Makhan Chori lila


Have we blown it out of context ?

One of the best known lilas of Krushna is Makhan Chori – “stealing of butter”. 
Like many other lilas of Krushna, this too is much misunderstood and mis-labelled as an act of naughtiness by an Indian divinity !

Krushna lila is most authentically described in Shrimaada Bhagvatam (SMB).  All other puranas take their lead from SB, but unfortunately add a lot of their own material to spice it up !

So, what is the “Makhan chori lila” in SMB ?
In SMB, the whole lila is described in just 4 simple shloaks !!!! 
Since than, 4 billion versions of the makhan-chori lila, songs, stories, plays and movies have been made on the theme !!!!
In most cases, it is blown out of proportion and bears no resemblance to the original story.  

In SMB, the gopies have come to tell Yashodaji of the latest pranks by her toddler - a child who is just learning to walk.  As such, toddler Krushna is doing what every 2-3 year old does - eating, drinking, playing, making a mess - as and when He pleases !  Within these 4 shlokas, Gopies also describe how Krushna frees the calves before the cows have been properly milked.

Like a concerned mother, Shri Yashodaji taught her beloved son a precious lesson, so that He would never steal again.  She ties Him up for a short while - curing Him of any desire to "steal" ever again.

All parents have to deal with this !  Toddlers often come home with toys from the nursery or their friend's house and parent have to teach them that this is not acceptable.  Usually, there is a bit of tantrum, but parents persevere and usually children are out of this phase very soon.  Its tough for a child to deal with this, but just because he / she brought someone elses's toy home one day, doesn't mean we brand them as thieves forever !!  Sadly, that's what we have done to Krushna ! We have given his "stealing" a cult status and have blown it all out of proportion.   Just because Krushna ate makhan for a few weeks in Sarasvat Kalpa, we can't possible ask Him to continue to do that now or indeed now "steal" our karmas etc ! 


Social take on the lila

Here is my social and spiritual take on this lila - as to why Shri Krushna performed the Makhan-Chori lila.
Krushna noticed that the people of Vraj were not strong - physically, financially or spiritually.  He set about finding a remedy for that.

There is no lack of resources on the Earth. 
Earth is capable of providing all we need. 
There is a lack of organisation and lack of understanding. 

People are not living in tune with nature or their surrounding.  For example, people living in arid African plains are planting roses, so as to supply Europe with an unending supply of fresh flowers in the middle of winter.   The country earns foreign currency, but, it losses precious opportunity to grow food to feed its own hungry masses.  The country than has to import food, brought with its meagre foreign currency.  If they had grown their staple food crops, instead of “cash crops”, countries in Africa would be self sufficient and able to feed their own people without having to rely on food aid from the western world.  It is not in the interest of the western world to have Africa self sufficient, hence it plays the politics to make sure it retains an upper hand there.  

Mahatma Gandhi worked for the same goal.  He wanted Indian raw goods to be processed in India so that India's natural wealth is not looted by the British.  Self-help was central theme of the "Svaraj" / "Self-rule" movement.

Similarly, the people of Vraj were providing food for Mathura, thinking that the money gained from this would help them become financially independent, but actually, it only made them weaker, physically and financially.

Makhan chori lila was there to make them strong !  Krushna asked them (children of Vraj) to eat healthily.  They couldn’t, because their parents sent all their food to Mathura.  Krushna wanted Vrajvasis to first feed their own children, before feeding outsiders.  It is essential to look after your own first and foremost. 

Krushna insisted that they look after the cows as beings in their own right, not just some farm animal to be used to make money.   In SMB, the gopies clearly state, Krushna used to let the calves loose before the gopies had finished milking them, allowing the calves to drink a lot more of their mother’s milk than the gopies would have liked.  The cow produces the milk for its calves, not us !  To deprive the calf of its rightful share is theft !  Krushna believed in justice – absolute justice.  The calf has a right to its’ mother’s milk.  Kids have a right to be properly nurtured by their parents.   If parents are concentrating all their time and effort on making "money" and spend no time on providing love, education, and food for their children, it would be gross dereliction of their duty. 

Often, in our blind rush to “get to the top”, we ignore the very people we are doing all this for !  People of Vraj were doing just that.

Krushna put a stop to it. 
He insisted that –

1)       the calves get their due share of the milk.

2)       cows are treated as Jiva / creatures in their own right, not just some “resource”.

3)       children get the nurture they need – in terms of food, love, time etc. 

The Lord stopped the gopies from delivering their butter to Mathura, insisting that the kids of Vraj should be fed first.  Only spare butter should go to Mathura.

He did not give a long lecture on economics to achieve his aim.
He did not plead with them, go on hunger strike or take out marches.
He carried out his work in the most effective way possible – with sweetness – Madurya.

Krushna, along with his friends started eating the butter, that was theirs by right, in the houses of the Vrajvasis themselves.  It was an open thing – no breaking of doors or windows to gain illegal entry.  If a member of the house invites you in, how can that be termed as “breaking an entry” ?  Theft is when you deprive the rightful owner of what belongs to them.  If the children of the house share the butter with their friends, how can that be “theft” ?  The butter surely belongs to the family and as a family, they are entitled to eat it and share it as they see fit ! 

Initially, the gopies saw these impromptu picnics as a drain on their resources, and hence complained to Yashodaji.  But than, seeing their children getting healthier and happier, they stopped complaining.  Which mother would not want her son to get better ?  This "madhur revolution", brought health and happiness to Vraj and parents were soon willing partners in this change.

Krushna is just – injustice can not exist in the presence of God.  Krushna makes sure his own house is also transformed in this new revolution.  As a grand finale to the lila, the Lord invited all His friends, monkeys included, to His house for the Makhan-chori lila. 



Spiritual take on the lila

Karma treats everyone equally.   Even God !
As the Lord had taken makhan without the permission of the gopies, He too had to suffer the consequences of this action.
Even though it wasn't theft, it was done without permission of the head of the house - and hence, it attracted some punishment !

God, willingly took on the punishment.  
He was tied to a khandaniyo (crusher / large wooden mortar) by mother Yashoda. 

The ropes were unwilling / unable to tie Him, but, the Lord commanded them to tie Him up.
It was an essential part of the avatar lila.

When you willingly take on punishment for your deeds, the deeds and their future karmas are crushed - hence the crusher.
The Lord initiated yet another lila whilst being tied.  He freed the sons of Kuber from their tree like existence.  Yamalarjun thanked the Lord for his mercy before returning to their father.  In any situation, no matter how dire, see the bright side of life and see how you can help others !

When everyone in Vraj was happy with the idea of making sure their children, cows and calves were properly taken care of, Krushna moved on to the next lila ! 

Here are some nice paintings of Krushna eating makhan
Krushna eating makhan with his friends and monkeys
Gopies talking about the Makhan chori lila

Bhagwat Shah


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