Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sri Krishna's Hunger

The Pandavas were the true heirs to the throne of Hastinapur. However, the Kauravas, their cousins, led by the evil Duryodhana, would not allow them their right. The kingdom was finally divided, and the Pandavas given the kingdom of Indraprastha. The envy of the Kauravas did not cease, and they managed to trick the Pandavas out of Indraprastha through a deceitful game of dice. Moreover, they even managed to get the Pandavas exiled to the forest for 13 years.

The Pandavas left for the forest accompanied by their wife Draupadi and a few sages and their disciples. During these 13 years, they were also regularly visited by many sages as well their relatives. Yudhishtra foresaw the problems of feeding such a large number of people, and, on the advice of the sages, prayed to Surya, the Sun God. In response to his prayers, Surya gave him a bowl – an Akshayapatra – a vessel which manifested and held unlimited amounts of food. While giving this wonderful gift to Yudhishtra, Surya said, “Through this vessel, you shall obtain, for the entire period of your exile, as much food as is needed for you and all those who accompany you. Only when everyone has been fed, and Draupadi has her share, will the vessel become empty for the day. Once empty, the vessel will fill again, only the next day!”

The Pandavas were careful in using the vessel, and had no trouble feeding all the people who came to visit them. This, in turn, provoked the Kauravas’ ire, for they could not bear even the slightest happiness for the Pandavas.

One day, the sage Durvasa arrived at Hastinapur with ten thousand disciples! The sage was known for his great anger, and Duryodhana hurried to serve the sage himself. He looked after the sage’s every need, and made sure all his followers were contented and comfortable. As he had hoped, the sage was pleased with the prince, and asked him what he wanted.

This was the opportunity Duryodhana had been waiting for! Instead of asking something for himself or his family, or for the good of his subjects, Duryodhana tried to make use of the opportunity to belittle the Pandavas. He said, bowing with false humility, “Great Sage, you have blessed us by your visit here. My cousins, the Pandavas are living in the forest. All I ask of you is that you visit them and bless them too, as you have blessed me. Please go late in the afternoon, so that they can complete their chores and look after you and your followers well.”

Duryodhana had phrased his request well, for the sage was impressed by his love for his cousins, and agreed to go to the Pandavas at once. He did not realize that Duryodhana was trying to get his cousins into trouble, sending the sage to them at a time when they would not be able to provide food for the sage and his huge retinue.

As Duryodhana had expected, the sage and his disciples arrived at the Pandavas’ ashram just after they had all finished their meal. Yudhishtra welcomed the sage warmly and asked how he and his brothers could serve him.

The sage replied, “O eldest of the Pandavas, we are coming from Hastinapur, where we learnt that you were living here in exile. You cousin took good care of us and asked us to pay you a visit. We are tired from our long journey, and wish to have food. But before that, we shall take a bath in the river. Please keep the food ready for us, for we are very hungry!”

As soon as the sage had left for the riverbank, Yudhishtra turned towards Draupadi, who had a shocked look on her face. “My lord” she said, “the Akshayapatra is empty, for I have just had my food. What can we do now?”

Now the Pandavas panicked! If they did not serve the sage food, he would be angry and curse them! No doubt, this was what Duryodhana had intended when he had sent the sage to their abode.

As the Pandavas wondered what to do and how to inform the sage that they could not provide food to such a huge number of people, Draupadi thought of the only one who could help them – Krishna! She was an ardent devotee of the lord, and had complete faith and belief in Him! She called out to him “Krishna, please help us. There is no one but you who can help us. If you do not come to our aid, the sage will surely curse us!”

The lord always responds to a sincere prayer, and Krishna appeared at once, miraculously, in their midst. As the Pandavas and Draupadi stared at him, stunned by his sudden appearance, Krishna looked at Draupadi and said, mischievously, “Draupadi, I am hungry. Can you please give me something to eat?”

Draupadi found her tongue at last, and pleaded, “Krishna, how can you tease me like this? The sage Durvasa has arrived with ten thousand disciples, and we are wondering how to feed them, and now you come here and ask for food too! Don’t you know that there isn’t a morsel of food here?”

Krishna replied, with a smile, “Draupadi, are you sure there is no food in the house? Come, show me your vessel, and let me see.”

Draupadi went inside the ashram and brought out the Akshayapatra, which she had just cleaned after eating her share of the food. Krishna took it in his hand and peered into it. Suddenly, he put his hand in and picked out a morsel of food from the rim. “See” he said, “There is some food left!”

While Draupadi bowed her head, ashamed that she hadn’t cleaned the vessel properly, Krishna put the morsel into his mouth, and said, “Aah! This is just what I wanted! Now my stomach is full. I am satisfied!”

Turning to the Pandavas, who were looking at him open-mouthed, Krishna said, “Bhima, go and inform the sage and his disciples that food is ready for them. Ask them to come and eat soon!”

Bhima was surprised by Krishna’s words, but he trusted the lord and obeyed him at all times. He walked towards the river, where the sage and his disciples had just completed their bath.

Meanwhile, the sage and his ten thousand disciples, as they were emerging from the river, suddenly felt their ravenous hunger disappearing, and in no time, they felt as if they had just had a full meal. Seeing Bhima approaching, they wondered how to inform him that they could not eat another morsel!

The sage wondered what had happened to make him feel so satiated, and realized through his powers, the entire sequence of events. He said to Bhima, “Son, we came here sent by your cousin, knowing that you would not be able to provide us food. I wished to test you, and you have passed the test with your love and devotion to the lord. I realize that it is Krishna, who has accepted a morsel of food from you and satiated the hunger of the whole world. I bow before the lord who rescues his devotees in distress. You are all blessed, because of your devotion to the lord. Please forgive me for refusing your hospitality and allow us to take your leave.”

The sage left the ashram at once, blessing the Pandavas, and the Pandavas heaved a sigh of relief. Krishna had saved them once again! Such is the love of the Lord towards his devotees.

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