Krishna demands a present from Kuchela.....
The story of Krishna and His friend Sudhaama the Kuchela has always fascinated me..
Even after reading in many times from Sriimad Bhagavatam, every time one reads it, there is a lump in the throat and the eyes overflow with tears.. of grief, love, ecstasy.. one is not sure..
Krishna and Sudhama an indigent brahmin were classmates in the school of Sage Sandeepani.. and they were very close to each other as boys..
After schooling they parted ways,,
The prince Krishna to rule over Dvaaraka in all Royal Splendour
Sudhama settled with an equally indigent wife and was eking out a livelihood through vedic practices and receiving presents in the process of vedic rituals and congregations for chanting divine names and so on..
The brahmin, as is usual with most brahmins, was not a smart one in the worldly affairs, and he could earn so little that he could not even provide food for his family consisting of his wife Susheela and a wealth of children numbering more than two dozens..
They were pulling on..
but life was becoming more and more unbearable..
Sudhaama did not have good clothes to wear, and so he was always attired in tattered garments and gained the additional name of Kuchela which stuck to him and his original name was almost forgotten..
Though very poor in worldly wealth,
he was rich in his devotion to God,,
and he was always profuse in praising his boyhood friend Krishna.
But it never occurred to him that a call or even a message to his dear friend would have made a lot of difference to his wordly state of affairs..
The brahmin lady, as is usual with every housewife in India over centuries, just suffered everything silently, without finding fault with her naive husband..
But hunger is a major issue..
It is especially true when you have to find material to fill a lot of stomachs..
So the lady suggested to her husband that he should pay a visit to his boyhood friend..
The idea did not sound appealing to Kuchela at first..
He could not bring himself to present himself before Krishna in the present condition..
He was also apprehensive that the Royal Highness Krishna would not remember such an old museum piece the brahmin was..
He also doubted whether he would get an audience with Krishna even if he visited Dvaraka..
But Susheela was persistent..
And seeing her misery and the hunger of the children, the brahmin half-heartedly agreed to pay a visit to Dvaaraka..
But then he asked, "What shall I take to Krishna as a present?"
There was nothing of value available in the household..
Even grain was scarce..
The lady managed to borrow a little quantity of rice from a neighbhour, and made an attempt to pound it with a mortar and pestle..
The lady was helpless and weak and her best efforts to make pounded rice ( Aval) was only partially successful..
She did not have any container to pack the mixture or pounded and unpounded rice,
and so she tore off a piece of cloth from the saree she wore and packed the semi pounded rice as a bundle and handed over the same to her husband..
The husband carried the small bundle held fast to his armpit and proceeded by foot to Dvaraka..
Krishna was sitting in his palace in the company of Rukmani and just watching the passers by along the royal thoroughfare..
He saw a thin old and gnarled brahmin, walking with slow and unsure strides towards the palace,
and immediately recognised his long time friend and classmate..
He ran down the road shoe-less and partially clothed to receive the friend in an embrace and took him to the palace..
The brahmin was comfortably seated, offered respects like washing of feet which are due to any guest..
The brahmin was sitting in the throne and Krishna was seated on the floor beside him..
And Rugmani was swaying the fan for him..
The Lord knew that his friend has come to him prodded by his sincere but suffering wife,..
Usually we take presents to God, and offer them to Him with a lot of devotion..
We do not know really whether God receives our presents or not..
But Krishna asks Kuchela, " My dear friend, what have you brought as present for me?"
This scene is described poignantly in Srimad Bhagavatha Puranam, Dashama Skandham, Chapter 81 in the following slokas..
किमुपायनमानीतम् ब्रह्मन् मे भवता गृहात्।
अण्वप्युपहृतम् भक्तैः प्रेम्णा भूर्येव मे भवेत्।
भूर्यप्यभक्तोपहृतम् न मे तोषाय कल्पते॥३।
पत्रम् पुष्पम् फलम् तोयम् यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति
तदहम् भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मना॥४
इत्युक्तोऽपि द्विजस्तस्मै व्रीडितः पतये श्रियः
पृथुकप्रसृतिम् राजन् न प्रायच्चदवाङ्मुखः॥५
पत्न्या पतिव्रतायास्तु सखा प्रियचिकीर्षया
प्राप्तो मामस्य दास्यामि सम्पदोऽमर्त्यदुर्लभाः॥६
इत्थम् विचिन्त्य वसनाच्चीरबद्धान्द्विजन्मनः
स्वयम् जहार किमिदमिति पृथुकतण्डुलान्॥७
नन्वेतदुपनीतम् मे परमप्रीणनम् सखे
तर्पयत्यङ्ग माम् विश्वमेते पृथुकतण्डुलाः॥८
इति मुष्ठिम् सकृत्जग्ध्वा द्वितीयम् जग्धुमाददे
तावच्छ्रीर्जगृहे हस्तम् तत्परा परमेष्ठिनः॥९
एतावतालम् विश्वात्मन् सर्वसम्पत्समृद्धये
॥श्रीमद् भागवते दशमस्कन्धे एकाशीतितमोऽध्याये। ८१॥
kimupāyanamānītam brahman me bhavatā gṛhāt|
aṇvapyupahṛtam bhaktaiḥ premṇā bhūryeva me bhavet|
bhūryapyabhaktopahṛtam na me toṣāya kalpate||3|
patram puṣpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tadaham bhaktyupahṛtamaśnāmi prayatātmanā||4
ityukto'pi dvijastasmai vrīḍitaḥ pataye śriyaḥ
pṛthukaprasṛtim rājan na prāyaccadavāṅmukhaḥ||5
patnyā pativratāyāstu sakhā priyacikīrṣayā
prāpto māmasya dāsyāmi sampado'martyadurlabhāḥ||6
ittham vicintya vasanāccīrabaddhāndvijanmanaḥ
svayam jahāra kimidamiti pṛthukataṇḍulān||7
nanvetadupanītam me paramaprīṇanam sakhe
tarpayatyaṅga mām viśvamete pṛthukataṇḍulāḥ||8
iti muṣṭhim sakṛtjagdhvā dvitīyam jagdhumādade
tāvacchrīrjagṛhe hastam tatparā parameṣṭhinaḥ||9
etāvatālam viśvātman sarvasampatsamṛddhaye
||śrīmad bhāgavate daśamaskandhe ekāśītitamo'dhyāye| 81||
The Glorious Lord said..
" Oh worthy brahmin, what have you brought for me from your own house?
Even if a very insignificant( the size of an Anu.. atom) present is made to me by my devotees with deep love that becomes very splendid and of infinitely large quantity for me.
And even large quantities of presents offered to me by those who are not devoted to me would never please me..
Even if a leaf, a single flower, a little fruit, a few drops of water, are offered to me with devotion, I accept them and partake in them with full satisfaction.."
But overcome by shame at the thought of the insignificant bundle of semipounded rice brought by him, the brahmin did not offer the bundle to the Lord who is the Master of the Goddess of Wealth herself
( Maybe the brahmin was in a dilemma.. how to give that insignificant offering to the wealthiest person in the universe). The brahmin sat there immobile with bowed head..
Then the Lord thought..
" This friend has come on a visit to me as requested by his devoted wife who desired the welfare of a friend of His..
I shall endow him with wealth that is not attainable even by Gods."
And the Lord just snatched the cloth bundle from his friend, opened it and took a handful of that semi-pounded rice and ate it..
And He was about to take the second handful, when the Goddess of wealth Lakshmi, who was present there as Rugmani held the hands of Krishna preventing him from eating the second handful..
The Goddess of Wealth did this because, even when Krishna had eaten the first serve, all the welfare and wealth that could suffice for any being has been granted to Sudhaama and if the second serve was eaten then She would lose the Lord to the control of that devotee.. and She did not want to lose Her Krishna.
The brahmin was just feeling the ecstasy of the company of his lifelong friend, and after some time he took leave and started his journey back home..
He did not even remember the purpose for which he had come on a visit..
Krishna also did not ask about the purpose of his visit..
The lord was perhaps assuming that a good old friend had come on a visit to have a recap of old happy times at school..
But when Sudhama reached his house, he found that a huge palace with all spledour stood in the place of his old dilapidated home, and his family members were all in royal attire, ready to received this man, who still was wearing tattered clothes..
There is nothing surprising in reading that Krishna helped his old classmate with a lot of wealth..
But the gesture of the Lord in snatching the tattered cloth bundle containing semipounded rice from his friend is an eternal testimony to the fact that a devotee is everything to Him and he is always eager to receive even petty offering with hearts filled with devotion.