Every year during the whole month of Kartika, often called Damodar by Vaishnavas, the pastimes of Lord Krishna are celebrated: especially the story of the young butter-thief and his mother Yaśoda. The verses of the Damodarastakam both tell the story and illustrate its spiritual significance to the aspiring devotee.
lasat-kuṇḍalam gokule bhrājamanam
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā
namami— I bow down; ishvaram — to the Supreme Lord; sac-cid-ananda-rupam — Who is the embodiment of eternity, sentience and bliss; lasat-kundalam — with swinging earrings; gokule — in Gokula; bhrajamanam — Who shines; yashoda-bhiya— in fear of Yashoda; ulukhalad — from the mortar; dhavamanam — running away; para-amrishtam — was caught from behind; atyantatah-drutya — running faster; gopya — by the gopi.
I bow down to the Supreme Lord, Who ever shines in Gokula. He is compact sentience, eternity, and bliss, in constitution. His earrings were dancing on His cheeks as He ran from the mortar in fear of mother Yashoda, who eventually caught Him in the chase that followed.
To the supreme controller, who possesses and eternal form of blissful knowledge, whose glistening earrings swing to and fro, who manifested Himself in Gokula, who stole the butter that the gopis kept hanging from the rafters of their storerooms and who then quickly jumped up and ran in retreat in fear of Mother Yasoda but was ultimately caught – to that Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.
rudantam muhur netra-yugmam mṛjantam
sthita-graivam dāmodaram bhakti-baddham
rudantam — weeping; muhuh — again and again; netra-yugmam— the two eyes; mrijantam— rubbing; kara-ambhoja-yugmena — with the two lotus hands; satanka-netram — having frightened eyes; muhuh — again and again; shvasa — due to rapid breathing; kampa — trembling; tri-rekha-anka-kantha — on the neck, marked with three lines like a conch; sthita — placed; graiva — necklace; damodaram — to Damodara; bhakti-baddham — Who is bound by bhakti.
Having been caught, He was sobbing and rubbing His frightened eyes with His lotus hands. His gasps were shaking the ornaments on His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conch. I bow down to Shri-Damodara, Who can be tied only by bhakti.
Upon seeing His mother’s whipping stick, He cried and rubbed His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes were fearful and His breathing quick, and as Mother Yasoda bound His belly with ropes, He shivered in fright and His pearl necklace shook. To this Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.
itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣam nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvam
punaḥ prematas tam śatāvṛtti vande
iti — thus; idrik-sva-lilabhih — by such activities; ananda-kunde — in a lake of bliss; sva-ghosham — His village; nimajjantam — submerging; akhyapayantam— disclosing; tadiya-ishita-jneshu — to those aware of His glories; bhaktaih jitatvam — Who is conquered by the devotees; punah — again; prematah — out of affection; tam — to Him; shata-avritti — hundred of times; vande — I chant His glories.
By such pastimes He flooded Gokula in a lake of bliss, and He revealed to those in awe for His majesty that devotees can conquer Him. Out of love, I chant His glories hundreds of times.
Those superexcellent pastimes of Lord Krishna’s babyhood drowned the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy. To the devotees who are attracted only to His majestic aspect of Narayana in Vaikuntha, the Lord herein reveals: “I am conquered and overwhelmed by pure loving devotion.” To the Supreme Lord, Damodara, my obeisances hundreds and hundreds of times.
varam deva mokṣam na mokṣāvadhim vā
na canyam vṛṇe ‘ham vareṣād apīha
idam te vapur nātha gopāla-bālam
sadā me manasy āvirāstām kim anyaiḥ
varam – boon; deva — O divine Lord; moksham — liberation; na — not; moksha-avadhim — the highest level of liberation; va — or; na ca — nor; anyam — other; vrine — chose; aham — I; vara-ishad — from You, the grantor of any possible boon; api — even; iha — here; idam — this; te — your; vapuh — form; natha — O Lord; gopala-balam — as a cowherd child; sada — always; me — my; manasi — in the mind; avirastam — may enter; kim — of what avail; anyaih — other (boons).
O divine Lord! Although You are competent to grant any boon, now I don’t cherish liberation, nor life in Vaikuntha, nor any other privilege. O Lord! Be always present in my mind as Bala-gopala in Vrindavana. What will then be the value of any other blessing?
O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for liberation, nor eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon. My only prayer is that Your childhood pastimes may constantly appear in my mind. O Lord, I do not even want to know your feature of Paramatma. I simply wish that Your childhood pastimes may ever be enacted in my heart.
idam te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtam kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitam bimba-raktādharam me
manasy āvirāstām alam lakṣa-lābhaiḥ
idam—this; te—your; mukha-ambhojam—lotus face; atyanta-nilaih—deep blue; vritam—encircled; kuntalaih— by hair locks; snigdha-raktaih—red-hued and glossy; ca—and; gopya—by the gopi (Yashoda); muhuh—again and again; cumbitam—kissed; bimba-rakta-adharam—having lips red like a bimba fruit; me—my; manasi—in the mind; avirastam—may it enter; alam—no use of; laksha-labhaih—hundred thousands boons.
Your lotus face is framed in dark, crimson-hued curls, and decorated by lips as red as a bimba fruit. May this visage, kissed again and again by mother Yashoda, always be manifested in my mind. Then to what avail will millions of boons be?
O Lord, the cheeks of Your blackish lotus face, which is encircled by locks of curling hair, have become reddened like bimba fruits due to Mother Yasoda’s kisses. What more can I describe than this? Millions of opulences are of no use to me, but may this vision constantly remain in my mind.
namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ
namah—I bow down to You; deva—O divine one; damodara—O Damodara; ananta—O unlimited one; vishno—O omnipresent one; prasida —be gracious; prabho—O omnipotent one; duhkha-jala-abdhi-magnam—I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow; kripa-drishti-vrishtya—with a shower of Your merciful glances; ati-dinam—extremely miserable; anugrihana—bless me; isha—O supremely independent; mam—me; ajnam—ignorant; edhi—appear; akshi-drisyah—before my eyes.
I bow down to You, O my Lord. You are affectionate, merciful, omnipotent, independent, and omnipresent. Please, show me Your grace. I am drowning in an ocean of distress, and I am helplessly ignorant. Please, revive me with Your merciful glance. Appear before me in Your divine form.
O unlimited Vishnu! O master! O Lord! Be pleased upon me! I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow and am almost like a dead man. Please shower the rain of mercy on me; uplift me and protect me with Your nectarean vision.
kuverātmajau baddha-mūrtyaiva yadvat
tvayā mocitau bhakti-bhājau kṛtau ca
tathā prema-bhaktim svakām me prayaccha
na mokṣe graho me ‘sti dāmodareha
kuvera-atmajau—the two sons of Kuvera; baddha-murtya—when Your body was bound (to the mortar); yadvat—just like; tvaya—by You; mocitau—liberated; bhakti-bhajau—recipients for bhakti; kritau—made; tatha—likewise; prema-bhaktim—the highest level of devotion; svakam—Your; me—to me; prayaccha—grant; na—not; mokshe—in liberation; grahah—aspiration; me—my; asti—there is; damodara—O Damodara; iha— in prema-bhakti only.
O Damodara! While tied to the mortar, You redeemed the two sons of Kuvera and granted them bhakti. Similarly, bestow also on me Your prema-bhakti. But I shall not accept liberation.
O Lord Damodara, in Your form as a baby Mother Yasoda bound You to a grinding stone with a rope for tying cows. You then freed the sons of Kuvera, Manigriva and Nalakuvara, who were cursed to stand as trees and You gave them the chance to become Your devotees. Please bless me in this same way. I have no desire for liberation into Your effulgence.
namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam
namah—obeisances; te—Your; astu—let there be; damne—to the rope; sphurad-dipti-dhamne—the abode of blazing light; tvadiya-udaraya—to Your belly; atha—also; vishvasya—of the universe; dhamne—the substratum; namah—obeisances; radhikayai—to Shri Radhika; tvadiya-priyayai—who is Your beloved; namah—obeisances; ananta-lilaya—performer of eternal pastimes; devaya—divine; tubhyam—to You.
My respects to this great rope, reservoir of dazzling effulgence, and to Your belly, which contains the entire cosmos. Obeisances to Your beloved Shrimati Radhika. O Lord! I bow down to You, the transcendental hero of these divine and eternal pastimes.”
O Lord, the entire universe was created by Lord Brahma, who was born from Your abdomen, which was bound by a rope by Mother Yasoda. To this rope I offer my humble obeisances. I offer my obeisances to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani and to Your unlimited pastimes.
sources & links
- ISKCON translation on Dublin temple lyric sheets + Romanised Sanskrit (edited for Unicode compliance)
- Word-for-word translation by Shri Sanatana Gosvami
- Purport by Visnujana Swami with esoteric words explained
compiled by Robert Phair