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Akshaya Patra – An Inexhaustible Source of Food

That was the time when the Pandava brothers were in exile for twelve years. A group of Brahmins from Hastinapur and other adjacent places followed the Pandavas as they continued their journey through the forest. The Pandavas out of their moral stature owned the responsibility of food and security of the Brahmins. As the journey became tougher, apprehensive of the hardship that might come ahead, the Pandavas requested the Brahmins to go back to their respective places. Even the humble request of Yudhisthira fell on deaf ears, as the Brahmins were steadfast in their wish to accompany the Pandavas in the journey. They even promised that they would take care of their own food and security.

Dismayed at such a decision, Draupadi prayed the Sun God for help. Pleased with her sincere prayer, the Sun God offered her an Akshaya Patra, a vessel that would be an inexhaustible source of food, for good, irrespective of the number of people consuming food from it. The uniqueness of the vessel was that it would always remain filled with food and would be empty only when Draupadi herself ate food out of it at the end of the day. The Pandavas were pleased for such a gift from the Sun God and were jubilant with the thought that their food worries for the entire twelve years of their exile would be nulled.

When jealous Duryodhana knew of this incident, he was deeply disturbed. To see the Pandavas suffer was his sole motto. So he consulted with Sakuni to devise a new way to put the Pandavas in trouble. They got the plan ready. Sage Durbasha was wandering in the same forest with his disciples. Duryodhana requested Durbasha to visit the Pandavas and ask for food when they would feel hungry. Little aware of Duryodhana’s ill intention, Durbasha and his disciples wished to go and meet the Pandavas immediately. But Duryodhana somehow kept all of them engaged in conversation until Draupadi had her food from the vessel at last.

The Pandavas, often known for their hospitality, were worried to see Sage Durbasha and his disciples at such a time when the vessel was empty and there was no food available to serve. When they expressed their desire to have food, the Pandavas were lost in thought of how to handle such a situation. They asked Sage Durbasha and his disciples to go and take bath before having food. Draupadi worried more as she was sure of the imminent curse from infamous Durbasha when there would be no food for him and his disciples. As always, the last resort for her was to remember her friend and guide, Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna appeared before her in a while and asked for something to eat as he was feeling hungry. Draupadi, ashamed at her inability to provide the Lord anything to eat, explained about her precarious situation. Lord Krishna wore a weird smile on his lips and took Draupadi’s hand in his hand. He took away a rice particle stuck in the corner of her finger nail and ate that. Then, he told Draupadi that was sufficient to satisfy his hunger and he was feeling content.

When Sage Durbasha and his disciples came back refreshed, they told the Pandavas that they would not have to worry for their food as they were feeling quite full at that moment. The Pandavas were pleasantly surprised at such a decision of Sage Durbasha and his disciples. After they left the place, the Pandava brothers asked Draupadi if she had any clue to what might have been the reason for such a change. Draupadi narrated the whole episode of how Lord Krishna helped them get rid of such a puzzle. The Pandavas felt obliged to Lord Krishna. And Lord Krishna yet again showed his love for his ardent followers.

Lessons learnt:

  • When you have unflinching faith in God, your silent prayers in the midst of any crisis would be heard, provided your intentions are morally upright.
  • Let us not allow a crisis to force us to change our moral stance, come what may. When helpless, let us confide in the Providence and wait for his interference.
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How Lord Krishna Designed the End of Durdaksha

Out of the ninety-nine brothers of Duryodhana, Durdaksha was the only one who was supporting the stand of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war. He was the only one from the Kourava clan who always dissuaded Duryodhana from the path of deceit and violence. But Duryodhana would never listen to his advice. Instead, he ousted Durdaksha from the Kourava clan. When Durdaksha asked for Yudhishthira’s help at those troubled times, he offered him solace till end of the war. But Dhritarashtra and Gandhari, parents of the Kouravas, were unaware of such a happening.

At the end of the Mahabharata war, it was tough for Dhritarashtra and Gandhari to believe that their beloved son Duryodhana had also been slain, like all his brothers. What was tormenting more was their pride of having hundred sons was meaningless. Gandhari, who blind-folded herself after marrying Dhritarashtra to prove her love and devotion for her blind husband, was then desperate to open her eyes to have the last glimpse of her sons’ bodies. What she was perhaps unaware was that her first sight after her years of feigned blindness would burn anything to ashes, maybe due to her divine devotion for her husband.

While taking stroll in the battle field with Bidura and Sanjaya, Gandhari wished Yudhishthira to meet her. As Yudhishthira was getting ready to come to meet Gandhari, Lord Krishna appeared with Durdaksha and wished to accompany Yudhishthira. After they reached the place where Gandhari was eagerly waiting for Yudhishthira, Lord Krishna advised him not to go to the front of Gandhari. Upon Yudhishthira’s innocent inquiry, Lord Krishna answered that it would be a solace for Gandhari to see her only son alive after the demise of her ninety-nine sons. Yudhishthira agreed and sent Durdaksha to stand before Gandhari’s eyes.

Gandhari requested Lord Krishna to unwrap the blind-fold on her eyes so that she could see her son at first sight. Lord Krishna did that. In a fleet second, Durdaksha was burnt to ashes, thus scripting the end of the Kouravas. The heart-broken Gandhari looked at Lord Krishna and was surprised to see Him smiling mysteriously. After realizing the situation, Gandhari cursed Lord Krishna: ‘The end of the Yadavas (to which Lord Krishna belongs) be similar to that of the Soma dynasty (the Kouravas).’

Weighing the sorrows that Gandhari had owned so far, Lord Krishna agreed to live through her curse. Therefore, later, when the Yadavas in Dwarika were in inebriated state and were infighting among themselves thus signalling their end, Lord Krishna did take recluse from all of them, and planned His end while resting at the far-off Prayag Teertha. [You may like to read When Lord Krishna planned His end …]

Lesson learnt: Unless Lord Krishna had it planned that way, Gandhari’s fearsome first sight might have burnt Yudhishthira to ashes. How could the Pandavas who have lost so much in their struggle to defeat the Evil face such an end while a part of the Evil is still alive? In the court of God, Justice reigns supreme.

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When Lord Krishna planned His end …

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. [T S Eliot]

Who knows this better than who made all the beginning? When Lord Krishna was certain that Good had started to rule over Evil after His concerted efforts to restore order in an anarchic world, He did plan His end in a way that would have many questions for posterity to ponder about. While He was resting peacefully in the lap of Mother Nature at Prayag, a place nearby Dwaraka, Jara Sabara was on his hunting expedition. While Jara released his arrow to hit a deer’s ear amidst the jungle, little did he know, what he aimed at was not deer’s ear but Lord Krishna’s lotus feet that resembled a deer’s ear. [Earlier, if Rukmini had taken Saint Durbasha’s order seriously, perhaps Jara’s arrow wouldn’t have pierced Krishna’s feet. To know more, read an earlier post.]

When Lord Krishna was in acute pain and Jara was at his apologetic best, the Lord wished Jara to get Arjuna to that place, for their last meeting. That was perhaps a death wish, Jara deciphered. Jara reached the Pandava brothers and told them that Lord Krishna in His last times wished to meet Arjuna as He was about to depart for good. Shocked at Jara’s revelation, all the Pandava brothers got ready to go on to meet Lord Krishna. Jara reiterated Krishna’s wish to meet Arjuna specifically and not all of them. The Pandava brothers got disappointed, but had no other option than sending Arjuna alone to meet Krishna.

As Arjuna was taking leave from his brothers, Sahadeva, who had the rare ability to see everything that would happen in future but would never be vocal about that, advised Arjuna not to touch Lord Krishna when they would meet. When Arjuna wished to know the reason, Sahadeva told that Lord Krishna would take away all his skills (that He bestowed on Arjuna earlier) if and when they would touch each other. As Arjuna was yet to come out of the shock, he nodded his head and accompanied Jara to Prayag.

Arjuna, seeing his friend, philosopher and guide reeling in acute pain, was moved to tears. Lord Krishna expressed His desire for Arjuna’s last hug before He would depart. But Sahadeva’s prophecy was ringing so loud in Arjuna’s mind that he had to fight a battle with his own self to restrict himself from giving in to Lord Krishna’s last wish. The omniscient Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to extend his arrow and touch Him by that. Arjuna thought for a while and then did extend his arrow towards Lord Krishna. In a fleet second, Lord Krishna took away the divine skills that He bestowed on him before. Many wonder why Lord Krishna did that. Now when the world was in safe hands, there was no reason for Arjuna to carry those divine skills with him. And when the Lord Himself departs, who would tame the skilled Arjuna? There was chance Arjuna might even misuse the skills. (Arjuna, whom the world reckoned as the invincible warrior, was unable to even lift his bow and arrow when his skills were taken away.)

Lesson learnt: Just know that you are a non-entity when the umbilical chord (represented by your faith and devotion) is cut from the Supreme Being. Your skills and abilities that you flaunt to this world are not your own and are the gifts of the Supreme Being.

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When Lord Krishna Answered Draupadi’s Prayers

All know and wonder about the divine camaraderie that existed between Lord Krishna and Draupadi, the only wife of the Pandavas in the epic, Mahabharata. The episode when the Pandavas bet on Draupadi to win a game against Duryodhana and his brothers as a trump card has been perhaps the most talked about one in the epic’s popularity.

When the Pandavas lost the game due to the cunning Shakuni playing his part in supporting the dice calls, Duryodhana wanted his younger brother Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the banquet place and denude her before all parties. Well, it is not that the Pandavas did not have the might to fight with the Kauravas to stop that act of inhumanness. They left the fate of Draupadi to Providence only because they respected their committed words. They did realize that it was a phenomenal wrong to bet on their beloved wife to win back their fortune in a highly unpredictable game played by clever opponents. So, the crisis was of their own doing, and it was against their swadharma (that is, self-religion) to distance themselves from their words that they have committed, in real life or in a mere game.

Draupadi for once cursed her fate to be used as a pun in the game and prayed fervently Lord Krishna to save her from the shameless humiliation that the Kauravas were causing her. Lord Krishna was playing dice with Queen Satyabhama while Draupadi’s prayers reached Him. The omniscient Lord was visibly disturbed for a moment while listening to the prayers, and then kept playing for a few more moments. When He unwrapped the cloth from His wounded finger and released that in air, He murmured, with His inimitable smile on lips, that finally the debt was repaid. Upon Satyabhama’s inquiry, Lord Krishna told her about Draupadi’s helplessness at the moment and His action.

When Satyabhama asked why Lord Krishna delayed in offering Draupadi His help, He answered that He wanted Draupadi to put in her best to avoid the crisis on her own. And if she failed after her honest efforts, she must submit herself before the Lord completely. So it was only when Draupadi reposed her complete faith in Him and lifted her hand towards heaven, did He release the piece of cloth that was coincidentally the piece of saree that Draupadi had torn (from her own saree) and wrapped on Krishna’s wounded finger in their last meeting. Lord Krishna narrated the incident further. Last time, when His finger was wounded and bleeding continued in the presence of all His queens and Draupadi, all His queens screamed for the maids and physicians. But before any of them could spring into action, Draupadi tore a piece of her saree that she was wearing to wrap the wounded finger to stop bleeding. That act of her human kindness had cemented the platonic friendship between them. And of course, that small piece of saree extended till infinity at a time when it mattered most and Draupadi could get out of the shameful situation.

Lesson learnt:

  • Always show acts of your human kindness whenever and wherever you are in a capable position. God remembers every small act of your human kindness and returns you the favour at a time when you need that the most.
  • When you wait on God’s interference to help you out of a crisis, first, ensure that: 1) You have put in your honest efforts to fight it out with all the resources and skills you have with you. 2) When your efforts failed, you have surrendered yourself completely before God to get you a solution.
  • God’s action depends more on how honest your efforts were and how complete your surrender (to Him) is.