Sudāma, the childhood friend of Krishna visits Him
Sudāma was a poor brahmin boy, who became a close friend of Krishna in Sage Sandipani’s hermitage. Krishna learnt to chant mantras from Sudāma.
Once, Sandipani’s wife asked Sudāma and Krishna to get some wood from the forest. While they were collecting the wood, a storm came and they got lost. Sudāma was scared. Krishna held his hands and assured his safety. When the storm was over, they found their way to the hermitage. Sudāma was relieved. Sandipani blessed them with a long life and happiness.
After completing their studies, Sudāma and Krishna went their own ways. Krishna became the king of Dwaraka and married princess Rukmini, the Goddess of Prosperity. Sudāma, on the other hand, married a simple brahmana girl and began to lead the life of a devotee, reading scriptures, praying, and forsaking worldly pleasures. Everyone loved Sudāma. His family was quite happy.
Then, Sudāmā’s wife gave birth to two children. Because of Sudāmā’s simple lifestyle, the family began to face difficult days, with little food to eat and no clothes to wear. Sudāmā’s wife was extremely devoted to her husband, but when her children began to suffer, she grew very concerned.
Finally, on a cold night, when her children were without even a blanket, she approached Sudāma and humbly asked, “Aren’t you and Krishna, the King of Dwaraka, friends? And, Krishna is married to the Princess Rukmini?”
Sudāma replied, “Yes.”
Sudāmā’s wife immediately saw a way to improve her family’s poor condition. She earnestly said, “Go my lord, I request you, for the sake of our dear children, meet Krishna.”
The very prospect of meeting Krishna, his old friend, made Sudāma happy, but he firmly said, “I will go and see him, but I will not ask him for anything.” Sudāmā’s wife could hardly conceal her joy. She happily said, “Even a visit to Krishna will bless our family. Do not ask anything from him. I will be content, my lord.”
Just before his departure for Dwaraka, Sudāma came to his wife. Both had the same thought. “What will I give to Krishna when I see him after such a long time?” Sudāma asked. His wife suddenly remembered, “My lord, you used to tell me that Krishna immensely loved Poha, the flattened rice!” Sudāma too remembered Krishna’s great liking for Poha. Sudāmā’s wife ran to her neighbor’s house and they happily gave her the gift of Poha in a small bundle. Sudāma then set out on his long journey to Dwaraka.
When Sudāma came to the palace, the guards looked at him suspiciously. “How could this poor man be a friend of the King?” They announced his arrival to Krishna nonetheless. Sudāma said, “Just tell Krishna that his childhood friend Sudāma has come to see him.” When Krishna heard the name “Sudāma”, he ran to the entrance of the palace to embrace him. Then, Krishna sat down and washed Sudāmā’s tired feet with warm water and put sandalwood paste on them. Krishna’s wives wondered – “Who is this beggar that Krishna is doting on?” Krishna read their mind, and he told them about the deep friendship between Him and Sudāma in their childhood.
After the royal meal, they all settled down to chat. Krishna and Sudāma exchanged the happenings of their lives, since they departed from Sandipani’s hermitage. Suddenly, Krishna noticed a small bundle on Sudāmā’s waist. He remarked, “Ah! You have brought a present for me!” Sudāma hesitated, “How do I give a King, a poor man’s poha?” When Krishna noticed that Sudāma was ashamed to give him the bundle, he remarked, “Sudāma, the poorest gifts given to me with love is dearer to me than the richest of gifts given without love.” Krishna was thoughtful, “He has not come to ask anything for himself. He came out of love for his wife and me.” Then, he quickly snatched off the bundle and opened it. There it was, his favorite poha! He tossed some in his mouth with great satisfaction. Then, they talked and talked, as old friends, to their heart’s content. Sudāma could not ask anything from Krishna. He did not even mention that his children and wife were living in great poverty.
Next morning, Sudāma bid Krishna and Rukmini farewell. The long road back home did not seem to be as hard as before, as he was continuously thinking about Krishna. When he reached his home, he was amazed to see a huge mansion that was standing in the place of his poor hut. He thought that his family must have disappeared, when suddenly, his wife and children, wearing new clothes, came to receive him. He could hardly recognize them. Sudāmā’s wife explained how Krishna deputed masons and architects to construct a beautiful palace for them, while Sudāma was journeying to and from Dwaraka. Sudāma felt the touch of the all-knowing Krishna, who had rewarded Sudāma for his gift of love.
Sudāma had not asked Krishna for anything. But the true friend that he was, Krishna understood in his heart what Sudāma was in need of. And without making Sudāma feel obliged, Krishna used his resources to improve the lot of his dear friend.
Krishna saves the honor of Draupadī
Duryodhana never liked the fact that the kingdom of Indraprastha was doing so well, even though, he had given the worst land to the Pāṇdavas. So, he decided to steal their kingdom by trickery. He invited the Pāṇdava brothers to a game of dice (gambling). He knew that Yudhishthira was addicted to gambling and would not refuse. During the game, Duryodhana cheated and the Pāṇdavas kept losing everything. But, Yudhishthira was so addicted to gambling that after losing his kingdom, he even started staking his brothers, and finally, his wife Draupadi. And due to Duryodhana’s cheating, Yudhishthira lost his brothers and Draupadi as well!
Now, Draupadi was supposed to be handed over to the Kauravas. The evil minded Duryodhana asked his brother Dushasana to drag Draupadi to the royal court in front of dozens of elders, courtiers, royalty and others. Draupadi cried and appealed for mercy, but Dushasana did not listen to her. And then Duryodhana asked Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi in front of everyone. All the elders and everyone there were horrified. Bheema wanted to get up and beat the Kauravas there and then, but he controlled his anger. Draupadi appealed to the grandfathers, and elders to come to her rescue, but everyone sat there helplessly, without coming to her rescue, since Yudhishtira had lost her in the game.
At last, Draupadi remembered that Krishna had promised her eternal friendship and he was her last and only refuge in the world. So, she surrendered completely to Bhagavān Krishna in her mind, and appealed to His friendship. She thought of Him in her mind with faith and devotion and asked him to protect her from public humiliation. And a miracle occurred. As soon as Dushasana started pulling her clothes, he found that he was unable to disrobe her. Her garments got stretched endlessly. He tried to disrobe her for a long time, but the cloth kept appearing miraculously and it got extended till the pile of the unwound clothing taken off her became a small mound!
Everyone understood that it was the Divine intervention of Krishna. The elders felt ashamed now that they had not intervened to save her honor. They asked Duryodhana to see the Divine miracle, repent and return everything that the Pāṇdavas had lost back to them. Duryodhana relented, but he invited the Pāṇdavas to a second game of dice. The Pāṇdavas lost their kingdom once again. According to the bet this time, the Pāṇdavas had to give up their kingdom for 13 years and go away from Hastināpura.
Krishna fills his stomach with a single Grain of Rice
While the Pāṇdavas were in the forest during their exile, it was very tough for them to find enough food and water to keep their stomachs full. But, all of them were very noble and worshipped God regularly. Pleased with their good conduct, Surya Devatā (the Sun) gave Draupadi a magical cooking vessel. Whenever Draupadi cooked in this magic vessel, she could feed an unlimited number of guests without running out of food until she had eaten herself. So, a lot of Sages and poor guests started visiting them and the Pāṇdava brothers fed them all with love and respect. They never ran out of food, and their guests blessed the brothers and Draupadi for their generosity.
One day, just after Draupadi had eaten herself, Sage Durvāsā arrived with his students for a meal. Draupadi panicked, since she had already eaten her own meal and as a result, the vessel had become empty. Moreover, Sage Durvāsā was well known for his extreme anger. Draupadi was worried that if she turned him away without feeding him, he would curse her and her family, which would further add to their suffering.
Durvāsā told Draupadi to get the food ready, while he and his students went for a bath in the nearby river. When they left, Draupadi started praying to Lord Krishna to come and help her. In a minute, Krishna appeared. But surprisingly, he too asked Draupadi to feed him lunch as soon as he came in! Draupadi told him that she had no food left, and had actually prayed to him so that he could help her in feeding Sage Durvāsā and his students. Krishna said, “Draupadi, you have not run out of food. Let us go and look into the magical cooking vessel that you have.” When they went into the kitchen, Lord Krishna said – “Look, there is a grain of rice in there. So why do you say that there is no food left?” Draupadi replied – “But this is just a single grain of rice. How can we feed so many people with it?”
Krishna smiled. He picked that grain of rice and popped it into his mouth. As he ate that grain, Sage Durvāsā and his students suddenly felt that their stomachs had filled up and they were no longer hungry. But, they did not want to go back to Draupadi and tell her that she had worked hard to cook food unnecessarily. So, they just decided to scoot from there.
Krishna Decides to Help the Pandavas against the Kauravas
As a part of the deal, the Pāṇdavas were asked to give their kingdom to Duryodhana and go to the forest for 13 years. After 13 years, the Pāṇdavas sent a messenger to talk to Duryodhana, so that they could get their kingdom back. But, when the Pāṇdavas asked for their kingdom, the Kauravas refused to return it. It appeared that a war would break out between the Pāṇdavas and the Kauravas now.
Arjuna rushed to Dwārakā to get the help of Krishna. When Duryodhana learned about this, he too rushed to Dwārakā to seek Krishna’s help.
Both of them happened to reach Krishna’s room at the same time. Krishna was resting on his bed, and they decided to wait for him to wake up. Duryodhana rushed into his room first and took the chair that was placed close to Krishna’s head. Arjuna merely stood at the foot of the bed, with his hands folded in prayer.
When Krishna woke up, His gaze first fell on Arjuna, who was standing at His feet. “What brings you here my friend?” asked Krishna. Duryodhana immediately interrupted, “I came here first. Therefore, my wish should be granted before you fulfill Arjuna’s request. We have both arrived to seek your help in the war.”
Krishna said, “Look, I have decided that I will not lift any weapon during the war, and I will not fight. Therefore, you both have a choice – one of you can ask for my mighty Nārāyaṇī army. The other will get only Me. But, I saw Arjuna first, and moreover, he is the younger one of you two. Therefore, he gets the first choice.”
Duryodhana was upset, but he had no choice. He was worried that Arjuna would ask for the army and hoped in his heart that Arjuna does not do that. But to his surprise, Arjuna said, “Bhagavān, I have always wanted you to be my charioteer. Therefore, I request you alone to be our guide. I have enough weapons to fight the war. But, what I really want to win the war is your guidance, blessings and grace!”
Duryodhana heaved a sigh of relief. “What a fool Arjuna is,” he thought. He left the room with Krishna’s promise that His entire army (called ‘Nārāyaṇī’) will support the Kauravas against the Pāṇdavas. When Duryodhana left, Krishna asked Arjuna, “My friend, don’t you think that you made a mistake. What is the use of me, when I am not even going to pick up any weapon?”
Arjuna smiled, “I know that you can destroy the entire army of Kauravas by your mere thought. What was lacking on our side was your blessing and grace. And therefore, I asked for you.” Arjuna then returned to Upaplavya with the good news.
Krishna’s Advice to King Shalya, the Uncle of Pandavas
Shalya, the King of Madra and the brother of Mādrī (who was the mother of Nakula and Sahadeva) got the message for help from the Pāṇdavas. He started marching towards Upaplavya (where the Pandavas were staying temporarily) with his soldiers. Shalya had a huge army of one Akshauhiṇī. As they all travelled toward Upaplavya, Duryodhana played a trick. He constructed huge halls on the entire route to feed and entertain Shalya and his soldiers on their way with a view to impress him.
Shalya just assumed that his nephews, the Pāṇdavas had made these arrangements for him. Pleased with the service he received, Shalya remarked, “Whosoever has made these arrangements for me will get a boon from me.” Duryodhana came forward and said, “I am the one who did all this for you. I seek your help in my war against the Pāṇdavas!” Shalya realized that he was tricked. But, he had to keep his word.
Shalya, then, travelled to Upaplavya and explained to Yudhishthira, how he had been tricked to offer his support to the Kauravas. But, Yudhishthira said, “That is all right, Uncle. You must keep your word.” Krishna intervened and said to Shalya, “But please do us a favor. When you become the charioteer of Karṇa, while he is fighting Arjuna, make sure that you keep praising Arjuna and criticizing Karṇa. This will weaken the mind of Karṇa, and Arjuna will therefore have a better chance to win the war.”
Shalya agreed and left, after blessing the Pāṇdavas that they will be victorious.
We should learn from this story that we should not accept free food or any other free favor without finding out who the sponsor is and also the purpose behind his favor. When we take someone’s favor, we become obliged to them and feel that we must also return the favor to them. And what if that other person is evil, just as happened in this case?
Krishna’s Peace Mission
Yudhishthira approached Krishna and said, “I do not want war. I prefer peace, but Duryodhana is not willing to return our kingdom. I am willing to take just five villages, but he does not want to give anything to us. Please suggest what I should do now.”
Krishna said that he would go to Hastināpura with a peace proposal and convince Duryodhana to be fair to the Pāṇdavas. But, Yudhishthira was worried that if Krishna were to go there alone, the Kauravas might harm Him. Krishna smiled and said, “Do not worry. No one in Hastināpura can harm me.” Krishna decided to go on a chariot filled with weapons, and driven by Sātyaki, a friend of Krishna and Arjuna, and also a powerful warrior.
The Pāṇdavas said that they would accept whatever Lord Krishna is able to get from the Kauravas. When the Kauravas heard that Krishna is coming to Hastinapura, they sent a message to him requesting him to stay in their palace. They also invited him to eat lunch and dinner cooked in their royal kitchen. The Kauravas thought, since they are powerful and rich, Krishna might get impressed by their royalty and power. He might then agree to a deal that benefits only the Kauravas and does not get the Pāṇdavas anything. But, Krishna told the Kauravas – “We should eat food at someone else’s place only when we are in trouble or when they call us with love or respect. I am not in trouble, and you do not love me or respect me. So, I cannot come.”
When Krishna arrived at Hastinapura, he first went to see his aunt and mother of Pāṇdavas, Queen Kunti, who loved and respected Krishna a lot. Then, he went to the home of Vidura, the step Uncle of both the Kauravas and the Pāṇdavas. Vidura was the son of a maidservant and lived humbly and ate very simple food comprised of fruits and vegetables. But, he was famous for being very wise and knowledgeable, and was very fair and honest. Krishna requested Vidura for food and ate whatever simple food that Vidura offered him.
This beautiful incident shows that we should not just visit and enjoy the hospitality of people, who are strong, powerful and rich, but who have no love or respect for us. Many times, we accept their invitation for the fear of annoying them and thinking that we will get some benefit out of them. But, behaving in this manner is wrong. Instead, we should serve and pay attention to people, who are truthful, knowledgeable and honest, or who love us and respect us – even if they are old, poor and humble. The second teaching of this story is that in the eyes of Bhagavān, we are great only if we are truthful. Not necessarily if we are rich, handsome, powerful or famous.
Krishna shows his Universal Form
When Krishna arrived at the palace of Duryodhana the next day, Duryodhana said that he will not return any land to the Pāṇdavas. In the court, Krishna said to King Dhritarāshtra, “Your majesty, Yudhishthira is a fair person. He does not want war. He loves peace. He thinks of you as his own father. The Pāṇdavas have also satisfied all the conditions of their thirteen year exile. Therefore, in all fairness, they should get their kingdom back.”
Dhritarāshtra replied, “I agree to what you have said. But, my son just does not listen to me. Shakuni, Karṇa and Dushāsana do not let Duryodhana listen to my advice. Why don’t you try to talk to him?”
Krishna turned towards Duryodhana and said, “Dear Prince, there are three types of people. The best type of people desire for their good as well as the good of everyone else. The second type of people are selfish, and they care only for their own good. Even if you are the second type of person, you should make peace with the Pāṇdavas or they will defeat you and take even your half of the kingdom. The worst type of people are those, who listen to bad advice from evil minded friends and keep on doing one wrong thing after another. Under the influence of Shakuni, Dushāsana and Karṇa, you have already done a lot of injustice to the Pāṇdavas. But, it is not too late. Yudhishthira is very forgiving. He will forget the injustice done to him even now, if you return their kingdom to them. Moreover, your father really loves you. Why don’t you respect his feelings? If you obey him, you will get his blessings. Please return the kingdom of the Pāṇdavas to them.”
But, Duryodhana said, “Why should I listen to your suggestion? You have always sided with the Pāṇdavas. Why is everyone blaming me? Let there be a war between us and them. If the Pāṇdavas want their kingdom, they should defeat me and snatch it from me by force.”
Krishna again requested, “If Duryodhana does not want to return the western half of the kingdom to the Pāṇdavas, then he can at least give five villages and towns to them. These five villages that we are requesting are Indraprastha, Pāṇiprastha, Tilaprastha, Bakaprastha and Kshoṇiprastha.”
Duryodhana refused to give even these villages. Krishna said, “If you do not want to give even five villages, then at least give them five houses in one village!” But, Duryodhana said, “I will not give them even as much land as can fit on the tip of a needle!” In other words, Duryodhana refused to return any land to the Pāṇdavas.
Krishna, then looked at all the elders in the court and said, “None of us want war. The only person who wants it, is Duryodhana. Therefore, King Dhritarāshtra should ignore Duryodhana. After all, he is the King, and therefore, he can even imprison Duryodhana, if he disobeys!”
King Dhritarāshtra requested Gāndhārī to come to the court and try to convince Duryodhana once again. But, he refused to listen. Instead, he became scared that everyone was turning against him due to which King Dhritarāshtra might arrest him! Therefore, he left the court immediately and met his three friends – Karṇa, Shakuni and Dushāsana. The four decided that before King Dhritarāshtra decides to arrest Duryodhana, they should go to the court with their own men and imprison Krishna!
When the four arrived at the court with their men and ordered the arrest of Krishna, everyone was shocked! But, Krishna merely smiled and said, “Duryodhana thinks that I am all alone. All the Devas are within me. If I want, I can single-handedly destroy all the Kaurava brothers and make Yudhishthira the King of Hastināpura.”
And then as everyone watched, Krishna grew massive in size. Brilliant light came from his huge body. Because of the dazzling light, everyone had to close their eyes. But, the Rishis present there, Sanjaya, Droṇāchārya, Kripāchārya and Bheeshma, were able to see the ‘Virātaroopa’ of Krishna. They all bowed to him and said prayers to Bhagavān.
When King Dhritarāshtra heard all this commotion, he begged Krishna to take away his blindness for a few seconds, so that he could see Him. Krishna granted his wish, and Dhritarāshtra saw the beautiful and dazzling ‘Virātaroopa’ of Bhagavān. King Dhritarāshtra then prayed, “Bhagavān, now that I have seen your Divine Form, I do not want to see anything more. Please make me blind again.”
Krishna then said to King Dhritarāshtra, “O King, your son is not only evil, but also foolish. A war will happen now. And Duryodhana will get the blame for causing millions of death.” King Dhritarāshtra became frightened and he tried to pacify Krishna. But, He left the court to see Aunt Kunti before leaving Hastināpura. King Dhritarāshtra tried to convince Duryodhana once again, reminding him how he was not able to imprison Krishna, who is none other than Bhagavān. But Duryodhana said, “Krishna is no Bhagavān. He is just a cheap magician!”
There are many people in this world like Duryodhana, who do not believe in Bhagavān, because they are too proud. They ignore the miracles that Bhagavān does in our lives every day, and say that it is not Bhagavān, but natural laws alone, which keep the universe going, forgetting the fact that even nature is manifestation of Bhagavān.
Krishna teaches the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna
The Pāṇdavas and Kauravas both declared a war on each other. Krishna asked the Pāṇdavas to worship Durgā, the Devī of war. Pleased with their worship, Durgā appeared in front of them and said, “You are protected by Krishna, who is none other than Bhagavān Vishnu. Therefore, no one can defeat you.” The Pāṇdavas felt strong after they had a darshana of Mā Durgā, and felt blessed that She had appeared in front of them.
Through this advice, Krishna wanted to teach that we must always pray to Bhagavan before starting any important task in our lives.
Krishna was the charioteer of Arjuna. When Arjuna saw that he will have to kill his own friends, cousins, elders and teachers to win the war, he started hesitating to fight. But, Krishna gave him a nice teaching, which later came to be known as the Bhagavad Gita. As a result of this teaching, Arjuna became confident once again, and he decided to fight. With the help of Krishna, the Pāṇdavas won the war in 18 days. The Kauravas were all killed and the Pāṇdavas became the rulers of Hastināpura.
Krishna’s Guidance to Pandavas during the War
A beautiful tale is narrated in the oral Hindu tradition that demonstrates the gentleness showed by Krishna towards lesser creatures. During the Mahabharata war, Krishna noticed that on a nearby hillock, there was a nest containing recently hatched baby birds.
The roaring sounds of the trumpets and the clang and clatter of the weapons were terrifying the newborn birds. Krishna took a giant metal bell that had fallen off the neck of a war elephant, and covered the nest with it (leaving a hole for breathing). When the war was over, He went to the hillock and removed the bell.
According to another popular story from the oral traditions, Bheeshma had promised to Duryodhana that he will kill at least one Pāṇdava on the following day. When the word reached the encampment of the Pāṇdavas, Draupadī grew really worried for the safety of her husbands. She prayed to Krishna, who immediately appeared in front of her and asked her to follow him in the dark to Bheeshma’s tent. As they were walking towards the camp, Krishna said to her, “Draupadī, your shoes, to which some anklets are stitched, are making a lot of sound and will wake up everyone. Why don’t you take them off here, and then enter that Bheeshma’s tent.” Draupadi did as she was told and as soon as she entered the tent, she fell at the feet of Bheeshma. It was dark, and Bheeshma did not realize, who it was. He automatically blessed the woman, “May you live a happy and long life with your husband.” Draupadi was elated, and she said, “It is I, Draupadī, the wife of your grandchildren, the Pāṇdavas. I am happy that you have given me this blessing, because now I am sure that you will spare all the five Pāṇdavas!”
Bheeshma smiled and said, “I am sure it was Krishna’s idea that you should come and get my blessing, so that I spare your husbands. But, where is He?” Bheeshma lit up a lamp, and saw that Krishna was standing at the entrance of the tent. But, something was dangling from his shoulders. Draupadi looked closely and was horrified, “Bhagavān, you should not have carried my shoes from the ground and slung them across your shoulders! We worship you and therefore, your act of picking my shoes with your hands and placing them on your shoulders will take me to hell.”
Krishna smiled and said, “Do not worry Draupadi, because I am always a servant of those Bhaktas like you, who have surrendered themselves completely to me. I did not want any insect to get inside your sandals in the dark from the ground, and therefore I picked them up with my hands and put them across my shoulders.”
Bheeshma was very moved, when he noticed Krishna’s humility. He replied, “When the Pāṇdavas are protected by Bhagavān, who will go to any extent to serve his Bhaktas, then there was no need for me to give a blessing to the Pāṇdavas. They were automatically protected by You, Krishna.” Bheeshma’s words came true, and on the 10th day of the war, Bheeshma fell, while fighting against the Pāṇdavas.
Krishna protects Arjuna from a deadly attack
On the 12th day of the war, a rumor spread that the elephant had crushed Bheema and Arjuna rushed to the scene. King Bhagadatta launched the dreaded Vaishnava-Astra at Arjuna. Everyone was terrified to see this happen. But, immediately, Krishna stood up and took the great missile on his chest. The missile changed into a garland of lotus flowers that fell around the neck of Krishna. Arjuna was surprised and asked Krishna, why He had broken his vow that He will not wield any weapon, whereas now He had taken the impact of the Vaishnava-Astra upon Himself. Krishna explained that as He was the Avatāra of Vishnu, the Vaishnava-Astra truly belonged to Him, and it had been given to King Bhagadatta only temporarily. Therefore, He had merely taken it back.
An Attempt to Kill Krishna
On the fourteenth day of the war, one of warriors named Shrutāyudha committed a great sin. He was frustrated by the skill of Krishna in moving away the chariot, whenever he wanted to strike Arjuna. Therefore, he decided to kill Krishna Himself! As everyone watched in horror, Shrutāyudha hurled his mace at Krishna. The mace flew through the air and gently touched Krishna’s shoulder. And then a miracle happened that stunned everyone, who saw it – immediately after touching the shoulder of Krishna, the mace just turned around like a boomerang. Then, the mace hit Shrutāyudha and killed him!