Kṛṣṇa is popularly known to have been born in Mathurā to Devakī in Kaṁsa’s prison. But the ācāryas explain that He was also born in Gokula. Here we examine this extraordinary concept.
The main reason for proposing that two Kṛṣṇas were born is to reconcile two statements in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. First, it is well known that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was born to Devakī before the birth of yoga-māyā. This is seen from the following verse of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.3.47
tataś ca śaurir bhagavat-pracoditaḥ sutaṁ samādāya sa sūtikā-gṛhāt | yadā bahir gantum iyeṣa tarhy ajā yā yogamāyājani nanda-jāyayā || When Vasudeva, who was impelled by Bhagavān, picked up his son, and desired to go out of the room of birth, at that very moment, yoga-māyā, who is unborn, took birth from Nanda’s wife.
Here, yogamāyā, the daughter of Nanda, is clearly mentioned to be born after Kṛṣṇa’s birth. But Śrī Viśvanātha notes an inconsistency here, because in the Harivaṁśa, there is the following verse:
garbha-kāle tvasampūrṇe hy aṣṭame māsi te striyau | devakī ca yaśodā ca suṣuvāte samaṁ tadā ||
Both the ladies Devakī and Yaśodā, gave birth at the same time in the eighth month before the full-term of pregnancy.
This verse mentions the birth simultaneously (samam=sama-kālam) of two children – one to Devakī and the other to Yaśodā. But Devakī’s son Kṛṣṇa was born before yoga-māyā was born to Yaśodā. We are forced to conclude then, that Yaśodā gave birth to another child, before yoga-māyā was born. This child was Kṛṣṇa. Yaśodā had twins.
Why does the child born to Yaśodā have to be Kṛṣṇa? The reason is that yoga-māyā is called the younger sister of Kṛṣṇa in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: adṛśyatānujā viṣṇoḥ sāyudhāṣṭa-mahā-bhūjā [bhā.pu.10.4.9] – he saw Viṣṇu’s younger sister, who had eight arms with weapons in each hand.
Then why did Vasudeva carry Kṛṣṇa to Gokula? The reason is that Devakī was extremely anxious about Kṛṣṇa’s safety due to the threat from Kaṁsa. To soothe her anxiety, Kṛṣṇa asked Vasudeva to take him to Gokula. On the way, Devakī-nandana Kṛṣṇa fell off in the Yamunā. Vasudeva searched for him frantically, and found Him. The Kṛṣṇa that he found was actually Nanda and Yaśodā’s son who had been born to Yaśodā at the same time as Devakī-nandana Kṛṣṇa. Vasudeva picked Him up, and brought Him to Nanda’s home, that is, back to His own birthplace.
One may ask- did Yaśodā not notice that she was missing a girl when Vasudeva took back yoga-māyā? The answer is that Yaśodā was tired after giving birth and did not remember whether she had given birth to a boy or a girl or both. This is evident from the following verse:
yaśodā nanda-patnī ca jātaṁ param abudhyata | na tal-liṅgaṁ pariśrāntā nidrayāpagata-smṛtiḥ || The wife of Nanda, Yaśodā, also understood that she had given birth to an extraordinary child (param abudhyata), but she did not know whether the child was male or female (na tal-liṅgaṁ) [or that she had given birth to two children], having forgotten due to falling asleep out of sheer exhaustion from the labor.
If someone raises the objection that Devakī alone is well-known for giving birth to Kṛṣṇa, the reply is that Devakī is another name for Yaśodā, which is one reason why she was friends with Devakī (they shared a common name). This is mentioned in the ādi purāṇā:
dve nāmnī nanda-bhāryāyā yaśodā devakīti ca |ataḥ sakhyam abhūt tasyā devakyā śaurijāyayā || – there were two names of the wife of Nanda- Yaśodā and Devakī. This is why a friendship developed between her, and Vasudeva’s wife Devakī.
The reason for all this, of course, is that Kṛṣṇa never leaves Vraja. When he does appear to leave, there is a switch at the boundary between Mathurā and Vraja. For example, when Kṛṣṇa left with Akrura for Mathurā, He did not actually step out of Vraja. Instead, when Akrura went to do his daily ritual, Devakī-nandana Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma took the place of Yaśodā-nandana Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. When Akrura came back, they were smiling at Him. This is because they wondered if Akrura would recognize them.