By Nirooshitha Sethuram
Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow
Krishna wanted to tease Rukmini, so he started with a questionable statement, “My dear Rukmini, I could never understand why you chose me out of many great personalities in the royal order who wanted to marry you. Among them, some were famous kings, very powerful and strong. Some may not have been kings, but they all possessed the affluence and riches of kingly order. They were not unfitting in anyway. In particular, your parents and brother gave their word of honor to Shishupala who was a great king. He was madly in love with you, especially after your beauty and he would have remained with you just like your faithful servant. In comparison with Shisupala’s personality, I am nothing. I am surprised you rejected him for me. May I ask you the reason that convinced you to accept me, as I feel I am inferior to all those princes who wanted to marry you? Remember I was so much afraid of Jarasandha that I could not dare to live in Madura, and I had to construct Dwaraka in the middle of the sea to evade him.”
He didn’t stop there. He continued, “It’s not too late. You have the freedom to select a suitable husband who is an actual equal to you in family tradition, wealth, beauty and in all other respects. As you know, usually a person does not establish a marital relationship with a person who is either higher or lower than his position.”
Rukmini was well aware that her husband was not an ordinary being. But upon hearing this, Rukmini was afraid of being separated from her Lord, for she had never heard such insensitive words from Krishna before. Filled with fear and anxiety, without replying with a single word, she cried as if being drowned in an ocean of grief. She lost all her reasoning powers and became so weak that immediately her body lost so much weight that the bangles on her wrists became loosened. The fan with which she was serving Krishna immediately fell from her hand. Her mind and memory became puzzled, and she lost consciousness. She fell down straight, like a tree brought down by an axe.
Lord Krishna immediately realized that Rukmini had not taken his words in a playful spirit. She had taken them very seriously. In her extreme anxiety over immediate separation from him, she had fallen into this condition.
Seeing this, Krishna’s heart was softened by Rukmini’s condition. He appeared in front of her in his real form, as Lord Vishnu with his four hands. He got down from the bedstead and brought her up by her hands. He placed his hands on her face and smoothed the scattered hairs on her head gently. He then hugged her to his chest.
He began to speak again in a soft gentle way, “My dear daughter of Vidarbha, my beloved Rukmini, please don’t misunderstand me. The words I spoke that affected you so much are not factual. I just wanted to irritate you and was expecting you to make counter arguments. I am very sorry that you have taken them seriously. I expected to see your angry face and that your red lips would tremble in anger. I thought you would chastise me in many words. I never expected that your condition would be like this. My dear Rukmini you know that we are householders and are always busy in household affairs. We long for times that we can enjoy some teasing words between us, the ultimate game in household life.”
In this way, Krishna wanted to exhibit himself as just an ordinary householder who delights himself by exchanging joking words with his wife. Thus, he repeatedly requested Rukmini not to take the words he had spoken seriously.
Hearing this, Rukmini was freed from all her fear of separation from the Lord. She started speaking softly. “Oh Lord! Yes, you are right about we not being equal. I can never be equal with you as you are the One Divine Reality in its full form. You are the master of all greatness, controller of the three qualities and object of worship. You reside in the deep recesses of the heart of all beings, who are always battling the powerful material senses, which are their enemies. Your movements which are mysterious for even the sages are certainly incomprehensible for human beings. There is nothing beyond you.”
Krishna said, “Oh dear princess, as I said earlier, I fooled you just because I wanted to hear what you would say. Your answers are absolutely correct. Even though you were disturbed by my words, your mind couldn’t be dragged away. I have now perceived pure love towards one’s husband, and adherence to vows of chastity. In all my palaces I do not find another as loving as you.” Rukmini’s delight by hearing this was unmeasurable.
Days and weeks passed in Dwaraka. One fine day the guards came into the palace and informed Krishna that his dearest friend Sudama had come to see him. Hearing this, Krishna rushed to meet Sudama. When he saw Sudama, he embraced him and welcomed him with the greatest joy. Then he took him to his personal room. Who is this Sudama that Krishna is so fond of?
Krishna and Sudama were childhood friends who studied under Guru Sandipani. Years passed and Krishna became the King of Dwaraka, Sudama returned to his village and immersed himself into Vedic studies. Sudama belonged to a poor Brahmin family. After some time, he got married and had many children. Even though he was a Vedic scholar, he was suffering from severe poverty. But he never begged for money from others, as he was satisfied with whatever the little money he earned. As he didn’t have good clothes to wear, he often wore worn out clothes with holes in them.
That made people call him Kuchela, a person who wears rags. Kuchela’s wife was admired by all for her domestic virtues. She was always satisfied with whatever her husband brought, having devoted her life to him and the children. She gave the children the education they needed and filled their hearts with dharmic principles, preparing them to be good citizens. Even though what Kuchela brought was not enough, she found a way to feed them all sufficiently, going to bed with an empty stomach herself. After some time, living that way too became difficult. It was time for her to come up with a plan, as she couldn’t bear the sufferings her family was going through.
That’s when she remembered Krishna, a great friend of Kuchela. She went to her husband and told him to approach his good old friend Krishna and ask for help, hoping that he would honor his request. She was sure of it, as she had heard many stories about people approaching Krishna with love and devotion. They always got rewarded for their devotion. Though Kuchela was hesitant at first, he was encouraged by his wife’s persuasion and decided to visit Krishna.
He didn’t want to visit his old friend empty handed, after all these years. But he didn’t know what he should offer to Krishna. The usual practice and courtesy required him to take something, so he asked his wife for suggestions. She told him that the idea of a gift was excellent, but as they were so poor and couldn’t afford any gift to be given to a king. After contemplating they both agreed that Kuchela should carry some aval, rice flakes. So, he carried aval in a small sachet and started his journey to Dwaraka.
Kuchela began dreaming about meeting Krishna at Dwaraka. He prepared himself with all the things he could say to please him. He was so delighted that he was getting to go and serve, honor and embrace him. Then suddenly, fear came into him. He wondered how he would pass through the guards. What if they don’t let him in?
But he was determined to go see Krishna so he entered the palace confidently. To his surprise, no one stopped him from entering the palace. He went straight to the guards, who came to Krishna and informed him of his dearest friend Kuchela’s arrival.
After inquiring the welfare of his family, Krishna asked Kuchela what he had brought for him. After seeing the splendor of Dwaraka, Kuchela was feeling embarrassed with his gift of rice flakes. Krishna noticed that Kuchela was hiding a small bag and even without asking for it he snatched it from his hands. He opened it and his eyes lit up in delight, seeing the rice flakes. Immediately he took a handful of rice flakes and happily put them into his mouth. It was so tasty that Krishna wanted to eat more, but Rukmini intervened and took it from him.
Kuchela enjoyed the stay with Krishna and his family. When the time came to leave, he was very sad. On his way back home, he was thinking only about the time he spent with Krishna, particularly the happiness he felt when he was with Krishna. But halfway home, he was a bit unhappy that he had not asked for anything from Krishna, as he and his wife had planned. But he consoled himself by saying, if it was to be, Krishna would have given him the wealth. Krishna didn’t want me to immerse myself in the pleasures of worldliness, he thought to himself. With these running through in his mind he returned to his hut.
He was pleasantly surprised that a miracle had taken place. He couldn’t recognize his hut. In its place was a beautiful and lavish mansion. What he gave Krishna was a merely a fist full of rice flakes with love, but in return Krishna had ordered Vishwakarma the divine architect to build this fine mansion for him. Kuchela noticed his family wearing new clothes and found an abundance of food in the house, or should we say mansion. He was so happy that Krishna had showered his blessings on him.
In spite of all this wealth, Kuchela did not indulge in worldly pleasures, but instead immersed in the thought of Krishna for the rest of his life. Kuchela set an example to all, as the grace of God is the final gift to every human being and we should aspire for it and it alone.
More to come…