The Feeding of Durvasa
however, accepted the prayer of Duryodhana! He started
towards the forest, saying "Right! I shall do so". In
this prayer, there was a deep sinister purpose. It was
this: One morning at sunrise, when the Pandavas were
worshipping the Sun, He took pity on their condition and
out of His immeasurable Grace bestowed on them a Vessel,
whose contents will remain undiminished, however much
they are used up. It was called A-kshaya-pathra. Droupadi
as the dutiful wife, used to take her food only after the
five Brothers had taken theirs. Until she finishes her
meal, the Vessel will be full of food, however many may
partake of it. When she has finished and cleaned the
vessel it can give no more. Thus once every day, the
vessel was pouring plenty, until she has eaten her meal.
Prior to that, she could feed thousands, even millions,
from out of that Vessel. But, once she has taken her food
out of it, it loses that power for the day. That is to
say, there must be some part or particle of food in it so
that it could be multiplied a millionfold and used. That
was its peculiar glory. Duryodhana requested Durvasa to
approach the Pandavas and demand hospitality, after
Droupadi had taken her food for he had this special
handicap in mind.
When the short-tempered
Sage seeks food and the Pandavas are unable to satisfy
him and his huge retinue, he was certain to invoke a
terrible curse in the throes of hunger; that would
destroy the brothers for ever. The knotty problem of
living with them will be solved and the Kauravas can rule
the entire realm in peace. That was the evil intent of
Duryodhana. But, the Pandavas looked for support, not to
something or someone outside them, but, to the Lord
within them. What can the curse of a sage, however
mighty, do to such? When the all-protecting Lord is on
their side, how can the wiles of evil-minded men harm
them? Their conspiracies will have to fail ignominiously.
The wicked Kauravas did not realise that when they plan
in one direction, the Lord plans in another.
before the Pandavas with his ten thousand disciples, just
when Droupadi was resting, after her food and after
cleaning the sacred Vessel, conversing with her lords.
Dharmaraja saw the sage coming towards the leaf-thatched
hut where they spent their days. He rose quickly,
welcomed him enthusiastically, washed his feet, offered
flowers in worship, and fell prostrate before him. He
declared, "I have realised my highest ambition in life;
this is indeed a day of supreme luck." He shed tears of
joy and stood with folded hands. His brothers and
Droupadi stood by his side, after their prostrations,
with heads bent in reverential homage.
Durvasa, who was
visibly tired by the exhaustion of the long journey,
spoke with evident exasperation, "We are going to the
river for bath and noon rituals; have food ready for me
and my ten thousand followers, when we return." They
moved, on fast, to the river, after this
When these words fell
on his ears, Dharmaraja felt a shock; his heart very
nearly stopped. He consulted Droupadi and discovered that
the vessel had been cleaned nicely and kept aside. They
all sank in sorrow, fearing what might happen to them.
"Ten thousands to be fed! 0' God! What has this day in
store for us?", they lamented, lost in grief. For
Droupadi, the ideal housewife, the chance to entertain
guests with food was a welcome gift, but, at this late
hour, when so many had to be fed so soon, in the jungle
where no provisions were available, she became desperate.
"The guest who has landed on us is the celebrated
Durvasa, whose attainments and capabilities are known all
over the world. By a mere thought, he can turn those who
anger him into ashes! Alas, what terrible calamity awaits
my lords!", she wondered and shivered in fear.
She could not decide on
any plan to feed the horde that had descended on her. Who
else could help her out than the Lord, the saviour of the
good, Krishna. "0, Gopala! Save my lords; guard us from
the destruction threatening us; show us some means of
satisfying these ascetics and this sage." She called upon
Krishna, with tears streaming from her eyes, and with
anguish gnawing at her heart. She pleaded yearningly with
the Lord. Whatever may be in store for her, she did not
mind; but, she prayed that her husbands be saved and her
mangalyam "married status" retained intact. She wept
aloud, in irrepressible grief. The Pandava brothers heard
the wail; their agony was doubled; they too prayed to
Krishna, their only refuge. "0, Nandanandana, you rescued
us from calamity after calamity designed by the Kauravas.
You guarded us as the eyelids guard the eye. Why have you
plunged us in this awful distress today? Pardon our sins
and faults; save us from this dire peril; help us to
satisfy the sage and his huge retinue."
The prayers of the
Pandavas and the tears of Droupadi softened the heart of
Krishna, at Mathura, and moved Him from there. Footfalls
were heard; the Pandavas whose heads were bent with
anxiety about Durvasa returning from the river, raised
their eyes and saw Krishna entering their hut, scattering
brightness with His smile, His yellow robe trailing along
the ground. They exclaimed, "Krishna! Krishna!" and ran
towards the Lord. Droupadi heard that voice and hurried
out of the inner apartment; she surmised it must be some
sign of the Grace of God that might be showered on them.
But when she saw Krishna, she hastened to fall at His
feet and wash them with her tears. "Save me, save my
mangalyam, satisfy the sage and his followers. Krishna,
the consummate Director of this Universe-drama, appeared
unconcerned with their anxieties, but, immersed only in
His own hunger! He said, "Droupadi! This is strange. I am
hungry. First, appease My hunger and then, you can ask Me
what you need. Give Me, immediately, some little food!"
and put out His palm, as if He could not wait.
Droupadi said, "0 Lord!
This is not the occasion for fun; this is testing time
for us. Save us, do not laugh at our plight." She wiped
the flow of tears with the border of her sari. She
prayed, both hands extended in supplication. Krishna
lifted up her head with His hand, and said in soft
assuring tones, "Child! Tears collect in the eyes of
women at the slightest provocation. But, can My hunger be
appeased by tears?" Krishna was in a sarcastic mood,
evidently. Droupadi replied, "Gopala! You are the second
supplicant at our door today. But, if we do not give you
what you ask, you will not curse us and bring destruction
on us. But, the other supplicant is waiting with ten
thousand followers to appease his hunger by a dinner on
all of us! We are all about to be reduced to ashes; where
can we get even a single grain in this forest? How can I
appease the hunger of so many people, at such short
notice, in this desolate place." She explained the reason
for the gloom that had overtaken them.
Gopala laughed aloud.
"Ten thousand guests have come, you say. But, I do not
see a single one here! I can only laugh at your words.
You are throwing away the child on your hip to fondle the
children who are afar. First, give Me enough for My
hunger; you can then think of satisfying people who are
far away." Krishna was adamant that He should be attended
to, first; He acted the part of a hungry person so
perfectly. Droupadi had to explain her predicament.
"Lord, The Vessel had a variety of food; they were all
served and finished; I took my food last. I have cleaned
the sacred vessel gifted by the Sun and kept it aside.
How can I get food from it now? How can I appease Your
hunger? You are our only refuge. If You, who know
everything, cause us suffering, what shall we say of
others?" Droupadi wept again.
Gopala said, "Well,
bring here the Vessel. Even if I get from it a particle
of some eatable, I shall be content". So, she went in and
brought the vessel and placed it in the hands of Krishna.
Gopala passed His fingers carefully inside the vessel,
seeking some particle that might have escaped the
scraping and washing. He found in the 'neck' of the
vessel the fraction of a cooked leaf. So, He asked
"Droupadi! You seem to have had a leafy dish for lunch
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