to bed. She fell asleep with dirty feet. Indra took this opportunity, used his Vajra and split her fetus into 49 pieces.
Diti immediately woke up and she knew her child had been destroyed. She directly asked Indra if he had murdered her unborn child. She was such a terrifying figure then, trembling with loss and rage, that Indra stammered, and in that moment she cursed him. By dictate of this curse, Indra would never be able to rule peacefully, something or someone would always be in his way.
Indra, realizing that Diti was powerful enough that her spoken curse would come true, tried to convince her to take her curse back by blaming Aditi for the plan. Diti, further enraged by Aditi’s involvement, cursed her too. She condemned Aditi to be born as a human in her next lifetime and also said that her children would be killed in front of her and she would not be able to do a thing.
All of this happened in the Treta Yuga.
Finally, in the Dwapar Yug, Prsni, who had been reincarnated as Aditi, was once again reincarnated as Devaki. And by the curse of her previous lifetime, Kansa killed her children in front of her, one by one, and she was helpless. But the events that led to Devaki bearing so much sadness in her lifetime do not end here. There is another thread, another storyline, which when comes together with this one, brings it all full circle. We will discuss those set of events in the next blog.