The Year-long Lunch
Not finding his friends and calves at the picnic spot, Krishna knew that Lord Brahma was the culprit. He smiled and he knew exactly what he needed to do. He stood with hands on his hips, that bewitching smile never leaving his lips, and manifested himself in multiple forms. He became the boys who were enjoying their lunch and he became the calves who went out grazing. Each new boy and each new calf had the same physical features and behaviour of the ones stolen by Brahma. The group of the boys were back in their positions enjoying their lunch. Once they had their fill and when they saw the day coming to an end, they stood up, packed their bags and called out to their calves. The calves came running, and the entire group of cowherd boys and their calves who were in fact expansions of Krishna started walking back happily to their homes.
The mothers of the cowherd boys were busy with their household work when they heard the mesmerising sound of the flute. They left their work and came to their doorsteps to have a glimpse of the heavenly picture of the boys and their cattle created on their return journey. When they saw the group, a divine feeling overcame them. They ran to hug them and took them home carefully. Their maternal affection grew and milk flowed from their breasts. They bathed their children, decorated them with jewellery and fed them. In the cowsheds, the cows licked their calves with an outpour of love they had never felt before. Little did they know that they were offering their love to Krishna!
The relationship between the family members of the cowherd boys and the cattle remained the same as before. Only the affection of the mothers kept growing with each passing day. And so, it went on for months. Krishna was in every home, with every person of Vrij, in every nook and corner, all the time.
One day Krishna and Balaram along with their friends were tending to their calves in the valley. There were some other cows grazing on top of the Govardhan hill. The cows looked down and saw Krishna’s entourage. On seeing them, the cows started running down, leaping down the hill, without caring for the rough path down to the pasture. With an outpor of love for the calves down, the cows sped with their tails raised, their milk bags full, pouring milk on the ground as they ran. When the cows reached the bottom, they licked the bodies of the calves. The calves drank the cows’ milk and there seemed to be an extraordinary bond of love.
While the cows had been running down the hill, the men taking care of them had tried to stop them but had failed. Now the men felt baffled, ashamed, and angry. Yet as they came down the hill and into the valley, they saw the boys taking care of the calves and felt an overwhelming paternal affection. At once, the fathers’ anger and shame disappeared, and they lovingly lifted the boys up into their arms. After embracing the boys, the fathers went about the business of bringing the cows up the hill. Along the way, they thought of the children, and tears fell from their eyes.
As Balarama gazed upon this remarkable exchange of love between the cows and calves and fathers and boys, when neither the calves nor the boys were cared for so intensely before, he began to wonder how it all had come about. He at once understood, there was Krishna’s hand behind this transformation. Perplexed, Balaram enquired, “My dear Kanha, I always felt something was not right. Our friends and calves felt so different from their usual selves. But now I know very clearly that they are your expansions. You are the boys and you are the calves. Can you please tell me what all has transpired? Where have our friends and the original calves gone?”
Krishna briefly explained how Brahma had stolen the boys and calves, and how he had concealed the theft so that the families wouldn’t be distressed. While they were talking, Brahma returned to Vrindavan. Only a moment had passed in Brahmalok while a whole year had come and gone on the earth. Brahma wanted to see the fun caused by his kidnapping. But he was dumbfounded to see that the boys and the calves were still playing with Krishna, just as they were a year earlier! How could this be? He was confident that he’d put them to sleep by his mystic spell.
As Brahma stared at the scene, something even more wonderful happened. To convince Brahma that these weren’t the original boys and calves, Krishna transformed all his expansions into four-armed Vishnu forms. Besides a bluish complexion and yellow garments, they all had four hands and held a club, a disk, a lotus flower, and a conch. This display of divine potency left Brahma utterly confused.
Brahma’s mind started reeling. With great devotion, Brahma bowed down on the ground before Krishna, his four crowns touching Krishna’s lotus feet. Joyfully, Brahma washed Krishna’s feet with his tears. He repeatedly fell and rose, praying to Krishna and singing his glory. Having emptied his heart, Brahma stood up, smeared his hands over his eyes, and with Krishna’s permission returned to his abode.
A year before, Brahma had put the boys to sleep and had hidden them away, but the boys knew nothing of that. Now Krishna brought them back, woke them up, and walked onto the picnic site as if nothing had happened. A whole year had passed by, but the cowherd boys thought Krishna had returned after being away for just a moment. They laughed and quipped that Krishna would never leave them. Overjoyed, they greeted him. “Dear Kanha, you’ve returned so quickly! Please, come and join us. Let’s eat together.” Krishna smiled and sat down in the centre. Once again, he enjoyed the picnic with his friends and the calves grazing nearby kept turning around to catch a glimpse of this heavenly sight.