Sudama (Sanskrit: सुदामा; IAST: Sudāmā) also known as Kuchela (in southern 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. He was born as a poor man in order to enjoy transcendental pastimes. Sudama was from Porbandar. In the story, he travelled from Sudamapuri to Beyt Dwarka. Sudama and Krishna had studied together at the Sandipani Ashram in Ujjayini. The omnipotent king Krishna gifted wealth and a well furnished house to his old classmate Sudama when Sudama visited with a gift and narrated Krishna about his poverty.
Sudama was born into a poor Brahmin family. According to the Shaiva literary work "Prakrishta Nandokta Agama", his father's name was Sudhamaya, while according to Nigrahacharya, the name of Sudama's father is mentioned as Darp Kardam in the Nigrahagama, a literary work. Krishna was from the royal family of Yaduvanshi lineage and the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Despite this difference in socioeconomic status, they were educated in the same way. All pupils had to do odd jobs for their Guru and on one such odd job, Krishna and Sudama were sent to the forest to get wood. It started to rain and so they paused under a tree for shelter. Sudama had some puffed rice for a snack - it was all he had. Krishna said he was hungry. Sudama at first said that he didn't have anything. However, when he realised that Krishna was truly hungry, he shared his snack with him. Lord Krishna then told him that puffed rice was his favourite snack. Their friendship thus blossomed. When they grew up they went their separate ways, and lost contact over the years. While Krishna became a powerful part of the ruling family at Dwaraka, and became reputed for his deeds beside, Sudama remained a humble and impoverished villager.
When Krishna was ruling, Sudama was going through extreme poverty, and when the family ran out of food for even the children, his wife Susheela reminded him of his friendship with Krishna. Sudama had never asked a favour from Lord Krishna. He thought that was not the purpose of friendship and lived within his means, such as they were. One day Krishna visited him. Sudama was so ashamed of his poverty, he didn't invite Krishna into his house. Krishna jokingly asked him to serve a snack as he was a guest (guests are supposed to be treated as gods, atithi devo bhava). Sudama, despite his poverty, went inside and got some grains of puffed rice (both because he remembered puffed rice was Krishna's favourite, and because there was nothing else in the house). Krishna ate the snack with relish and left with pleasantries. When Sudama turned back to go into the house, he found, amazed, that his house had changed to a palatial mansion from a mean hut. He also found his family inside dressed in opulent garb and waiting for him.
Sudama went to Krishna to ask for an explanation (again taking a gift of puffed rice for his friend). Krishna was greatly pleased to see his old friend. He treated him royally and with much love. Overwhelmed by all these Sudama cried and Krishna says, "I love the puffed rice that you have always offered me. I need nothing else." (This gave rise to the ritual of offering food to God before anyone in the house has eaten - somewhat similar to the custom of saying grace before a meal). When Sudama left, Krishna explained to everyone in the palace, "All that I have given him is only his due, because of his devotion". Thus does Lord Krishna care about his bhakta. On his return journey, Sudama pondered his circumstances and was thankful for the great friend he had, Lord Krishna, and lived an austere life after that, always thankful to the Lord. This miracle of faith and friendship of Lord Krishna and Sudama in Dwarka, is associated with the celebration of the festival of Akshaya Tritiya.
This story is told to illustrate that the Lord does not differentiate between people based on their financial status 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.
There is also a lesson 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.
Another interpretation sees Sudama's meeting Lord Krishna and his coming back home to a better life as an allegory of the process of meditation: Urged by the mind, the intellect goes to and identifies with the inner Self, which refreshes and rejuvenates on all levels and awakens the memory of the Vedas. After returning to the relative, the intellect finds that all experiences are glorified.
Sudama was Lord Krishna's classmate and a very intimate friend. Lord Krishna was a King. Sudama was an impoverished poor Brahmin. This difference did not come in the 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" or Atukulu in Telugu. It is an exclusive prominence of Samvadi Lad Brahmins to which Sudama belonged. That Sudama 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 a minor difference of opinion exists.
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.
- The Brahmana Sudama Visits Lord Krishna in Dvaraka, SB10.80, & SB10.81 Bhagavata Purana.
- Bhakti Yoga Made Easy - The Timeless Friend (Session 8) - Part II, archived from the original on 14 December 2021, retrieved 27 June 2021
- https://www.bhaskar.com/news/MP-IND-HMU-sandeepani-ashram-story-news-hindi-5401976-PHO.html[bare URL]
- "Mythological Stories - Krishna's Gurudakshina".
- Eighty-first chapter of Krsna, "The Brahmana Sudama Benedict by Lord Krsna" www.krsnabook.com, Bhaktivedanta.
- "Krishna and Sudama: The Bond of True Friendship". Iskcon Dwarka. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
- Sudama and Akshaya Tritiya
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