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Krishna as Vatapathra-Shayee
lying on a banyan leaf, sucking his toe


"Why do the best of the sages reject even heavenly nectar
and instead drink the water from My lotus feet?"
Thinking in this way, Bala-Mukunda eagerly sucks His own lotus foot.

Checking For Himself The Sweetness of His Own Toe,
Wondering What Makes People Drink the Water Touched by It
(The Lord and His Maya)


During the universal deluge, the Supreme Lord Narayana takes the form of a little baby floating on a banyan leaf over the dangerous torrents of pralaya jalam, the waters of cosmic dissolution. He protects all the universe and its beings by swallowing them in His tiny stomach and rests them there , while contemplating about their creation once again after the deluge by releasing the Universe and its beings from the safe storage place (viz)., His stomach . Leela Sukha (Bilvamangala Thakur) in one of his Krishna Karnamritha slokas 2.57 describes the baby (Bala-Mukunda) that floats on the pralaya waters on top of a banyan leaf after swallowing the universe and its contents for their protection:

kararavindhena padharavindam / mukharavindhe vinivesayantham
vatasya patrasya pute shayanam / balam-mukundam manasa smarami

(Translation) With His soft lotus hands, our baby Mukunda has grabbed His lotus like toe and placed it in His lotus mouth, decorated with red lips, and sucks on it in amusement as He rests on the tender shoot of a Pupil leaf contemplating on the next cycle of creation.

The above vision of Vatapathra Saayee (vata pathra sayanam) is a beautiful one. His hands, feet and Face are like aravindham (Lotus flower). Like an innocent child, there He rests after completing the miraculous act of swallowing the Universe for safe keeping.

 



Krishna checking For Himself The Sweetness of His Own Toe,
Wondering What Makes People Drink the Water Touched by It (The Lord and His Maya)

Krishna Vatapathra-Shayee

 

The narration of Krishna sucking his toe,
lying on a banyan leaf is recounted in the Markandeya Purana
:

see also Mahabharata: Vana Parva, Chapter 187-188


'Before the beginning, there was an end: the end of the old era. . . Black clouds obstructed the sun and hurled lightning in every direction. Unrelenting rains lashed the ground. The seven rivers began to swell and the four oceans started to overflow. Waves as high as mountains drowned the earth. This was pralaya, the final dissolution of the world, before its regeneration. The sole witness to this cosmic deluge was Markandeya Rishi, a great saint.

One evening, Markandeyaji sat on the bank of the river Subhadraa, to do the evening Sandhya Vandan worship. It seemed to him that the sea was rising on all sides, coming towards him, flooding everything in its path. The water reached him and swept him away, but he did not die. He saw the whole world submerged in water. Sometimes, some creatures of the sea would swallow him and sometimes some other creatures would swallow him, but they would throw him out again. He wandered thus for several millions of year. Ultimately, he saw a tiny baby sleeping on a cupped leaf of a banyan (peepal) tree.

It is stated by the Lord in the Vedas: “Oh, Human! This village of yours is balanced on the banyan leaf and your lifespan is just alike a drop of water running down that leaf, which may fall any minute.”

Suddenly, amongst all the confusion, Markandeya noticed a banyan leaf floating on the ocean, tossed by the waves. On this unlikely raft lay a beautiful and adorable child, suckling his right toe, unperturbed by the calamity that had befallen the world. It was Krishna as Balaji, the newborn cosmic child.

The infant's heavenly smile negated the brutality of the pralaya (cosmic deluge). His compassionate glance reassured Markandeya that life would go on, convincing him that the world never ends, but only changes.

Now, Markandeya saw that the baby was sucking his own big toe. The Mahatmas have said, about this, that the baby was the Lord Bala-gopal himself. He was sucking his big toe, to check what sweetness it has, which makes people drink the water touched by it.

When Markandeyaji went close to this baby, he was sucked in with the air, when the baby took a breath. Inside, he saw hundreds of thousand of universes and all that had been consumed by the deluge - the skies, the seas, the earth, gods, demons, humans, animals and plants. So mush so, that he even had a glimpse of his own Ashram on the banks of the Subhadra River. He saw himself sitting in meditation. Markandeya thus realized that the child was none other than the cosmic god (Narayana) who had withdrawn the world into himself.

Since Saint Markandeya, the son of Mrikand Rishi, was worshipping the Lord, the Lord was pleased with him, ready to give any boons Markandeya would wish for.

Markandeyaji had no material desire whatsoever, but when the Lord Narayana appeared before him and told him to ask for a boon since He was pleased with Markandeyaji’s stuti. Markandeyaji prayed, “Sir, I have obtained your vision, and desire nothing else. However, I want to see what your Maya is. Please grace me with a glimpse of your Maya.”

The Lord was quite surprised to hear Markandeyaji’s request. However, he said, “All right, you will have a glimpse.”

Then Markandeya emerged again, when the baby exhaled. When he went to bow down to the baby, he realized that there was no baby, and no other scene. He was back at the same spot, on the same day, at the same time, as when he started his Sandhya Vandan, his worship of the Lord.

Markandeyaji thought, “Oh, what was all that which I saw?” Then he understood that it was the play of Maya, which he had seen. Maya hid the Paramatma, hid the truth, and showed - like a magic show - that, which did not exist. Markandeyaji was wonderstruck. He realized that one can never understand God, but only sing His glories. He thus became engrossed in the prayers and meditation of the Lord again.

The sage Markandeya was the one who witnessed Lord Krishna as a toe-sucking infant lying on a banyan leaf, floating in the vastness of the primordial cosmic ocean. When the perplexed sage asked the god to explain the secret behind his apparition, the lord replied as follows: "I am the Primal Cosmic Man, Narayana . . . . I am the Lord of Waters." Thus this image of the playful infant Krishna is in reality a manifestation of the cosmic form of Vishnu, and corresponds to the epithet often used for Shiva 'sadyojata,' or the new born.

This cosmic Vishnu is different from his awesome universal manifestation envisaged in the Bhagvad Gita known as the Vishvarupa

This artwork was created in the small town of Kishangarh, twenty-five kilometres from Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan.

The sun-like baby Krishna is lying on a huge green banyan leaf floating on water, he looks at the ignorant world with seeming by innocent eyes. A smile, displaying a couple of baby teeth, plays on his lips. Enormous details, though as much realistic, tend to depict him as a tender, lovable, most extraordinary child, with beautiful face - a face that holds the most impish smile, naughty eyes that contain a glint within. Dense, curly locks encompass his adorable and beautiful face. His mother Yashoda has tried to curtail his unruly hair in strings of pearls and pieces of jewellery.

The body of baby Krishna is adorned lovingly with jewellery and majestic ornaments. The peacock feather is tucked in the knotted hair. The sacred Vaishnava mark of Vishnu (tilaka) rests on his small forehead. A yellow divine halo can be seen around his face.

Krishna's s bodily gestures are like any child of his age. With one hand occupied with the flute, that has been associated in all of his lilas, he uses the other hand to direct his toe to his mouth which parts mischievously. He must have been initially wrapped in a yellow-orange cloth, which he might have also kicked away. The water in the upper background is calm but where the leaf with Krishna passes from, the water rises as if to touch his little divine lotus feet.

In the background, towards the left stands an aged, gentle rishi Markandeya with flowing beard and hair; tulsi beads form his necklace, bracelets and armlets. He stands with folded hands paying salutations to Krishna. He recognizes the divine lord even in his form as baby Krishna Bala-Gopal. In his expression he has genteel and wisdom that arises out of dedication and devotion to God. He stands against a backdrop of the ocean.

 


 

Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 12, Chapter 9, Text 1-34


Suta Gosvami said: The Supreme Lord Narayana, the friend of Nara, was satisfied by the proper glorification offered by the intelligent sage Markandeya. Thus the Lord addressed that excellent descendant of Bhrigu.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Markandeya, you are indeed the best of all learned brahmanas. You have perfected your life by practicing fixed meditation upon the Supreme Soul, as well as by focusing upon Me your undeviating devotional service, your austerities, your study of the Vedas and your strict adherence to regulative principles.

We are perfectly satisfied with your practice of lifelong celibacy. Please choose whatever benediction you desire, since I can grant your wish. May you enjoy all good fortune.

The sage said: O Lord of lords, all glories to You! O Lord Acyuta, You remove all distress for the devotees who surrender unto You. That you have allowed me to see You is all the benediction I want.

Such demigods as Lord Brahma achieved their exalted positions simply by seeing Your beautiful lotus feet after their minds had become mature in yoga practice. And now, my Lord, You have personally appeared before me.

O lotus-eyed Lord, O crest jewel of renowned personalities, although I am satisfied simply by seeing You, I do wish to see Your illusory potency, by whose influence the entire world, together with its ruling demigods, considers reality to be materially variegated.

Suta Gosvami said: O wise Saunaka, thus satisfied by Markandeya's praise and worship, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, smiling, replied, "So be it," and then departed for His hermitage at Badarikasrama.

Thinking always of his desire to see the Lord's illusory energy, the sage remained in his asrama, meditating constantly upon the Lord within fire, the sun, the moon, water, the earth, air, lightning and his own heart and worshiping Him with paraphernalia conceived in his mind. But sometimes, overwhelmed by waves of love for the Lord, Markandeya would forget to perform his regular worship.

O brahmana Saunaka, best of the Bhrigus, one day while Markandeya was performing his evening worship on the bank of the Pushpabhadra, a great wind suddenly arose.

That wind created a terrible sound and brought in its wake fearsome clouds that were accompanied by lightning and roaring thunder and that poured down on all sides torrents of rain as heavy as wagon wheels.

Then the four great oceans appeared on all sides, swallowing up the surface of the earth with their wind-tossed waves. In these oceans were terrible sea monsters, fearful whirlpools and ominous rumblings.

The sage saw all the inhabitants of the universe, including himself, tormented within and without by the harsh winds, the bolts of lightning, and the great waves rising beyond the sky. As the whole earth flooded, he grew perplexed and fearful.

Even as Markandeya looked on, the rain pouring down from the clouds filled the ocean more and more until that great sea, its waters violently whipped into terrifying waves by hurricanes, covered up all the earth's islands, mountains and continents.

The water inundated the earth, outer space, heaven and the celestial region. Indeed, the entire expanse of the universe was flooded in all directions, and out of all its inhabitants only Markandeya remained. His matted hair scattered, the great sage wandered about alone in the water as if dumb and blind.

Tormented by hunger and thirst, attacked by monstrous makaras and timingila fish and battered by the wind and waves, he moved aimlessly through the infinite darkness into which he had fallen. As he grew increasingly exhausted, he lost all sense of direction and could not tell the sky from the earth.

At times he was engulfed by the great whirlpools, sometimes he was beaten by the mighty waves, and at other times the aquatic monsters threatened to devour him as they attacked one another. Sometimes he felt lamentation, bewilderment, misery, happiness or fear, and at other times he experienced such terrible illness and pain that he felt himself dying.

Countless millions of years passed as Markandeya wandered about in that deluge, his mind bewildered by the illusory energy of Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Once, while wandering in the water, the brahmana Markandeya discovered a small island, upon which stood a young banyan tree bearing blossoms and fruits.

Upon a branch of the northeast portion of that tree he saw an infant boy lying within a leaf. The child's effulgence was swallowing up the darkness.

The infant's dark-blue complexion was the color of a flawless emerald, His lotus face shone with a wealth of beauty, and His throat bore marks like the lines on a conchshell. He had a broad chest, a finely shaped nose, beautiful eyebrows, and lovely ears that resembled pomegranate flowers and that had inner folds like a conchshell's spirals. The corners of His eyes were reddish like the whorl of a lotus, and the effulgence of His coral-like lips slightly reddened the nectarean, enchanting smile on His face. As He breathed, His splendid hair trembled and His deep navel became distorted by the moving folds of skin on His abdomen, which resembled a banyan leaf. The exalted brahmana watched with amazement as the infant took hold of one of His lotus feet with His graceful fingers, placed a toe within His mouth and began to suck.

As Markandeya beheld the child, all his weariness vanished. Indeed, so great was his pleasure that the lotus of his heart, along with his lotus eyes, fully blossomed and the hairs on his body stood on end. Confused as to the identity of the wonderful infant, the sage approached Him.

Just then the child inhaled, drawing Markandeya within His body like a mosquito. There the sage found the entire universe arrayed as it had been before its dissolution. Seeing this, Markandeya was most astonished and perplexed.

The sage saw the entire universe: the sky, heavens and earth, the stars, mountains, oceans, great islands and continents, the expanses in every direction, the saintly and demoniac living beings, the forests, countries, rivers, cities and mines, the agricultural villages and cow pastures, and the occupational and spiritual activities of the various social divisions. He also saw the basic elements of creation along with all their by-products, as well as time itself, which regulates the progression of countless ages within the days of Brahma. In addition, he saw everything else created for use in material life. All this he saw manifested before him as if it were real.

He saw before him the Himalaya Mountains , the Pushpabhadra River, and his own hermitage, where he had had the audience of the sages Nara-Narayana. Then, as Markandeya beheld the entire universe, the infant exhaled, expelling the sage from His body and casting him back into the ocean of dissolution.

In that vast sea he again saw the banyan tree growing on the tiny island and the infant boy lying within the leaf. The child glanced at him from the corner of His eyes with a smile imbued with the nectar of love, and Markandeya took Him into his heart through his eyes. Greatly agitated, the sage ran to embrace the transcendental Personality of Godhead.

At that moment the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the original master of all mysticism and who is hidden within everyone's heart, became invisible to the sage, just as the achievements of an incompetent person can suddenly vanish.

After the Lord disappeared, O brahmana, the banyan tree, the great water and the dissolution of the universe all vanished as well, and in an instant Markandeya found himself back in his own hermitage, just as before.

 

 

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