Indian mythology abounds with colorful and flavorful tales and
lore, each having a hidden moral or lesson to learn from.
While some of these stories deal with valor and heroic deeds;
others relate in detail, instances of love and friendship. In
this present-day jet-age, a true friend is one who is the most
dinarfficult to find and keep. We have several hundreds of
friends, both online and offline, but only the really lucky
ones get to meet that one friend and companion who will stay
by their side, no matter what happens in their lives.
This time, we bring you a wonderfully refreshing and touching
tale of the eternal bond of true and divine friendship between
man and God - the bond that verily uplifts the Jeevatma to the
level of the Paramatma and makes him one with the Creator. We
present before you the story of Krishna and Sudama.
Sudama: Early Days
Sudama, who was also known as Kuchela in South India, was a
childhood friend of Lord Sri Krishna. Legend has it that
Sudama was Narada, who took birth on Earth in order to enjoy
and participate in the many lilas (spiritual pleasures) of
Krishna. Narada is a divine sage and eternal devotee of Lord
Sudama was born in a poor Brahmin family, to Matuka and
Rochana Devi. Krishna, on the other hand, hailed from the
royal family and hence, enjoyed the highest possible social
status. However, this difference did not in any way hinder
their friendship - the two were inseparables all the way
through the tenure of their schooling while in Vrindavan. They
studied together at Acharya Sandipan's ashram (hermitage).
A Visit to the Forest
Krishna and Sudama once went to the forest to gather
brushwood. They stayed on there for long, walking and chatting
with each other, while also enjoying the beauty of their
environs. It started getting quite late and Krishna got
hungry. Sudama, in the meantime, had some grams with him.
However, he felt embarrassed to offer this simple food to his
friend, who hailed from a royal family. Krishna kept telling
him how hungry he was and asked his friend if he had anything
at all to eat. Sudama denied taking along anything to eat.
Krishna knew very well that his friend had some food with him.
He also knew that the boy too was hungry, so he dozed off for
a little while. Sudama immediately opened his little pack of
food and stealthily ate up some of it. Krishna noticed all
this but said nothing. Both the boys then collected the
brushwood and left for their homes.
After finishing with their studies, they lost touch for
several years. Krishna moved away from Vrindavan and went on
to Dwaraka, where he got married. He then became the King and
a military leader of great repute. Sudama, though, remained as
impoverished as always and stayed on in the same village;
continuing to dedicate his life to religious austerities,
mantra, japa and developing a spiritual attitude toward life.
He also continued thinking of Krishna and loved him as always.
Sudama's Life after Marriage
In due course of time, Sudama got married to Susheela and
became a householder. However, he never had any interest in
accumulating wealth. He was happy to live frugally, desiring
no material gains. He accepted his financial status and
preferred to spend time in the contemplation of the Supreme
Godhead. He had not much money to spare for his wife and
children. There were many times when the family did not even
get two square meals. The children often cried out due to
hunger and drank a lot of water to try and satiate themselves.
Sudama's wife repeatedly requested her husband to visit his
old friend Krishna and beseech him for some financial
assistance. She would remind him that he being a true Brahmin,
a devotee and long-lost close friend of Krishna, the latter
would be only too willing to help him in his time of trouble.
Susheela, like her husband, was not bothered about acquiring
material treasures; but she was concerned about the health of
her family, especially that of her children.
Sudama Defies the Arrogant Knight
An arrogant knight lived in the same town as Sudama. He hated
Krishna's popularity and the fact that so many were devoted to
him. Since Sudama was one of the most ardent devotees of
Krishna, the knight hated him too. He once called Sudama and
told him that the latter would get anything he wished for, if
he would only chant the former's name. However, Sudama chose
to defy the vain man and firmly stated that he would chant
only the Lord's name and no one else's. The knight kept
threatening him with dire consequences if he continued with
his defiance, but Sudama did not waver and stood firm with his
In the meantime, Susheela kept begging her husband to visit
his old friend Krishna, knowing that he would help in their
time of need. Sudama was reluctant to ask such a big favor of
Krishna. Besides, his view was that, Krishna being God, he
would already know everything and would be aware of their
suffering, without them having to go and complain to him.
The knight was further enraged by Sudama's utter lack of
regard for him and decided to teach him a lesson. He went over
to the latter's home and began hitting him. At the very
moment, Krishna, sitting in his palace with his wives Rukmini
and Satyabhama, felt the actual physical pain of the knight's
attack on Sudama. He knew all that Sudama was going through,
but kept silent, wanting the latter to approach him first.
Each time the knight hit Sudama, Krishna bore the brunt
silently. His wives wondered why he was repeatedly wincing,
but he nevertheless kept mum and did not explain the reason
for his strange behavior.
Sudama Visits Krishna
The knight continued punishing and hitting Sudama for days,
but the latter yet refused to visit Krishna. Finally, not able
to take it anymore, Susheela ordered him to leave forthwith
and request help from the Lord. He eventually agreed to visit
his long-lost royal friend at Dwaraka. He realized that it
would not be nice to go empty-handed to visit the King and so,
he asked his wife to prepare some foodstuff that he could
present before Krishna. Having nothing to eat in the house,
she picked up some flattened rice or "poha" and packed it in a
little piece of cloth. Sudama took it and happily left for
Reaching Dwaraka, Sudama stared in amazement at the massive
gates of the palace, and then entered therein, passing through
several military camps and residential quarters on the way.
Once inside, he saw Krishna seated with Rukmini. The Lord
immediately got up and warmly received Sudama, fondly
embracing him. The palace attendants were shocked to see their
King behaving in such a fashion with this humble, obviously
very poor Brahmin. Sudama was completely overwhelmed by the
rousing welcome that Krishna gave him.
The Lord asked him to be seated and, in traditional fashion,
washed Sudama's feet, as a mark of respect for a Brahmin.
Krishna then took some of the water used to wash his feet and
sprinkled it over his own head. He then offered Sudama food
and drink to refresh him after his long journey.
Krishna and Sudama Relive their Childhood Days
Krishna then seated Sudama on his own plush bed and then both
settled down to remember their days of childhood. The latter
was thrilled by his friend's memory of the wonderful days gone
by; of all the adventure they had had together during their
time at their Guru's ashram.
The Lord recounted several incidents during their time
together, including one where the boys entered the forest to
collect dried wood, on the order of their Guru's wife. They
got lost in the forest and could not find their way back. All
of a sudden, there was a vicious dust storm and then thick
clouds covered the sky, with thunder and lightning making the
entire atmosphere even more eerie and unsettling. Sunset
arrived all too soon and the dense forest stretched
never-endingly before them. It soon started to rain heavily;
flooding the entire area.
The young boys were dismayed by the devastation all around and
decided to stick very close to each other. Holding each
others' hands, they tried in vain to find their Guru's home.
They were trapped in the forest all night and the next
morning, the Guru sent his other disciples to look for them.
After a long search, they found the boys, utterly shaken,
tired, sleepy and hungry. The Guru was very touched by the
boys' devotion to him and blessed them with all goodness and
Krishna talked in detail about the incident, relating how
lucky they were to find such a spiritual master and how his
blessings had helped them achieve much in their own lives.
Sudama was wonderstruck by the Lord's own humility and how
simple he was, in spite of being the Lord God; the Controller
of the whole Universe. They talked for a long time, after
which Krishna finally asked Sudama what the purpose of his
visit was and the reason why he had come to see him.
Sudama Offers Puffed Rice to Krishna
Krishna's mood turned jovial and, with a mischievous glint in
his eye, he asked his friend what the latter had brought him
as a gift and if his wife had packed some nice eatables.
Reluctantly and feeling very embarrassed, Sudama offered him
the packet of flattened rice. Krishna, knowing what his friend
was thinking, enthusiastically opened the packet and was very
happy when he saw the contents inside it. He decided he would
partake of the rice and then richly reward Sudama for the
The Lord grabbed a handful of the foodstuff and happily ate it
up. When he tried to put in a second mouthful though, his wife
Rukmini, the Goddess of Fortune, held his hand and shook her
head ever so slightly. She meant to tell him that with one
handful of the rice, Sudama would become extremely wealthy in
his present life. But with a second handful, he would continue
to reap riches even in his next life. She was already obliged
by Sudama's offering, to stay in this Brahmin's house and
shower her grace in his present birth. She did not wish to
continue doing so in his next birth as well.
Krishna understood what Rukmini was trying to tell him and,
with a gentle smile on his lips, kept aside the packet of
rice. He then fed his friend a lavish meal, asked him to rest
for a while and then spent some more time talking with him.
Sudama, in the meantime, was in a state of transcendental
bliss and so, actually forgot the reason why he had come here
in the first place. He spent the night at the palace and left
for his home early next morning. Krishna lovingly bade him
farewell, though he did not offer him anything in material
terms. On the way, he was completely happy and absorbed
thinking of the wonderful time he had spent with the Lord.
He thought that Krishna had desisted from giving him money and
other material things, as he probably thought that those
things may spoil his own attitude and make him too proud and
arrogant; finally making him forget God. Thinking thus, he
continued on his way back home.
A Palace of Gold Awaits Sudama
As he neared his home, Sudama was dismayed to see that his
humble little cottage was missing. In place of that was a
large, gleaming palace, made of gold, stones and jewels. His
poor and shabby neighborhood had been converted into beautiful
gardens and parks with lovely lotus-filled lakes, filled with
flocks of different multi-colored birds! Regal-looking men and
women were strolling around the parks and divine music was
playing somewhere in the background.
Sure that he had come to the right place, Sudama wondered
where his little home had disappeared, virtually overnight. As
he stood there taking in the sights, his wife ran out of the
palace to greet him. She was dressed in opulent, rich silks
and heavy gold jewelry and seemed to him like the Goddess of
Fortune herself. She affectionately led her amazed husband
inside the palace. Its chambers were beautiful and ornate, fit
for Indra, the King of the Gods. The palace consisted of
several ornamented columns and pillars, with rich silk and
velvet canopies hanging from the windows.
Sudama then understood that all of this was Krishna's doing.
The Lord had been silently watching him and his suffering for
all these years. But his small, seemingly meaningless offering
of the poha had paid rich rewards. He had been bestowed
wonderful and incomparable riches and a palace, beautiful
beyond human imagination.
Sudama then prayed to Krishna, promising that he would never
forget his Lord in the midst of all this wealth and opulence.
He accepted Krishna's grace as prasadam and also resolved to
use the money on serving the Lord. He lived peacefully with
his wife and spent the rest of his life in luxury. However, he
did so with a permanent and unwavering sense of gratitude and
devotion toward the Lord, never once falling into the trap of
ego and greed that wealth, power and position invariably bring
with them. The Lord's grace proportionately increased day
after day, bestowing more well-being, happiness and peace on
Sudama and Akshaya Tritiya
It is believed that Sudama met Krishna at Dwaraka on the
sacred day of Akshaya Tritiya. This day occurs just once a
year and falls on the third day of the bright half of the
Vaishakh month, during April-May, according to the English
calendar. On this day, the Sun and the Moon are in exalted
position and shine at their brightest.
The word "Akshaya" signifies unending, imperishable or
eternal. It is considered that valuables bought or new
beginnings made on this day bear fruit and bring immense
success and good fortune to the doer. This is why people
traditionally purchase gold, silver and other valuables on
this day. Akshaya Tritiya is also considered an auspicious day
for conducting weddings, begin new business ventures and even
undertake long-distance journeys. On this day, many Hindus
bathe in holy rivers, conduct elaborate Poojas, make
charities, and offer barley in havans (sacred fire rituals).
Lord Ganesha, the Elephant-Headed Lord and Devi Lakshmi, the
Goddess of Wealth are also worshipped on this day.
Why Sudama Suffered Poverty
Sudama suffered immense poverty for most of his life. This
suffering was due to his karma. As mentioned earlier, during
their childhood, Sudama had once eaten his food on the sly,
without sharing the same with a very hungry Krishna. Sudama,
being young himself, had not known the omnipotent and
omniscient nature of Lord Sri Krishna and so, had not
understood that this was all a mere lila or divine play on the
part of Krishna. The latter had known all along what his
friend was doing, but he had kept silent, only so that Sudama
could finish his life's karma by way of this incident.
However, when Sudama offered Krishna a handful of poha;
Krishna, the Supremely Benevolent One and the caretaker of his
devotees; immediately rewarded him with unimaginable wealth
and riches that would last him a lifetime. Since Sudama had by
then realized Krishna's divinity and started spending his
new-found riches on charity, the latter kept showering him
with even more grace and wealth that lasted all his life.
Moral Contained in the Story
The story of Krishna and Sudama contains several hidden
lessons that we could learn from. Some of them are as follows:
All are equal in the eyes of the Lord and He does not
differentiate between people based on petty caste, wealth and
social status. We too should learn to respect each individual,
as each one is a creation of that Supreme Being.
God always rewards good deeds; however, He is also bound by
the Laws of Karma. He knows when to bestow His grace on us. It
may take a while for us to reverse negative karma and start
enjoying the fruit of our good deeds, but it is bound to come
to us in time. Till such a time arrives, we merely need to
keep up with good karma.
Bhakti or devotion toward God is the only thing that will lead
us to His grace. Also, praying and conducting elaborate Poojas
expecting material gains in return will never help us attain
the Lord's grace. Instead, being pure of thought, word and
deed and offering our heart and soul to Him will give us
everything we would ever need.
Sudama's Gift of the Poha
Some may wonder how a handful of flattened rice would be
enough to grant good karma spanning over several lifetimes.
Here is an explanation for the same:
It is said that Annadaan or the act of offering food is the
greatest ever charity man can perform in his lifetime. By
offering the Lord a handful of poha, Sudama had unknowingly
done the greatest deed of feeding the Universal Form of the
Lord Himself. With this handful of the rice, Krishna, in his
Universal Form, fed all the creatures of the world. This act
of Sudama wiped out all his negative karma in one single
moment of time; while also earning him enough good karma to
last several more lifetimes!
Sudama was extremely poor and could not afford even that
packetful of poha. His family would go hungry for days on end,
sometimes drinking only water in an attempt to satiate their
hunger. In his case, therefore, the fact that he took the
trouble to feed the Lord in spite of his own destitute
condition was enough reason for him to earn a tremendous
amount of good karma.
Was Sudama's Friendship Greater?
As mentioned above, it was extremely difficult for Sudama to
afford even a small packet of rice to offer to his friend
Krishna. Krishna, on the other hand, was a King and so,
bestowing so much wealth on Sudama was easy for him. Looking
at the story from this angle, Krishna was only returning
Sudama had come to Krishna, merely to express his love toward
him. He had nothing to offer and yet, he did not beg for
anything. Instead, he actually ended up feeding the Lord
Himself. Krishna too knew very well that true, selfless love
and friendship such as Sudama's would only give and never
take. The Lord himself was impatiently waiting for his poor
friend's arrival, so that He could liberate him from all his
While Krishna's gift was rare and precious, Sudama's gift was
invaluable and priceless. The Lord knew the amount of
difficulty his friend would have gone through in bringing the
packet of poha to him. Knowing Sudama's pure and undiluted
love and devotion for him, he had to respond with much greater
love and affection.
This shows that a true devotee's love invariably forces God to
bestow several times more love and grace on him. While God is
in no way committed to respond to everyone's prayer, He simply
has to respond to a devotee who showers this level of love and
bhakti on Him.