Other names: Devki, Devakee, Devmata
Devaki was the daughter of Devaka, the younger brother of King Ugrasen of Mathura. She was the mother of Shri Krishna. She was a partial incarnation of Aditi, the mother of the Devas. Devaki was married to Yaduvanshi Vasudev (who was Sage Kashyap in his previous life). Devaki’s brother Kans was an oppressor and enemy of the deities. He had pompously got Devaki married.
After the marriage, Kans happily became the charioteer to see Devaki off to her in-laws. Just then, there was an Akashvani (divine foreboding), “Kans, The one whom you are happily seeing off, her eighth child will kill you.” Kans was terrified and immediately wanted to kill Devaki. Vasudev pleaded with him not to kill Devaki and promised Kans that he would hand over their children to Kans. When Devaki gave birth to her first child, as per his promise, Vasudev handed over the child to Kans. Kans was hesitant to kill the child as he had the threat from the eighth child and not the first child.
Devarshi Narad encouraged Kans’ fears and with this instigation Kans killed all seven children and was biding his time until the eighth child would be born, so that he could kill him too. This type of advice coming from a divine figure like Narad may sound strange at first but Devarshi Narad was helping the universe by enabling Kans to fill his pot of sin to the brim faster by taking on the sins of killing the remaining children as well.
Devaki gave birth to her eighth child Krishna late one night. Miraculously, the guards of the prison fell asleep, and the doors all opened up. Vasudev was able to escape the prison with his precious burden. He reached the banks of the River Yamuna and crossed it, reached Gokul and left the child with his friend Nandrai’s wife Yashoda.
Yashoda had also given birth to a daughter the same night. Vasudev picked up that girl child, returned to the prison in Mathura and kept her next to Devaki. With the help of Yogmaya (the goddess of maya or illusion) the gates of the prison closed once again and nobody other than Vasudev and Devaki knew anything out of the ordinary had happened.
When Kans came to know of the birth of that eighth child, he rushed to the prison, snatched the child and flung her to the ground. But the girl (who was a form of Yogmaya) slipped from his hand and flew away into the sky and as she departed, cried, “Kans, the one who is destined to kill you has already been born and is safe.”
Kans was again terrified by this and ordered his soldiers to kill all the infants that had been born in the state in the last few days. Based on the information supplied by his spies,
Kans realized that Krishna who was supposedly born at Nandrai’s place could be Devaki’s eighth child. He sent giantess Putna and demons like Bakasur and Adhasur to kill Krishna. But all of them were given salvation by Krishna instead.
Shri Krishna grew up in Gokul. Nand and Yashoda nurtured him and he was educated under Sage Sandipani. Devaki was forced by circumstances to refrain from showing her love to her son Krishna. Young Krishna, in order to perform his duties, sacrificed Nand and Yashoda’s parental affection and Radha’s love to go to Mathura and kill the oppressor of his parents, Kans.
Devaki was able to express her happiness of meeting her son only after Kans was killed. After leaving Mathura, Krishna built Dwarka and settled there. Even Devaki and Vasudev settled there. Shri Krishna dedicated his life to serving them. After Krishna left for His heavenly abode, even Devaki and Vasudev died.
Devaki’s character is that of an ideal mother who sacrificed her motherly affection for her duty, and will always be remembered in the history of Indian culture.