That day the cowherd boys had not had their breakfast. As soon as they reached the forest with their cattle, they left the cows to graze and came back to be with Krishna and Balaram. But they couldn’t concentrate on their game as their stomach started grumbling. The only person who had a solution to all their problems was Krishna and so they went running to him. They told him how hungry they were and that somehow Krishna had to arrange food for them.
Krishna knew exactly what the boys needed to do. He pointed to the place where the brahmins had assembled to perform a yagna and said, “My dear friends, please go to the brahmins who are now engaged in the vedic sacrifices to secure a place for themselves in heaven. Go and ask them for food as charity.” The boys went to the place where the brahmins were reciting the mantras, fell on their feet with folded hands and asked, “O great souls, we have been sent by Krishna and Balaram to ask for some food. We are hungry and hope you will be kind enough to give us food.” But the brahmins were so engrossed in the sacrificial rituals that they completely ignored the plea of the boys. They were ignorant of the power and position of Krishna. They considered him and Balaram as normal cowherd boys and were not interested in listening to their requests. Seeing that the brahmins took no notice of them, the boys were disappointed and returned to Krishna. After hearing their explanation of what happened at the yagna sthal, Krishna told them not to be disheartened. Then he asked the boys to go to the homes of those brahmins and ask their wives for food. He was sure that the wives of the brahmins will surely give them as much food as they desire once they learn that they along with Krishna and Balaram are hungry. Krishna was aware of the love and devotion that these ladies had for him and it was time for him to reciprocate.
The boys wasted no time. They appeared in front of the doors of the wives of the brahmins. The ladies looked stunning in the clothes and jewellery they had adorned and were busy in their household chores. The boys touched their feet as a sign of showing respect and said, “We, along with our friends Krishna and Balaram have brought our cows to the nearby forest. All of us are very hungry and as per Krishna’s instruction, we have come to you for food. Please give us something to eat.”
For a long time, Krishna had ruled the imagination of these ladies. Listening to the leelas of Krishna they were longing to meet him. They had been meditating on him and his spectacular deeds for years. On hearing Krishna’s name, they became anxious to see them once. They didn’t have a moment to lose. They began filling up their pots with all the delicacies they had prepared for the yagna. After collecting all the food together, they started walking towards Krishna just like a river flow to the sea. The wives of the brahmins had surrendered their heart to Krishna and as they came out of their homes, their family members and relatives dissuaded them and blocked their way. But the ladies couldn’t let go of this opportunity. They cut all ties and entered the forest of Vrindavan on the bank of Yamuna which looked like a bride decorated with the colourful trees, vines, flowers, birds and animals. In that forest their eyes fell upon Krishna and Balaram tending their cows.
The ladies saw Krishna wearing a garment glittering like gold, adorning a garland of forest flowers with a peacock feather tucked on his head. He looked like the divine dancer holding a lotus in one hand and the other hand rested on the shoulder of another boy. With the tilaka shinning on his forehead, ears decorated with lilies, he smiled charmingly. On seeing Krishna so near the, the wives of the brahmins ran to him, embracing him to their heart’s content. They had come to him despite all the protests of their relatives, fathers, husbands, brothers, and all the duties of household affairs. They came just to see him who was their life and soul. The Lord and the wives of the brahmins felt oneness in existence just as a lover, who without a pinch of personal consideration, dissolves with his beloved and becomes one.
Krishna expressed his gratitude to the ladies for quenching their thirst and hunger and then spoke in the gentlest voice, "My dear wives ladies, we thank you from the depth of our hearts for feeding us when we were hungry. You may now return to your homes. Help your husbands and families carry on with their yagna. They will all be pleased.”
The wives of the brahmins replied, "Oh dear Krishna, we are not interested in this advice of yours. You had given us the assurance that if we surrender unto you, we won’t have to go back to the conditioned life of material existence. So, please have mercy on us. What will we do at home? Our husbands, brothers, fathers, sons, mothers and our friends do not expect to see us because we have already left them all. Please, therefore, do not ask us to return home, but arrange for our stay under Your lotus feet so that we can eternally live under your protection." Krishna, however, with his sweet words persuaded them to return to their homes and help their husbands execute the yagna rituals.
Krishna thus like a mere mortal, enjoyed the food offered by the wives of the brahmins. The sages and the common folks were attracted to him alike and he reciprocated their love and affection. It didn’t take long for the brahmins to realise the blunder they had committed. Seeing the devotion of their wives, they regretted their behaviour. They couldn’t fathom how they could ignore the very Lord whom they intended to satisfy through their yagna. They understood that their ego of being born in a superior caste that they carried with them, had made them arrogant and had taken them far away from the truth. They began to condemn themselves after seeing the faith and devotion of their wives. They regretted that their wives had climbed higher in the ladder of devotion and selfless love. Of what use is the learning of vedic literatures and performing the rituals perfectly if they had not developed love in their hearts and hadn’t surrendered themselves at the feet of the Lord?
How easy it was for the simple, illiterate women to give up everything they held dear, to have their hearts filled with love for Krishna and to surrender themselves completely and truly at the feet of Krishna!
नासां द्विजातिसंस्कारो न निवासो गुरावपि । न तपो नात्ममीमांसा न शौचं न क्रिया: शुभा: ॥ ४३ ॥
तथापि ह्युत्तम:श्लोके कृष्णे योगेश्वरेश्वरे । भक्तिर्दृढा न चास्माकं संस्कारादिमतामपि ॥ ४४ ॥
nāsāṁ dvijāti-saṁskāro na nivāso gurāv api
na tapo nātma-mīmāṁsā na śaucaṁ na kriyāḥ śubhāḥ
tathāpi hy uttamaḥ-śloke kṛṣṇe yogeśvareśvare
bhaktir dṛḍhā na cāsmākaṁ saṁskārādimatām api
-Srimad Bhagavatam 10.23.43-44
These women have never undergone the purifying rites of the brahmanas, nor have they lived as brahmachari in the ashram of a Guru. They have not delved into leading an austere life, read the vedas or into meditation. Only their undiluted faith in Krishna which arose by continuously listening to his name and taking interest in his leela made them the perfect devotee to whom Krishna himself was attracted. The brahmins on the other hand had no such devotion in spite of chanting the glories of Krishna and uttering the hymns of the vedas that talk profusely about his greatness.
As Kabir says:
apa taje aw hari bhaje, nakh sikh taje vikar;
sab jiwan se nirbair rahe, sadhu mata hai sar.
To give up the pride of clan and caste and engage in simple devotion, to give up faults like lust, anger, greed, etc. and not to be an enemy to anyone, is the basic principle of the saints.