Devaki and Vasudeva are imprisoned by Kamsa, and each child of theirs is killed off as soon as it is born. Lord Krishna is the eighth child, the One destined to kill Kamsa. Devaki is anxious that at least this child should be spared. But her heart is filled with fear when she sees the child Krishna as the child has four arms. Krishna is seen with the weapons of Lord Narayana. Vasudeva and Devaki should have been delighted at the appearance of the child, but Devaki fears for the child’s life. Why should anyone be concerned for His safety? But Devaki is the quintessential mother, who is always anxious and watchful, lest harm befall her child. So she asks Krishna to appear as any normal child, with just two hands.
Describing Krishna’s birth, Andal refers to Krishna’s mother as ‘oruthi’. This simply means ‘a woman.’ But everyone is born to a woman. So what is so special about this woman, Devaki? She is special, because she has the unique distinction of having been the mother of the Supreme One in three births, said V.S. Karunakarachariar, in a discourse.
Devaki in one of her earlier births was known as Prisni. She and her husband Sutapa performed penance, instead of living together as man and wife. When the Lord appeared before them, He made sure that they would not ask for moksha, for there was the need for them to procreate. So He drew a veil of illusion over their minds. So instead of asking for moksha, Prisni said, “Let me have a son just like You.” But where and how does one find a child that is exactly like Lord Narayana? He is non pareil, and there can be no one to equal Him. Nor can there be another like Devaki, for who else has had the good fortune to be the mother of the Supreme One thrice? But why does Krishna appear with four hands when He is born? The first time He had appeared before Prisni He had shown His form with four hands. She had then asked for a child like Him, and therefore, now when Prisni is reborn as Devaki, He has appeared as her son and with four hands too! At the request of Devaki, He hides two of his hands. Krishna is the unique child of a unique mother.