The following is a version of the story told to children. Despite this, this lila (spiritual pastime) has significance for adults (see the prayers at the end of the story demonstrate.
Long ago in India, there lived the most wonderful child. His name was Krishna, and he lived very happily with his mother and father in the beautiful village of Vrindavan.
In Vrindavan, the homes were very pleasant. The forests were full of beautiful birds and peacocks. The rivers flowed with pure water, and the pasturing grounds were full of cows, their bags full of milk. . All around there were signs of good fortune.
One day, mother Yashoda was churning butter. As she worked, she composed songs about her little Krishna. She looked very beautiful as she pulled on the churning rope.
As she was busy working, Krishna came to her and wanted to be fed. Mother Yashoda loved Krishna very much and was always happy to take care of him. She stopped her work and hugged her darling Krishna. She let him sit on her lap and looked at his face with great affection.
While mother Yashoda was nursing Krishna, she suddenly remembered the pan of milk she had left to boil on the stove. Quickly Yashoda left Krishna to take care of the overflowing milk. When Yashoda left, Krishna became very angry, and he broke the pot of freshly churned butter. Quickly he ran to another room to eat it.
After Yashoda took care of the overflowing milk. She turned and saw what naughty Krishna had done. She followed his butter-smeared footprints right into the storage room. There was Krishna sitting on a big wooden mortar, giving butter and yoghurt to the monkeys. Krishna suddenly heard his mother coming, and quickly got down and ran away. Yashoda chased after him, finally capturing him. Mother Yashoda took Krishna by the hand and told him he had been a naughty boy.
To keep Krishna from getting into more trouble, mother Yashoda tied him by his waist to the wooden mortar. When Yashoda was busy back to work, Krishna saw two trees standing side-by-side. He began to crawl toward the trees, pulling the wooden mortar behind him. As he passed between the trees, the large mortar became stuck. Krishna pulled very hard on the rope, and the two trees came crashing down with huge resounding crash.
Out of the trees appeared two beautiful men, shining like the sun. They had been cursed long ago to become trees, but now they had been freed by Krishna. They bowed before him thanking him again and again,. Then they left.
After hearing the sounds of the crashing trees, everyone rushed to the spot and looked in amazement. The children who had been playing nearby told how Krishna had pulled down the two trees, and how two wonderful looking men had appeared and spoken with him. Krishna’s father Nanda Maharaja smiled upon hearing about his son. He untied the rope around Krishna’s waist and set him free.
In the courtyard of his house the women and children gathered and began to clap and sing while Krishna danced for them. Simply by loving Krishna, everyone became happy.
Although this story is simple and attractive, Hindu’s consider that it has profound spiritual significance, as expressed by the following prayers, which are often sung to music during the festive month of Kartika. Find the song in the Sounds of the Hindu World section
Eight Prayers Sung in Praise of Shri Damodara
(1) To the Supreme Lord, whose form is the embodiment of eternal existence, knowledge, and bliss, whose shark-shaped earrings are swinging to and fro, who is beautifully shining in the divine realm of Gokula, who [due to the offence of breaking the pot of yoghurt that His mother was churning into butter and then stealing the butter that was kept hanging from a swing] is quickly running from the wooden grinding mortar in fear of mother Yashoda, but who has been caught from behind by her who ran after Him with greater speed—to that Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.
(2) [Seeing the whipping stick in His mother’s hand,] He is crying and rubbing His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are filled with fear, and the necklace of pearls around His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conchshell, is shaking because of His quick breathing due to crying. To this Supreme Lord, Shri Damodara, whose belly is bound not with ropes but with His mother’s pure love, I offer my humble obeisances.
(3) By such childhood pastimes as this He is drowning the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy, and is revealing to those devotees who are absorbed in knowledge of His supreme majesty and opulence that He is only conquered by devotees whose pure love is imbued with intimacy and is free from all conceptions of awe and reverence. With great love I again offer my obeisances to Lord Damodara hundreds and hundreds of times.
(4) O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon [which may be obtained by executing the nine processes of bhakti]. O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as baby Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?
(5) O Lord, Your lotus face, which is encircled by locks of soft black hair tinged with red, is kissed again and again by mother Yashoda, and Your lips are reddish like the bimba fruit. May this beautiful vision of Your lotus face be ever manifest in my heart. Thousands and thousands of other benedictions are of no use to me.
(6) O Supreme Godhead, I offer my obeisances unto You. O Damodara! O Ananta! O Vishnu! O master! O my Lord, be pleased upon me. By showering Your glance of mercy upon me, deliver this poor ignorant fool who is immersed in an ocean of worldly sorrows, and become visible to my eyes.
(7) O Lord Damodara, just as the two sons of Kuvera—Manigriva and Nalakuvara—were delivered from the curse of Narada and made into great devotees by You in Your form as a baby tied with rope to a wooden grinding mortar, in the same way, please give to me Your own prema-bhakti. I only long for this and have no desire for any kind of liberation.
(8) O Lord Damodara, I first of all offer my obeisances to the brilliantly effulgent rope which binds Your belly. I then offer my obeisances to Your belly, which is the abode of the entire universe. I humbly bow down to Your most beloved Shrimate Radharani, and I offer all obeisances to You, the Supreme Lord, who displays unlimited pastimes.