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The Picnic

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

True Friendship


A society categorizes its people into groups based on socio-economic factors like wealth, income, race, education, gender, occupation, social status or derived social and economic power. But in the kingdom of love, everyone gets to sit down in the same line. Performing yagnas and sacrifices are ritualistic affairs and hence are tied by strict rules and regulations. If not carried out in the right way, the aim of the yagna is not achieved and the doer is destroyed. While uttering the mantras, if the tones or syllable are pronounced wrongly, then the Lord does not appear. The same Lord, who is so particular, is drawn to the kingdom of love. Who can ever assess the glory of the Lord who sits down to eat the leftovers of the poor, illiterate gopal boys?

“Dear friends,” said Lord Krishna to the other cowherd boys, “Look at this wonderful place!” He’d brought them to the sun-dappled bank of’ the Yamuna River, after an adventurous morning in the pastures outside Vrindavan. “This is an ideal place to eat our lunch. Afterward, we can play on the soft, sandy river bank.”

Krishna turned to the sparkling river and glorified its beauty. “See those lotus flowers in the water, their petals opened wide, and smell their fragrance drifting all around us. And listen–nearby in the trees the peacocks are calling out to one another, and their calls are mingling with the songs of other birds and the whispers of the leaves. This is clearly the best place for us to have our lunch. The calves can stay close to us, drink water from the Yamuna, and graze on the tasty grass.

Krishna’s friends were glad to hear what sounded to them like a brilliant suggestion. It was late and they were feeling hungry; what’s more, they all agreed that Lord Krishna had found a perfect place for them to sit and eat. So, they let the calves loose and arranged themselves in a big circle. Krishna sat in the center, and all the boys turned towards Him, so that while they ate, they could see Him face to face. Krishna was like the whorl of a big lotus flower, and the other boys were like the petals. Together, they opened up the lunch boxes their mothers had given them early that morning. Then they began to eat and joke with one another. Krishna, dressed as a cowherd boy, sparkled like a diamond. His flute was tucked to a side on his waist and he held a horn in one hand. He held a fistful of rice in his other hand. Rice, butter, milk porridge, sweets all were gulped down one after the other while licking the mangoes, lemon and pickles in between. He kept joking and laughing with his friends but maintained the rhythm of putting food into his mouth. He kept picking up laddoo, puri, jalebi from his friends’ plates and shared his food with everyone.

One of his friends, Madhumangal, was a poor brahmin boy. His mother had tied for him some cereal and salt in a piece of cloth. Krishna went near him and accused, “O Madhu! You are not allowed to eat alone.” He snatched the dry cereal from him, put it into his own mouth and filled Madhumangal’s plate with all the varieties of sweet dishes. The children were so engrossed in the picnic that they forgot about their homes and their families. They even forgot that they had brought their cows and calves out to graze.

While Krishna was eating with his friends, Lord Brahma was watching this act and got confused. He started wondering what kind of ‘parambrahma’ Krishna was?! Siting together and eating the left overs of those poor boys, gossiping unintelligently, joking and making others laugh. That was not how the supreme absolute behaves! There was no sign of divinity in Krishna’s ways. Thus confused, Lord Brahma decided to test if Krishna was the real parambrahma. So, the creator of the universe looked at all the cows and calves that were grazing, put them under his spell and took all of them to Brahmalok.

As the boys ate, their attention given completely to Krishna and the delicious food, they failed to notice that the calves had wandered away, allured by the fresh new grass of the deep forest and were out of sight entirely. When the boys discovered this, they became scared and called to Krishna for help, as they always did when they were in distress.

“Oh, Krishna!” they cried out. “The calves have disappeared! What should we do?”

“Don’t worry,” Lord Krishna answered. “And don’t interrupt your lunch. Go on enjoying. I’ll look for them myself.” So, sparing his friends the trouble, he got up and walked away to search for the lost calves. He spent much time in his search, looking in the thickets and the forests and in the nearby caves and mountain crevices. The calves were nowhere to be found. As Krishna was enjoying climbing around the hills and looking in the caves, back at the lunch site Brahma used his mystic powers again to steal the cowherd boys. Then he hid the boys and the calves in a secret place and put them into a long, deep sleep.

Krishna was aware, too, of the reason why Brahma was playing these tricks on him. Now, by Brahma’s magic, the picnic spot was deserted. Lord Krishna thought, “Brahma has taken away the boys and the calves. How can I go back to Vrindavan alone? The boys’ mothers will cry in despair, and the calves’ mothers will be grief-stricken.”

…to be continued

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