Draupadi and the Magic Bowl Episode 2
In Episode One we heard how beautiful Princess Draupadi looked after her five Pandava husbands, and all their followers. They were living in exile in the dark and dangerous jungle.
In order to help Draupadi feed everyone, Surya the Sun God, presented Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas, with a marvellous gift. It was the wondrous Bowl of Plenty, which provided delicious food for everyone, exactly as they liked it.
The magic bowl kept providing food all day, until Draupadi herself had finished her evening meal, and was fully satisfied. Then the bowl would empty, and remain so until the next day.
Knowing about the magic bowl, and its special properties, evil Prince Duryodhana, who hated the Pandavas, sent the holy sage Durvasa and his thousand followers, to visit the Pandavas in the jungle.
He slyly arranged things so that Durvasa and his devotees would arrive after Draupadi had finished her evening meal. The Pandavas would then be unable to feed the holy man and his retinue.
Sage Durvasa had a famously short temper. Duryodhana felt sure that Durvasa, hungry and insulted by the lack of hospitality, would deliver a mighty curse against the Pandavas. He was delighted with his own cunning, and waited eagerly to hear news of the outcome of his evil plan.
And now the story continues…
Sage Durvasa and his thousand disciples rounded the bend of the jungle path, and there before them lay a collection of simple dwellings. It was the encampment of the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi, and all their many followers.
Waiting to greet him was Prince Yudhishthira, the eldest of the five Pandavas. With him were his noble brothers, looking like handsome Gods on earth, and Draupadi, radiant with beauty and intelligence.
Durvasa was pleased when they all bowed respectfully.
But Yudhishthira was concerned. He knew that they had no food. The magic bowl was empty until tomorrow. Yudhishthira, trusting in the Gods to protect his wife and brothers and himself, came up with a plan.
“Oh, Great Sage,” he said to Durvasa, “Welcome, Welcome! You are all indeed welcome to our humble forest dwelling. You honour us with your holy presence.”
“Thank you, Oh Prince,” replied Durvasa, “Your cousin Prince Duryodhana, careful of your welfare, suggested that we visit you. And showing his kindness to you, advised that we should arrive after Draupadi had finished eating, so as not to disturb your evening meal.”
Yudhishthira, the other Pandavas, and Draupadi realised that Duryodhana had laid a cunning trap for them.
“I am indeed grateful to my kind cousin Duryodhana.” Said Yudhishthira, “But I see that you and your disciples are travel-worn from your long journey. Allow us to offer you all the hospitality due from a host to an honoured guest.”
At this Draupadi flinched. What hospitality could they offer? What food could she lay before Sage Durvasa and his one thousand followers? What did Yudhishthira have in mind? But she had complete faith in her husband, and waited to hear what was coming next.
Thinking fast, Yudhishthira, played for time. He spread his hands in a wide gesture.
“O Wise One!” he said to Durvasa, “Please take the time to refresh yourselves with a cooling dip in the river. Then, on your return, we can all sit down to a meal together. One of our servants will guide you there, and he will bring you back when you have bathed and said your evening prayers.”
Sage Durvasa and his followers, pleased with this excellent suggestion, followed one of Yudhishthira’s servants, who led them the long way round, down to the river.
Meanwhile Yudhishthira turned to his brothers and wife and said: “The Lord Shri Krishna is now our only hope. Let us seek his aid.”
So Draupadi withdrew to her hut. She fell to her knees and prayed fervently to the Lord Shri Krishna for help.
Some years before, at a gathering of powerful kings and queens, the Lord Shri Krishna was forced to deal sternly with an evil-doer. In the fight, Krishna cut his finger.
Without a thought, Draupadi tore a piece from her costly sari, finely woven of thousands of threads of pure silk and fine gold, and sewn with rare gems. With her own hands she bound Krishna’s finger with the cloth.
“My Dear,” said Krishna gratefully, “You have come to my aid without a thought. In return I will come to help you in your hour of need. I will come as many thousand times as there are threads in this fine sari of yours.”
So now Draupadi prayed: “Oh Lord, you are in truth the Ruler of All, you know what people need before they ask. I open my heart to you. My husbands, and all our faithful followers, and I, are in deep trouble. Please come to our aid!”
The Lord Shri Krishna dwelt in Dvaraka, a kingdom many thousands of miles away. But, in answer to Draupadi’s simple, but sincere prayer he immediately appeared, standing before her with a kindly smile on his lips.
Draupadi could have wept with relief! The Lord Shri Krishna had come! Now everything would be all right.
“Oh Draupadi, arise,” said Krishna reaching out and gently lifting her from her kneeling position. “What can I do to help you?”
Eagerly Draupadi began to explain the trap that had been sprung on them by evil Duryodhana. She told of the empty bowl, and the arrival of Durvasa and his one thousand devotees, and the need to feed them, and how clever Yudhishthira had bought some time by sending them to the river to bathe.
“And now,” she said, “They will return any minute from the river wanting food and drink. And we have none to offer! I beg you to use your divine powers to help us.”
Krishna listened carefully to all that Draupadi said, and then, with a puzzled look, said “Oh Draupadi, I have travelled from Dvaraka in the blink of an eye. It is such a long way. I feel confused by your story. Give me, I pray, something to eat, so I can concentrate on what you are trying to tell me.”
Draupadi was astonished. “My Lord,” she said, “I have been trying to tell you! The problem is we have no food. How can I give you something to eat? The wondrous Bowl of Plenty from Surya the Sun God, is now empty until tomorrow. And Sage Durvasa and his thousand followers will be at our door in the twinkling of an eye ready to eat a hearty meal!”
But the Lord just smiled “Yes, yes, I think I understand, but I am very hungry. Please bring me some food first. Then we can deal with Durvasa and his devotees.”
Draupadi patiently explained again that there was no food, and that the magic bowl was empty.
“Now, Dear Draupadi, don’t make jokes,” said Shri Krishna, “I’m hungry, and wish to eat. I suggest you bring out this magic bowl of yours, and let us have a look.”
Draupadi’s limitless faith in the Lord Shri Krishna was being sorely tested, but she knew in her heart that nothing could go wrong when he was there. So she moved quickly to the special place where the bowl was kept, and brought it back to him.
Krishna and Draupadi looked closely at the bowl which was completely empty of any food whatsoever, except…
On the lip of the bowl, almost too small to notice, was a single tiny grain of rice.
“Ah,” said the Lord Shri Krishna, with infinite satisfaction, “Here is my meal! I will eat this as the Soul of the Universe. And I decree that all those who, at this moment, are hungry, shall be filled. Just as I am filled by this grain of rice, offered to me with simple love, by this faithful Princess.”
Then the Lord Shri Krishna picked up the tiny grain of rice. He brought it slowly to his mouth. He ate.
And he was satisfied.
When Krishna’s hunger ended, all creatures who, at that moment, had felt hunger, now felt completely satisfied as well.
Durvasa with his hungry disciples were down at the river enjoying their cooling dip, and looking forward to a hearty meal. Suddenly each of them felt himself to be completely full. Not one of them could have swallowed another morsel.
Durvasa unable to eat another thing, was struck with fear.
“If we are invited to Yudhishthira’s feast, and we refuse to eat, he will be insulted,” thought Durvasa.
He turned to his disciples, who all had equally worried looks on their faces. They waited for Sage Durvasa to say something.
Instead, he made his way to the bank, climbed out of the river, collected his few belongings and, followed by his one thousand devotees, stealthily slipped away. They never visited the Pandavas again.
Yudhishthira’s servant watched this whole curious display in amazement. He reported to the Pandava brothers, Draupadi and the Lord Shri Krishna. Krishna was delighted to stay with his beloved friends, and they talked and laughed together about their narrow escape long into the night!