By – Kavea Panneerselvam
The story of Krishna and Sudama is one of friendship, love, and most of all, devotion. Sudama was born into a poor Brahmin family, whereas Krishna came from a royal family. This stark difference in their wealth and upbringing did not affect the pure friendship that they shared. The story begins at the time when both Krishna and Sudama were young children studying in the same gurukul (vedic school) under Acharya Sandipani.
Once, while studying at the ashram of Acharya Sandipani, the two friends went out to the forest to gather some wood. They spent a while walking and talking in the forest, and the boys became hungry. Sudama had brought along some puffed rice to eat, but felt embarrassed to offer Krishna, who hailed from royalty, something so simple to eat. Therefore, he denied having any food. Krishna knew very well that Sudama had brought food, but he pretended not to notice. Then when Krishna dozed off, Sudama stealthily ate some of the puffed rice.
After their childhood, the two friends lost touch, and went their separate ways.
Life of Poverty
As time passed, Sudama remained extremely devoted to Krishna, however, he and his family remained in utter poverty. Sudama’s wife Susheela urged him to go visit his good friend, Krishna to ask for some financial assistance. Sudama knew that Krishna was the Lord himself, and knew therefore that Krishna was aware of his situation. So he felt like it was not in his place to ask Krishna for such a huge favor.
An arrogant knight, who also lived in the same town as Sudama was unhappy and extremely irritated at Sudama’s devotion towards Krishna. He told Sudama that he would provide him with anything he wanted as long as Sudama only chanted the knight’s name, instead of Krishna’s. Sudama, as devoted as ever to Krishna, refused by saying that he will only chant the Lord’s name.
Sudama Visits Krishna
Sudama’s wife, Susheela, finally convinces him to visit his old friend. He didn’t want to go empty handed to meet his friend, but he asked his wife to prepare some puffed rice and brought it along for Krishna.
Upon arriving at Krishna’s palace in Dwaraka, he was welcomed with great love and respect by his old friend. He offered Krishna the puffed rice, and Krishna grabbed a big handful and ate happily. As Krishna was about to grab a second handful, his wife, Rukmini stopped him. Rukmini, being an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, knew that she was obligated to shower Sudama with wealth for the first handful of puffed rice that Krishna accepted. If he ate another handful, she would be obligated to shower Sudama with wealth for many more lifetimes.
Understanding this, Krishna stopped, and offered a grand feast for his friend. Sudama spent a few days with Krishna and forgot to ask him for financial assistance, the main purpose of his visit. After a few days, Sudama returned to his home without ever asking Krishna for help. When he arrived, he saw his wife dressed in precious silks and a palace where his once humble home used to stand.
Krishna had already alleviated Sudama’s poverty. Sudama had suffered poverty because of the karma he obtained by hiding food from Krishna in their childhood. But in his adult life, he offered food to Krishna even though his family would live on just water for days. As soon as his karmic baggage was burned, Krishna showered him with unimaginable wealth. Sudama’s devotion for Krishna, and Krishna’s unwavering friendship, allowed Sudama to come out of poverty. He remained humble, even in all his wealth, and remained utterly devoted to Krishna.