Sudama

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for the village in Nepal see Sudama, Nepal
Krishna welcomes Sudama, Bhagavata Purana, 17th-century manuscript.

Sudama (सुदामा) (also known as Kuchela, mostly in South India) was a childhood friend of Hindu deity Krishna from Mathura, the story of whose visit to Dwaraka to meet Krishna, is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana.[1] He was Narada born as a poor man in order to enjoy the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krishna.

The story[edit]

Sudama offers a Garland to Krishna. Folio from a 16th-century Bhagavata Purana manuscript

Sudama was from a poor family. His father's name is Matuka and His mother is Rocana-devi. Krishna was from the royal family. But this difference in social status did not come in the way of their friendship. They lost contact over the years and while Krishna became a military leader and King of great repute at Dwaraka, Sudama stayed as a humble and somewhat impoverished villager.[2]

Some time later when Sudama was going through some bad times, not even having enough money to feed his children, his wife Susheela reminded him of his friendship with Krishna.

Though initially reluctant to go to his friend for help, Sudama finally agrees to go. He leaves with nothing but some beaten rice tied in a cloth as a present. He remembers that beaten rice (Chirha/Chirhe in Bengali, atukulu in Telugu, avalakki in Kannada, avil in Tamil and Malayalam, powa/poha/Chewda in Hindi, and pohe in Marathi) is Krishna's favorite and decided to give this as a gift to the Lord.

Krishna is greatly pleased to see his old friend. He treats him royally and with much love. Overwhelmed by all this Sudama forgets to ask for what he actually came for. But the Lord realises what His friend needs, and the Lord's consort Rukmini, incarnation of Lakshmi, gifts him with his desires. On his return journey, Sudama ponders his circumstances and is thankful for the great friend he has in Lord Krishna. When Sudama finally returns to his home, he finds a palatial mansion instead of the hut he had left. He also finds his family dressed in extremely nice garb and waiting for him. He lives an austere life after that, always thankful to the Lord.

Lessons[edit]

Sudama bows at the glimpse of Krishna's golden palace in Dwarka. ca 1775-1790 painting.
Sudama returns home to find in place of it, a golden palace, the gift of Krishna, ca 1775-1790 painting.

This story is told to illustrate that the Lord does not differentiate between people based on their finances and that he will reward devotion always. Another moral taught by this story is to never expect anything free in life; God will provide for your good deeds. Another moral is not to trade bhakti for anything in return. Sudama did not ask Krishna for anything. Despite being poor Sudama had given Krishna everything he had (poha); in return the Lord gave Sudama everything he needed.

Additionally, the story of Sudama and Krishna contrasts the difference between how Krishna treated Sudama and how Drupada treated Drona. Drona spent his youth in poverty but studied religion and military arts together with the prince of Panchala, Drupada. Drupada and Drona had become close friends as students. Drupada, in his childish playfulness, promised to give Drona half his kingdom on ascending the throne of Panchala. The two students later parted ways. Drona later married and had a son. For the sake of his wife and son, Drona desired freedom from poverty. Remembering the promise given by Drupada, he decided to approach him to ask for help. However, drunk with power, King Drupada refused to even recognise Drona and humiliated him by calling him an inferior person. By contrast, Krishna never forgot His friend and treated Sudama with utmost respect. By His example, Krishna is teaching us about how to treat one another.

Another important lesson here is about how Krishna rewards true persons. Krishna did not reward Sudama just because he was a friend. Sudama spent all of his time and effort in cultural efforts befitting a true person which explained why he was financially not well off. This included teaching religion, moral duties, and spreading spirituality through society. It is for this effort that Krishna rewards Sudama's family with wealth so that Sudama may continue to do that work. In contrast, Drona does not receive the support that he needs from Drupad. As a result, Drona compromises his principles and accepts refuge from the kingdom of Hastinapur. Eventually, that compromise forces Drona to take the side of evil in the battle of Kurukshetra. So the real lesson learnt here is that when kings (and society at large) does not take care of its poor (true moral and philosophical guides), it may drive them into the hands of evil.

Did Sudama himself lead an austere life after returning from Krishna? It is said that Sudama continued to lead the life of a hermit while his family enjoyed the generous gifts of wealth from Krishna.

Gift[edit]

Sudama was Lord Krishna’s classmate and a very intimate friend. Lord Krishna was a king. Sudama was a moneyless, poor Brahmin. This difference did not come in way of their true friendship. Sudama went to Dwarka to meet Krishna. He carried a very humble gift to be presented to Lord Krishna. What did he carry? Some books say he carried pohe (beaten rice), while some books and movies say he carried sattu powder (peeth). This confusing difference is because Sudama carried neither sattu nor pohe. He carried with him a combination of sattu and pohe called “sattu-peeth pohe”.[citation needed] It is an exclusive speciality of Samvadi Lad Brahmins to which Sudama belonged. That Sudhama was a Samvadi Lad Brahmin is more or less widely accepted; whether his home town was Bhurgakacha (Bhadoch) or Porbandar is a point on which minor difference of opinion exist.

Shri Krishna-Sudama is an immortal example of real, non-materialistic friendship. It is a perpetual symbolic definition of real friendship. Sattu-peeth pohe is a very tasty, ready-to-serve, easy-to-carry food. In it poha (beaten rice) is smeared with sattu while it is fried. Sattu peeth is prepared from grama (phutana) and wheat flour.

Lord Brahma replied, "O Tulasi, Sudama was a partial expansion of Krsna and was one of Krsna's cowherd boyfriends in Goloka. As a result of a curse by Radharani, he is presently living on earth among the Danavas (demons). His name is Sankhacuda. He is very energetic and no one can compare with him in strength. While living in Goloka, he was very attracted to you and wanted to marry you. But because he feared Radharani, he did not make any overtures."

Adaptations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Brahmana Sudama Visits Lord Krsna in Dvaraka, SB10.80, & SB10.81 Bhagavata Purana.
  2. ^ Eighty-first chapter of Krsna, "The Brahmana Sudama Benedicted by Lord Krsna" www.krsnabook.com, Bhaktivedanta.

External links[edit]