Sri Krsna's Vrindavan Associates Subala, Part 8


Kakhuba Ragini
Mughal, Lucknow. Late 18th c.

Jan 30, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of Sri Krsna's transcendental Vrindavan associates.

Among the many wonderful pastimes enjoyed by Sri Krsna and His friend Subala is the story of their divine agricultural enterprise in the pearl trade. This pastime is described by Srila Raghunath das Goswami in the Mukta Caritram: the History of the Pearl, which begins:

    "I adore the Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha Madhab, Who have become immersed in an ocean of playful pastimes through the buying and selling of pearls, each of Them mutually desirous of victory, in the matter of disputatious wrangling over the said merchandise."

The pastimes presented by Srila Raghunath Goswami is a long and delightful one. Briefly, the story goes that Krsna had convinced His mother to give up a collection of her pearls so that He could plant them to grow more pearls. Krsna had begged the gopis to give Him some of their pearls, which they artfully strung onto necklaces and used for decorative ornaments. He wanted to adorn His cows and calves with the pearls, but the gopis stubbornly refused to grant His wishes, saying their pearls were not good enough for His cows. Therefore Krsna set out to give them a big surprise by creating His own plantation of creepers which would produce lustrous pearls.

As Krsna's garden grew beautiful with an abundance of pearl creepers, they eventually produced highly attractive, sweet smelling fruits, causing the gopis to become even more envious. Eventually, they decided to try and beat Him at this game. They set about undoing all their necklaces and ornaments, gathering together nearly all of their pearls, and arranged to have them planted.

Although the gopis' pearl plants grew nicely, being regularly watered with Gokul's finest milk and ghee, when the plants matured, the gopis discovered that they had only produced a field full of sticker bushes!

Subala's role in the pearl drama begins at this point, as the gopis try to cover their embarrassment in failing to beat Krsna, they strategically placed Subal as middleman in the transaction. From Mukta Caritram:

    "He sakhigon! Perhaps it was Nandimukhi who beguiled us or perhaps it was the crest jewel of the shrewdest of slick operators. We are at present sorely afflicted by the misery of this moment but what will we gain by all this commiseration and consultation. Right now our greatest distress is the persecution we face from our superiors. But if we can somehow or other show them those pearls, that were feared to be lost for good, then only will that fear be relaxed. Pearls are however especially rare here in Gokul, therefore the only matter at hand is to consider how me might obtain those pearls from Krsna once again, at whatever the price."

    After some more deliberation it was decided that Candramukhi, who was very cunning by nature, should take a sufficient amount of gold and go to Krsna to bring back the pearls.

    Candramukhi submitted, "I will not be able to go there alone, since we have just finished rebuking him with such harsh words. Kancanlata should come with me."

    Thus it happened, with all of the gopis' approval, that Candramukhi and Kancanlata arrived at a garden house within the pearl gardens, with an abundant quantity of gold.

    They addressed the proprietor of that garden house, Subal, who was seated there next to me, "He Subal! We have heard from reliable sources that you are desirous of selling your new pearl crop. Therefore please accept all of this gold, which is of the purest quality, and give us in return its proper value by presenting us with a choice selection of your pearls."

    To this I smilingly replied, "Ohe Sakhigon! With great submission, I humbly entreated you that you might give me a few pearls, but you wouldn't even give us one. Then I requested you for some milk to water our fields but that was also denied. Before we will sell you any pearls we will throw them all into the waters of the Kalindi. Even if you present us with everything in all of your houses, and the houses themselves, we will never give you even one pearl of inferior value."

    Kancanlata spoke up, "If it were not for fear of their husbands and elders that the gopis have to live with every day now, would any girl have otherwise tolerated these ugly and mean words. Anyway, what to do? Many different jewels are available in Mathura but at present that is very far away. Therefore, 'He Subal!' You please be the middle-man in this affair. We are prepared to pay even more than the going rate." These were the words I was waiting to hear and so I smilingly replied, "Well, after all is said and done, I am of course very soft-hearted by nature, so I won't be able to remain as relentless as all of you are. If I don't let you have them then what shall I do with so many pearls? But who will determine the price? All of you?"

    Candramukhi and Kancanlata replied, "Yes, this will be done by us."

    So I told them, "Then we might hear a detailed account of that amount just now."

    Candramukhi smiled and looked at Kancanlata, but Kancanlata shyly addressed Subal, "He sakhe Subal! You should accept the responsibility of arbitrating in this affair, by making a judicious and sensible solution which will be the cause of your good name and reputation." Subal told Me, "Bayasya! (Comrade! Buddy!) Has Kancanlata ascertained the value to be so high just as a matter of joking? Why don't you simply say yourself, in clear terms, the price that you desire?"

    I replied, "Sakhe Subal! I can very easily understand Candramukhi's intentions. Imagining Kancanlata to be a priceless object, she has been sent here by Radha, to be given to me. But these pearl fruits are worth much more than heaps and heaps of Kancan (lit.- gold). This fact is quite well known in the world, so how is it that this one Kancanlata is expected to be sufficient payment for this great collection of pearls? Now in this instance Candramukhi might say that the two fruits on her (Kancanlata's) chest are actually golden caskets containing many priceless touchstones. However, even if that be true, that would still not be a fair price because only one of my pearl fruits is worth hundreds of thousands of billions more than even the Kaustubha mani worn by the Lord of Vaikuntha around His neck."

    Kancanlata's eyebrows now contracted into a very threatening scowl as she fixed her eyes on me while fuming in anger, "Aye! You dolt! Candramukhi! I told you then that I would not go near Krsna. Still, with great persistence you managed to bring me here anyway, simply to be harassed. You can bring the pearls! I'm leaving this place right now!"

    Candramukhi, "Sakhi Kancanlate! You're perfectly right. But how will I fix the price by myself? How will I remain in this secluded place? If we decide in a group then they can simultaneously decide to accept or reject our offer. If you're going, then so am I!"

    When I saw them about to leave I told Subal, "Sakhe Subal! Didn't I tell you that the price could never be fixed by them?"

    Now Subal went near them and said, "Sakhi Candramukhi! I see that my friend is very eager in the matter of pricing these commodities. Therefore if priyasakhi Radha, Lalita and the others come here themselves to represent the appropriate value, then I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to retrieve all of the pearl fruits that they long for. In this matter I will assist as a mediator."

    After hearing his counsel, Candramukhi and Kancanlata returned to Sri Radha and the other gopis and, while still boiling in anger, narrated before them the preceding incidents.

    Radha, Lalita and the others arrived outside the pearl garden house while Candramukhi went to call Subal, "Our dear friend Subal! You are naturally very affectionate towards us! Therefore, in order that we can obtain these pearl fruits by submitting the proper value, you please now prescribe to us what that might be."

Acting happily on behalf of his 'bosom buddy', Subal served as mediator and messenger in the dealing of Krsna's pearls. Radha refused to come and face Krsna, sending Her friends to buy His pearls after their own farming efforts were defeated. So just to goad Her further, Krsna instructed Subal to show the girls the pearls, but any girl who did not come in person to buy them would have to pay four times the regular price, and if she could not afford that, He would lock her up in the jail, along with the cowherd girls who were caught stealing flowers. Of course, among all the gopis, Radha was most expert at escaping such confinement, having previously slipped out of the jail when she was arrested for refusing to pay Krsna's tolls.


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