The birth of a divine child is a miraculous story that is ubiquitous through all the religious traditions of the world. He or she represents the radical change that is in the process of being born, awakened and that will be actualised through the course of their life.
To represent the notion that the child is divine, his father or mother are divine. To emphasise the divine child’s humanity, he is either cared for or raised by humans. The child may or may not possess the knowledge of their divine origins. The conception of the child is miraculous and is depicted as an event that is completely extraordinary.
This symbolises the child’s divine nature and alludes to the fact that he or she belongs to the whole society rather than to any one family.
In Hinduism, Bala Krishna is the embodiment of the Divine Child. In art, he is depicted as a small child crawling on his hands and knees with one of his hands in a pot of butter. At other times, he is shown dancing or sucking his toe.
Bala means child and Krishna in his child form is also known as Bala Gopala. The earliest evidence of such worship dates back to 4th century BCE and is non-Vedic in origin.
Bala Krishna’s birth parents are Devaki and Vasudeva. Devaki’s brother is a tyrant named Kamsa. Kamsa is told by fortune tellers that a child of Devaki would kill him. Due to this prophecy, Kamsa arranges to kill all of Devaki’s children.
When Krishna is born, Vasudeva secretly carries the infant Krishna away across the River Yamuna and exchanges him with Yashoda’s daughter. When Kamsa tries to kill the newborn, the exchanged baby appears as the Hindu goddess Yogamaya who warns him that his death has arrived.
Krishna grows up with his foster father Nanda and his foster mother Yashoda. Little is known about Yashoda’s early life, other than her marriage to Nanda. Two of Krishna’s siblings, known as Balarama and Subharda, also survive. The day of Krishna’s birth is celebrated as Krishna Janmashtami.
Vaishnavism is a monotheistic religion, centred on the devotion of Vishnu and his avatars; of which Krishna and his Divine Child aspect play a significant role. The Hindu scripture popularly associated with the worship of Krishna is The Bhagavad Gita.
As a young child, Krishna performs miraculous initiatory feats and even defeats demons. The legends of Krishna’s childhood and youth describe him as a cow-herder and a mischievous boy whose pranks earn him the nickname Makhan Chor butter thief.