Lord Krishna and His Modest Friend Sudama

Lord Krishna brought an end to His maternal uncle Kamsa’s evil acts by scripting his death in a unique manner. Afterwards, Ugrasena, Kamsa’s father, was made the King of Mathura. But Lord Krishna and His elder brother Balarama were declared as the princes of Mathura. And as princes, they did have to complete their formal education for which both of them were sent to the ashram of Sage Sandipani. They completed their academics as well as war art in a year alone. There, in the ashram, Lord Krishna befriended a Brahmin boy, Sudama.

As part of the Gurukul system of education, the disciples in the ashram had to take exams to prove their learning progress. Sage Sandipani was known for his novel way of examining the all-round skills of his disciples. He used to expose his disciples to various tests in course of their daily activities rather than having formal tests.

On one occasion, Lord Krishna and Sudama were sent to deep forest to collect firewood required for holy fire (yajna). Anticipating any untoward challenges in their mission, the Sage’s wife tied a handful of rice fry (khuda bhaja) in one end of Sudama’s robes. As anticipated, there came a sudden heavy downpour while both of them were deep inside the forest. They had to take shelter atop a huge tree throughout the rainy night. Morning after, when rain subsided and they returned to the ashram, Sage’s wife wanted to know the experience of the dreadful dark night inside the dense forest. During the conversation, Sudama fell on her feet and confessed to have eaten the rice fry all alone without sharing a portion with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was surprised to know of that episode.

Sage Sandipani, after analyzing the incidents, showed his displeasure with Sudama and said, “Poor fellow, that was a test of your loyalty to your friend. That was ‘treated rice fry’. You owned up poverty for the rest of your life by gulping the rice fry all alone.” Lord Krishna was shocked at this and prayed the Sage to forgive Sudama’s mistake. But the Sage expressed his helplessness in that and suggested to accept the sorry fate and live on.

Few years later when Lord Krishna was ruling over Dwaraka as a prince, Sudama was struggling hard to make both ends meet. Many a time, Sudama’s wife suggested him to meet Lord Krishna and ask for his help, but he would not listen to the counsel due to his self-respect. But his respect and loyalty for his friend Lord Krishna was intact. When things became really tough, Sudama persuaded himself to meet Lord Krishna in Dwaraka. Coincidentally, Sudama had nothing other than a handful of rice fry to offer his old friend when they would meet.

A handful of rice fry for the King of Dwaraka! Sudama wasn’t at peace with himself after thinking about that. After reaching Dwaraka, he was astonished to see the riches there and was desperately trying to hide his gift that he brought for his friend. But the omniscient Lord Krishna came to the scene and warned Sudama not to repeat a past mistake. He snatched the handful of rice fry from Sudama and ate that all with happiness, sharing a portion with his queens.

Sudama’s self-respect did not allow him to reveal anything about his abject poverty before his childhood friend Lord Krishna. So what he treasured before he left for his village was Lord Krishna’s friendship and hospitality. But there happened a miracle in Sudama’s village in his absence: his modest hut was transformed into a palace with riches galore. When Sudama reached home and got to see all that, he could realize that those were the deeds of Lord Krishna. As he thanked him for getting him out of the abyss of poverty, Lord Krishna appeared in his mind’s eye and told, “There’s nothing to thank me for. You had eaten up my share of rice fry and had owned up my share of poverty too. And today when you returned my share of rice fry, I returned you your share of riches. That is the ruling of Providence. I was only waiting for an opportune moment when I could make you debt-free.

Lesson learnt: The ability to forget and forgive is a true measure of the depth of friendship. Unless you are ‘you’ with your friend, there are a few more tests to pass to approve your relation as friendship.

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