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Krsna and the Cowherd Boys Praise Balarama

"Among the groups of different friends of Krsna, some are well known from various scriptures, and some are well known by popular tradition. There are three divisions among Krsna's friends: some are eternally in friendship with Krsna, some are elevated demigods, and some are perfected devotees. In all of these groups there are some who by nature are fixed in Krsna's service and are always engaged in giving counsel; some of them are very fond of joking and naturally cause Krsna to smile by their words; some of them are by nature very simple, and by their simplicity they please Lord Krsna; some of them create wonderful situations by their activities, apparently against Krsna; some of them are very talkative, always arguing with Krsna and creating a debating atmosphere; and some of them are very gentle and give pleasure to Krsna by their sweet words. All of these friends are very intimate with Krsna, and they show expertise in their different activities, their aim always being to please Krsna."

"Krsna played with His intimate friends sometimes by fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball and sometimes by playing chess. Sometimes they carried one another on their shoulders, and sometimes they exhibited their expertness at whirling logs. And the cowherd friends used to please Krsna by sitting together with Him on couches or on swings, by lying together on their beds, by joking together and by swimming in the pool. All these activities are called anubhava. Whenever all the friends would assemble in the company of Krsna, they would immediately engage in all these functions, especially in dancing together. Regarding their wrestling, one friend once asked Krsna, "My dear friend, O killer of the Agha demon, You are very proudly wandering among Your friends trying to exhibit Your arms as very strong. Is it that You are envious of me? I know that You cannot defeat me in wrestling, and I also know that You were sitting idly for a long time because You were hopeless of defeating me."

All the friends were very daring and would risk any difficulty, because they were confident that Krsna would help them to be victorious in all adventures. They used to sit together and advise one another what to do, sometimes inducing one another to be engaged in welfare work. Sometimes they would offer betel nuts to one another, decorate one another's faces with tilaka or smear pulp of candana on one another's bodies. Sometimes, for the sake of amusement, they used to decorate their faces in strange ways. Another business of the friends was that each of them wanted to defeat Krsna. Sometimes they used to snatch His clothing or snatch away the flowers from His hands. Sometimes one would try to induce another to decorate his body for him, and failing this, they were always ready to fight, challenging one another to combat in wrestling. These were some of the general activities of Krsna and His friends."

Confidential Friends

"The more confidential friends are called priya-sakhas and are almost Krsna's age. Because of their very confidential friendship, their behavior is only on the basis of pure friendship. The behavior of other friends is on the ground of paternal love or servitude, but the basic principle of the confidential friends is simply friendship on an equal level. Some confidential friends are as follows: Sridama, Sudama, Dama, Vasudama, Kinkini, Stoka-krsna, Amsu, Bhadrasena, Vilasi, Pundarika, Vitanka and Kalavinka. By their various activities in different pastimes, all of these friends used to give transcendental pleasure to Krsna.

The behavior of these confidential friends is described by a friend of Radharani who told Radharani, "My dear graceful Radharani, Your intimate friend Krsna is also served by His intimate boyfriends. Some of them cut jokes with Him in mild voices and please Him very much by this." For example, Krsna had one brahmana friend whose name was Madhumangala. This boy would joke by playing the part of a greedy brahmana. Whenever the friends ate, he would eat more than all others, especially laddus, of which he was very fond. Then after eating more laddus than anyone else, Madhumangala would still not be satisfied, and he would say to Krsna, "If You give me one more laddu, then I shall be pleased to give You my blessings so that Your friend Radharani will be very much pleased with You." The brahmanas are supposed to give blessings to the vaisyas (farming and merchant caste), and Krsna presented Himself as the son of Maharaja Nanda, a vaisya; so the brahmana boy was right in giving blessings to Krsna. Thus Krsna was very pleased by His friend's blessings, and He would supply him with more and more laddus.

Sometimes a confidential friend would come before Krsna and embrace Him with great affection and love. Another friend would then come up from the rear and cover Krsna's eyes with his hands. Krsna would always feel very happy by such dealings with His confidential friends."

The leader of these confidential friends is Sridama, who is also known as Pithamardaka. Sridama has a handsome dark complexion. He wears yellow garments and a necklace of jewels. He is a splendid youth sixteen years old. He is a great resevoir of the nectar of innumerable transcendental pastimes, and He is Lord Krsna's dearest friend. His father is Maharaj Vrsabhanu and His mother is the chaste Kirtida-devi. Srimati Radharani and Ananga-manjari are his two younger sisters.

Sudama's handsome complexion is somewhat fair. He is decorated with jeweled ornaments and wears blue garments. His father's name is Matuka and His mother is Rocana-devi. He is very young and fond of playing many kinds of games.

Madhumangala has a slightly dark complexion. He wears yellow garments and a garlands of forest flowers. His father is the saintly Sandipani Muni, his mother the chaste Sumukhi devi, his sister is Nandimukhi-devi and his parental grandmother is Paurnamasi-devi. An expert comedian who always plays the buffoon, Sri Madhumangala is the constant companion of Lord Krsna.

Bhadrasena is the general who leads Krsna's childhood friends in military pastimes. Stokakrsna is very appropriately named, for he is just like a small (stoka) Krsna. Another of Krsna's confidential friends are Priyaskara. These confidential friends (priya-sakha) delights Lord Krsna with their enthusiastic and jubliant wrestling, stick-fighting and other sports.

Intimate Friends

"There are other friends who are still more confidential. They are called priya-narma, or intimate friends. Counted among the priya-narma friends are Subala, Arjuna, Gandharva, Vasanta and Ujjvala.

There was talk among the friends of Radharani, the gopis, about these most intimate friends. One gopi addressed Radharani thus: "My dear Krsangi [delicate one], just see how Subala is whispering Your message into Krsna's ear, how he is delivering the confidential letter of Syama-dasi silently into Krsna's hand, how he is delivering the betel nuts prepared by Palika into Krsna's mouth, and how he is decorating Krsna with the garland prepared by Taraka. Did you know, my dear friend, that all these most intimate friends of Krsna are always engaged in His service in this way?" Out of the many intimate priya-narmas, Subala and Ujjvala are considered to be the most prominent.

The description of Ujjvala, another intimate friend, is given as follows. Ujjvala always wears some garment of orange color, and the movements of his eyes are always very restless. He likes to decorate himself with all kinds of flowers, his bodily hue is almost like Krsna's, and on his neck there is always a necklace of pearls. He is always very dear to Krsna. Let us all worship Ujjvala, the most intimate friend of Krsna!

About the confidential service of Ujjvala, this statement is to be found, addressed by Radharani to one of Her friends: "My dear friend, it is impossible for Me to keep My prestige! I wanted to avoid talking to Krsna anymore--but just see! There again is His friend Ujjvala, coming to Me with his canvassing work. His entreaties are so powerful that it is very difficult for a gopi to resist her love for Krsna, even though she may be very bashful, devoted to her family duties and most faithful to her husband."

The following is a statement by Ujjvala, showing his jubilant nature: "My dear Krsna, O killer of Aghasura, You have extended Your loving affairs so much that You can be compared to the great ocean, which is without limitations. At the same time, the young girls of the world, who are all searching after the perfect lover, have become just like rivers running into this ocean. Under the circumstances, all these rivers of young girls may try to divert their courses to some other place, but at the end they must come unto You."

Subala has a fair complexion. He wears handsome blue garments and he is decorated wtih many kinds of jewels and flowers. He is twelve-and-a-half years old and He glows with youthful luster. Although he is Krsna's friend, he is immersed in serving Krsna in many different ways. He is expert at arranging the meeting of the divine couple. He is charming and full of transcendental love for Them. He is cheerful and full of good qualities. He is very dear to Krsna.

Ujjvala has a splendid reddish complexion. His garments are decorated with star patterns and he is decorated with pearls and flowers. His father is named Sagara and his mother is the chaste Veni-devi. He is thirteen years old and full of youthfull luster. Splendid Ujjvala appears like the personified ruler of all transcendental mellows, and Lord Krsna, the crest jewel of playful boys, is submissive to this dear friend.

Arjuna's glistening complexion is the color of a red lotus flower. His garments are the color of moonlight and He is decorated with many kinds of jewels. His father is Sudaksina, his mother Bhadra-devi, and his elder brother Vasudama. He is always plunged in transcendental love for the divine couple. He is fourteen-and-a half and full of the luster of youth. He wears a garland of forest flowers and many other kinds of flower-ornaments. (This Arjuna is not Pandava Arjuna)

Handsome Gandharva has a complexion the color of moonlight. He wears red garments and many different ornaments. He is twelve years old and full of youthful luster. He is decorated with many kinds of flowers. His mother is the saintly Mitra-devi and his father the great soul Vinoka. He is very playful and very dear to Sri Krsna.

Vasanta has a splendid fair complexion. His garments glitter like the moon and he is decorated with various jewels. He is eleven years old. He is decorated with many different flower garlands. His mother is the saintly Saradi-devi and his father is the great soul Pingala.

Puspanka, Hasanka, Kokila, Sanandana and Vidagdha are also among the most important of Krsna's intimate friends. Krsna keeps no secrets from these intimate friends. Among them, Puspanka and Hasanka are the leaders of those fond of joking.

Kokila is fair-complexioned and very handsome. He wears blue garments and is decorated with many kinds of jewels. He is eleven years and four months of age. His father is named Puskara and his mother is the famous Medha-devi.

Handsome Sanandana has a fair complexion. He wears blue garments and is decorated with many different ornaments. He is fourteen years old. He wears garlands of flowers. His father is Arunaksa and his mother is Mallika-devi. Handsome Sanandana is very happy to have the friendship of Lord Krsna. He is like the splendid monarch of all transcendental mellows.

Vidagdha has a splendid complexion the color of a yellow campaka flower. He wears blue garments and a necklace of pearls. He is fourteen years old and full of youthful luster. His father is named Matuka and his mother is Rocana-devi. His elder brother is Sudama and his sister is Susila-devi. He is very dear to Sri Krsna. He is full of transcendental love for the divine couple.

Krsna's Cousins

Included with his well-wishing friends are Krsna's cousins, Subhadra, Kundala, Dandi and Mandala, Sunandana, Nandi, Anandi.

Subhadra has a splendid dark complexion. He wears yellow garments and various ornaments. Subhadra's father is Upananda, and his mother the chaste and faithful Tula-devi. Kundalata-devi will become his wife.

Older Well-wishing Friends

Also included among the well-wishing friends are Subhadra, Mandalibhadra, Bhadravardhana, Gobhata, Yaksendra, Bhata, Bhadranga, Virabhadra, Mahaguna, Kulavira, Mahabhima, Divyasakti, Suraprabha, Ranasthira and others. These well-wishing friends are older than Krsna and they try to protect Him from any danger.

Krsna's parents love their son very dearly. They consider Him many millions of times more important than their own life's breath. Very frightened that the demon Kamsa would harm their son, they engaged these well-wishing friends (suhrt) to protect Him. The leader of these well-wishing friends is a boy named Vijayaksa, whose mother, Ambika-devi, was Krsna's nurse. Ambika-devi worshiped goddess Parvati and performed great austerities to get a powerful son who could protect Krsna.

Visala, Vrsabha, Ojasvi, Devaprastha, Varuthapa, Mandara, Kusumapida, Manibandhakara, Mandara, Candana, Kunda, Kalindi, Kulika and many others are included in the group of Krsna's ordinary friends. These friends are younger than Krsna and are always eager to serve Him.

Excerpted from various sources, including Nectar of Devotion, Chapters 41 and 42. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.