When the young village cowherd enters the big city, He flouts the law and order of its evil king.
By Gauranga Darshana Dasa
The self-satisfied Lord eagerly reciprocates the earnest offerings of fortunate people who get the rare privilege of serving Him.
It was almost evening when Krishna, Balarama, and the cowherd boys went to tour the splendorous city of Mathura. Krishna was born in Mathura, but His father, Vasudeva, had quickly taken Him to Gokula to protect Him from wicked King Kamsa, His maternal uncle. Since then, Krishna had lived in Vraja with Yashoda, Nanda Maharaja, the cows, the cowherd boys and girls, and all the other residents. Now Krishna had come to Mathura on Kamsa’s invitation. Upon arriving at the outskirts of Mathura, He had taken permission from Nanda Maharaja to enter the city with Balarama and other cowherd boys.
Intense Eagerness Satisfied: Krishna Gives His Darshana to the Residents of Mathura
More than Krishna’s wanting to see the city, the city longed to see Krishna. Sri Vallabhacharya writes in his Madhurashtakam, madhuradhi-pater akhilam madhuram: “Everything is sweet about Krishna, the emperor of sweetness.” Krishna is the real Lord of Mathura. The people of Mathura had often heard about Krishna’s sweet and valorous deeds in Vrindavana and had developed a deep attraction for Him.
Now the eagerness of the residents of Mathura was fulfilled as they got to see Krishna’s charming form. They were overwhelmed with happiness. With their lotuslike faces blooming with affection, they showered Krishna with the flowers of their loving glances and smiles. Many people offered Krishna various presentations. They appreciated the great fortune of the residents of Vrindavana, who would daily see Krishna to their heart’s content.
Great Arrogance Punished: Krishna Delivers the Wicked Washerman
On entering the city, Krishna and Balarama came upon a washerman carrying colorful clothes for King Kamsa. Krishna, who is complete in all respects, politely asked the washerman for some garments, promising him a great benefit in return. What fortune! While millions of devotees eagerly wait for an opportunity to render some service to the Supreme Lord even indirectly, that same Lord voluntarily came to this washerman to ask for some cloth.
Glorious are those devotees who eagerly look forward to serving the Lord. Unfortunate people, however, miss such chances, which come on their own accord. Instead of recognizing his fortune in receiving the opportunity to offer clothes to Krishna, the wicked washerman rejected Krishna’s request and publicly ridiculed Him with loud, angry, harsh, insulting words.
There were many washermen in Mathura, but this person happened to be the king’s washerman, and thus he was very arrogant. Our connection with superior or influential people can make us so proud that we deride others and look down upon those who don’t have such privilege.
The washerman said that Krishna and His associates, being uncivilized cowherds, forest dwellers, and mountain wanderers, did not deserve the fine cloth meant for the royal order. He cautioned Krishna that the king’s soldiers would beat, loot, and kill Them if They asked for the clothes.
In his previous birth this person had been a washerman in Ayodhya, the kingdom of Lord Ramachandra (Sri Garga-samhita 5.10.4–8). He had criticized Rama for accepting Sita Devi, who, kidnapped by Ravana, had stayed in his place for a year. Rama considered that just as this washerman had criticized Him now, lusty kings in the future might cite His accepting Sita as an excuse to have illicit connections with women. To avoid any such misunderstanding, Rama banished Sita, although He and His dear devotees knew beyond doubt the chastity and purity of glorious Sita Devi.
Hearing the sinful washerman’s malicious words, Krishna effortlessly beheaded him merely with His fingertips. The Lord doesn’t have to exert Himself to punish the wicked. For instance, Lord Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu merely with His nails, and Lord Varaha killed Hiranyaksha with just a slap.
The washerman’s assistants, seeing his untimely end, dropped their bundles of clothes on the spot and ran in different directions. An effulgence (the spirit soul) came from the washerman’s body and entered Lord Krishna. Thus the Lord delivered him. Then Krishna, Balarama, and the cowherd boys took the garments that suited them.
No mortal being can stop things from reaching the Lord and His devotees. For instance, Lord Rama took the kingdom of Ravana and gave it to Vibhishana, Mohini Murti took nectar from the demons and gave it to the demigods, Lord Narasimha took the throne of Hiranyakashipu and gave it to Prahlada, and Lord Krishna took kingdoms from Duryodhana and Kamsa and gave them Yudhishtira Maharaja and Ugrasena.
Cherished Desire Fulfilled: Krishna Blesses the Weaver
Thereupon a weaver came before Krishna and Balarama. Out of fear of Kamsa, this weaver had never gone to Vrindavana, but he had heard of its great happiness from his companions who had gone there. Thus he was anxious to see Krishna. The Lord will surely fulfill the heart’s longing of a sincere devotee.
Feeling great affection for Krishna and Balarama, the weaver dressed Them in soft gold-colored silk cloth embedded with jewels, and he offered Them cloth armlets, bracelets, and earrings that looked just like jewels, just suitable to Their bodily complexions. The ornaments were suitable to the occasion too, because Krishna and Balarama would soon fight with Kamsa’s wrestlers, and these soft ornaments wouldn’t hurt Their bodies.
The brothers looked resplendent. Pleased with the weaver’s selfless service, Krishna blessed him that he would attain a cowherd-boy form like the Lord’s (sarupya mukti) and would enjoy opulence, influence, sensory vigor, and physical and mental strength.
In his past life the weaver had lived in Mithila. He was a great devotee and an expert weaver. He made very fine garments for Rama and Lakshmana to wear on Their wedding day. Seeing Rama and Lakshmana, more handsome than millions of cupids, the noble-hearted weaver desired to place the garments on the two Lords with his own hands. All-knowing Lord Rama in His heart blessed the desire of the weaver, who thus took birth in Mathura. Now he made garments for Krishna and Balarama and dressed Them himself, and he attained a transcendental form like Theirs. (Sri Garga-samhita 5.10.10–16)
Sincere Service Attitude Rewarded: Krishna Blesses Sudama the Florist
While many Mathura residents eagerly came out to see Krishna on the street, a florist named Sudama stayed in his house. Sudama used to go to Vrindavana regularly to get rare flowers and would see Krishna wearing rustic dress. On the pretext of collecting flowers, he would go to where Krishna played and offer Him flowers as a gift. Now, while all his assistants went out, he was at home, engrossed in making garlands for the Lord with beautiful, fragrant, soft, colorful flowers.
Just as a devotee is eager to serve the Lord, the Lord is eager to receive the devotee’s service and bless the devotee. Thus Krishna and Balarama asked people the whereabouts of Sudama’s house and went there. Seeing Krishna and Balarama suddenly, Sudama was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude and considered himself blessed to receive Them at his home. He offered Them obeisances, bathed Their feet and worshiped Them with pure paraphernalia. Being a lover of the Lord, he was aware of scriptural conclusions and thus praised the Lord eloquently in various ways. He said,
“Please order me, Your servant, to do whatever You wish. To be engaged by You in some service is certainly a great blessing for anyone.” (Bhagavatam 10.41.48)
Love for the Lord is visible in one’s eagerness to serve Him. And the opportunity to serve Him is the highest attainable benediction. Being a first-class servant, Sudama understood what Krishna wanted and immediately offered fresh garlands to the Lords and Their associates. Krishna expects us to offer the best we have. Our ability to serve Him comes from Him; thus He empowers different servants to render different types of service.
What we offer may not be the greatest or the most expensive thing in a material sense, but if offered with pure love and devotion, the Lord prizes it. For instance, Lord Rama was immensely pleased with the simple service of a squirrel in the making of the stone bridge across the ocean. Krishna is more attracted to our service attitude and mood of gratitude than to the magnitude of our service. Thus there is no scope for scarcity, insecurity, and unhealthy competition or comparison in the Lord’s service, as Krishna wants every devotee to render the best service he or she can.
Krishna was already dressed and ornamented splendidly, enchanting onlookers, and now, with Sudama’s garlands, His body emanated a most pleasant fragrance. Krishna then told Sudama to ask for a benediction. Intelligent Sudama prayed as follows:
Sudama chose unshakable devotion for Krishna, the Supreme Soul of all existence, friendship with His devotees, and transcendental compassion for all living beings. (Bhagavatam 10.41.51)
Krishna bestowed what Sudama prayed for and also gave him strength, fame, beauty, long life, and ever-increasing prosperity for his family and departed ancestors.
Sri Garga-samhita (5.10.17–26) explains that in his previous life Sudama had been a florist named Hemamali in the Chaitraratha gardens of Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods. He was peaceful, generous, respectful to saints, and devoted to the Supreme Lord. For five thousand years he worshiped Lord Shiva daily with three hundred lotuses. Lord Shiva was pleased to offer him a boon. Hemamali asked Shiva to bless him with the opportunity to see Lord Krishna enter his home. Lord Shiva said that his desire would be fulfilled in Mathura at the end of Dvapara-yuga. To keep Lord Shiva’s promise, Krishna and Balarama now entered Sudama’s home and blessed him.
Heart’s Longing Reciprocated: Krishna Transforms Kubja and Grants Her Pure Love for Him
As Krishna walked further, He saw a young hunchback woman carrying fragrant ointments, and He asked her for some. She was Trivakra, also known as Kubja. She introduced herself as a maidservant of Kamsa, who she said liked her ointments very much. Her mind overwhelmed by Krishna’s beauty, charm, sweetness, smiles, words, and glances, Trivakra gave Krishna and Balarama generous amounts of ointment that contrasted with Their complexions. She ignored her position as a servant of Kamsa and publicly decorated Krishna with various patterns on His cheeks, chest, and arms, without disturbing the ornaments and garlands.
Pleased with Trivakra, Krishna wanted to straighten her back. He stepped on her toes with His lotus feet, took hold of her chin with the index and middle fingers of His right hand, supported her back with his left hand, and pulled up her body, thus straightening her spine. By Krishna’s touch, Trivakra was suddenly transformed into an exquisitely beautiful woman with straight, evenly proportioned limbs. If one has bhakti for Krishna, one’s heart will shine with straightness (honesty). If there is no bhakti, straightness is only an external show.
Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti comments that Kubja represents the earth, which was bent down by the great burden of countless wicked rulers. Krishna’s straightening Kubja’s back represents His rectifying the burdened condition of the earth by punishing the demoniac people. (Bhagavatam 10.42.1, Purport)
According to Sri Garga-samhita (5.11.1–11), in her past life Kubja was Surpanakha, the sister of the demoniac king Ravana. When Lord Rama was in Pañcavati forest during His exile, she fell in love with Him. Rama had vowed to accept only one wife, however, and didn’t accept Surpanakha. So Surpanakha tried to devour Sita Devi. But Lakshmana quickly cut off her ears and nose with His sword.
Her love refused, disappointed Surpanakha went to Pushkara-tirtha. Wishing to get Lord Rama as her husband, she stayed underwater and meditated on Lord Shiva for ten thousand years. When Shiva appeared before her, she asked him to grant her the blessing of getting Sri Rama as her husband. Lord Shiva said that her desire would be fulfilled in Mathura City at the end of Dvapara-yuga. By Lord Shiva’s blessing she now became Lord Krishna’s beloved. Thus Krishna awarded Trivakra a conjugal relationship with Him. Grabbing His upper cloth, the now beautiful and charming Trivakra asked Krishna to come to her house. Krishna promised her a visit after He had finished certain duties, and He continued His tour.
Krishna then went to Kamsa’s sacrificial bow and broke it, causing terror in Kamsa’s heart. Krishna and Balarama killed the wicked soldiers who tried to attack Them. Then the Lords concluded Their eventful tour and returned to Their residence to rest.
The Lord is the ultimate proprietor of everything, as this entire universe manifested from Him. Even if we arrogantly hold back things for our own selfish interests without offering them to Him, those things will leave us anyway and return to Him. But anyone who voluntarily offers things to the Lord with love, like the ascetic Sabari and the aborigine woman who offered fruits to Lord Rama and Lord Krishna respectively, receives all blessings from Him. Whether noble or wicked, anyone who offers something to the Lord will be rewarded with great material and spiritual benefit.