Note:-The cult of the ‘child-god’ was based upon, and grew on, the dynamic tension inherent in such an appellation. A child is particularly accessible and capable of appropriation; but the simultaneous knowledge that in reality the child is the Almighty, merely-and graciously -allowing himself to be approached in such a form, fuses the feelings of affection and love with awe and reverence. Surdas, to whose contributions we will come a little later, was particularly adept at bringing out this dynamic tension in his poems dealing with Yasoda and Krishna.
Quoting from Kenneth E. Byrant’s Poems to the Child God.
The mother says ‘Dance!, Krishna, dance and I’ll give you butter!’
His tiny feet pound and stamp upon the earth, his ankle bells ring;
Sur sings the praises of his name, earth and heaven resound with his fame,
but the Lord of the Three Worlds, dances for his butter.
He whose glances frighten Time itself
Him his mother threatens with a stick.
He, the fear of whom drives wind and water, sun and moon,
He moves at the threat of a little stick.
Which form pervades earth and sea, yet is not to be found in the Vedas
That form you cause to dance at a snap of your fingers, here in your own very yard.
The vulnerability and approachability of infancy became the flip side of the infinite power and grandeur of god. Several stories of Krishna’s childhood play on precisely this vibrant dualism image. Yasoda scolds Krishna for eating mud and, when he denies doing so, forces him to open his mouth. In his mouth she sees the entire universe-the stars and the planets and all the galaxies, all things animate and inanimate, even the senses and the mind. She goes into a trance but the Lord, through his power of ‘maya’, makes her forget this vision, and he is back again as the erring, defenceless child, feigning innocence before his angry mother. Another favourite story is of Yasoda catching Krishna stealing butter. Her patience tested beyond control, she resolves to punish him by tying him to a wooden mortar. But every time she attempts to tie the knot, the rope falls slightly short. Finally, seeing her vexed, the childgod allows her to succeed, but only to later happily crawl out, effortlessly dragging the heavy mortar behind him.
There is also the story of a gopi rushing to tell Yasoda that her darling son, caught stealing butter, has been locked up by her. But her amazement knows no bounds when she sees Krishna playing about in Yasoda’s home. Stunned, she rushes back to her home and finds Krishna locked up as she had left him. The child, supposedly under her control, had once again given dramatic evidence of his essential self that was beyond such control. Such evidence was usually in the form of a flash, a momentary vision, deliberately willed by him to quickly lapse into the normal relationships and situations dictated by his human role.
The recognition of such duality-child and god- could produce startling outpourings of piety. In fact, from the tenth or eleventh century to the fourteenth or fifteenth, there developed a specific genre of Tamil writing called ‘pillai Tamil’-poetry of the child-which formalized into ten sections the ritual celebration of childhood.
In Krishna, the Butter Thief, J.S. Hawley says, these ten sections were:
Kappuparuvarn-the invocation of the deities for the protection of the child;
Cenkiraipparuvarn-literally, ‘wavering’, as a blade of grass waves in the wind and as the head of a young child wobbles before the infant can hold it up steadily;
Talapparuvarn-cradle songs, lullabies;
Muttapparuvarn-when the child learns to kiss;
Varanaipparuvarn-summoning the child;
Ampulipparuvarn-playing with the moon;
Cirrilparuvarn-when the child builds small houses of sand or mud;
Ciruparaipparuvarn-when the child learns to beat a small drum;
Ciruterparuvarn-in which the child drags a small wagon or cart behind him.
The worship of the child Krishna with its plentitude of nuance came to the fore with Surdas Sursagar, written in the sixteenth century, and Bilvamangala’s Krishnakarnamrita, composed around AD 1300. Hitherto, the stock of incidents in the life of Krishna as a child were limited. But the works of Surdas and Bilvamangia removed all constraining parameters in the imagery elaborating the child-gold’s activities. The Sursagar contains several hundred poems of which a substantial number are devoted to the child Krishna. The few examples given below provide an inkling of the amazing spectrum of Sur’s portrayal and his deep insight into the psychology of a child’s behavior.