Krishna's Butterball


[Photo: Ross G. Strachan ]

Jan 22, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is a village located about 60 km south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. The site is famous for a group of rock-cut shrines that were carved during the reign of King Mamalla (Narasimhavarman I, 630-670 A.D.). The site is named for him. Residing there are five monolithic temples and three animal sculptures (elephant, lion and bull), each of which was carved whole from the outcroppings of the pink granite. But most dear to the devotees is the single rock, uncut and unadorned, which is known as Krishna's Butterball.

Pancharathas of Mahabalipuram

Krishna’s Butterball is a massive rounded granite boulder, described by geologists as a 'glacial erratic'. It is perched precariously upon a stone escarpment, and given the downward slope, the butterball seemingly defies the laws of physics.

Krishna’s Butterball is surrounded by many spiritual attractions in the Mahabalipuram complex, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each year throngs of visitors come to see it, and most make at least a symbolic effort at pushing the great stone orb down the hill. Given that there are always pilgrims, cows, goats and other living entities taking shelter of the shade beneath it, the massive ball fortunately remains immovable.

While the rock-cut structures at Mahabalipuram are commonly referred to as raths (pancha rathas, or 'five chariots'), they are actually temples, although they were never used for worship. The five shrines are named for the five Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva) and for Draupadi. Similarly, although Krishna's Butterball is not a temple, it is certainly a holy shrine and place of worship for the Lord's devotees. Among His many childhood pastimes, Sri Krsna's glorious appetite for butter is one the devotees adore.

"To the supreme controller, who possesses and eternal form of blissful knowledge, whose glistening earrings swing to and fro, who manifested Himself in Gokula, who stole the butter that the gopis kept hanging from the rafters of their storerooms and who then quickly jumped up and ran in retreat in fear of Mother Yasoda but was ultimately caught - to that Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances."

(Damodarastakam 1)


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