One reads and listens to stories about Krishna’s childhood pranks and feats with enjoyment. But beyond all this, there are deep symbolic meanings to each of these episodes, said V.S. Karunakarachariar, in a discourse. One is filled with awe at the child Krishna sucking out the life of Putana. But there is a symbolic significance. Putana comes with the plan of feeding the child poison through milk. Our ignorance is like the poisoned milk. It has to be destroyed for us to be able to reach the feet of the Lord. Of what dimensions our ignorance is can be seen from a description of the size of Putana. So big is she that her body cannot be disposed of easily. It is suggested that the huge body be cut into pieces first and then disposed of. But when this effort begins, the axes turn blunt! In the same way our ignorance too is huge and not easily got rid of. It requires Krishna’s mercy to destroy it. When Putana’s body is finally burnt, the smell that emanates is not that of burning flesh, but the smell of sandalwood. Thus Lord Krishna’s grace rids us of impurities.

Putana’s mission having proved unsuccessful, Kamsa then sends Chakatasura, who assumes the form of a wheel to kill Krishna. But Krishna destroys this demonic wheel as well. The cycle of births and deaths is never ending, and we keep coming back full circle to where we were, taking birth and dying only to be born again.

The only way to break this wheel is through Lord Krishna’s grace, and that is indicated in the Chakatasura episode. The asura Trinavartha appears as a mighty wind, and scoops up Krishna. But Krishna destroys him too. This is to show that just as Trinavartha takes Krishna away from His mother Yasoda, so also do rajasic qualities like anger keep us away from God.

As for Krishna stealing butter, this too has philosophical import. The butter implies the atma. The atma does not belong to us, and this is what the Lord shows us. In taking the butter, Krishna, therefore, is not stealing, but in fact, is only taking that which is His. The pot is broken by Krishna, to show us that the body to which we attach so much importance is really of no significance at all.

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