Tales from Srimad Bhagavatam: Krishna Goes to Gurukul – LXXXII

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Nilanjana recounts the tale of Krishna going to Gurukula, from the Bhagavatam, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Sukha was narrating the stories of Krishna to Parikshit. With a sad look in his eyes, for he felt the pathos that Krishna was experiencing, he said, “Nanda and his people left Mathura in the slow and meandering cart; Balarama and Krishna stood still knowing that the carefree days of boyhood in Vrindavan were over and they were princes now.

Meanwhile, Vasudeva had mentally donated cows, silk and gold to the Brahmins, when his sons were born. Now that he had the resources handy, he fulfilled the promise. Then he approached their family priest Garga to initiate the boys to Gayatri mantra. The knower, the all-pervading divinity in the form of Krishna was sitting like a student in front of Garga and learning all that he perhaps knew with the humility that befits a student who is seeking knowledge. They were playing their parts perfectly. The rishi and all his students blessed Adisesha and Narayana and all their avatars. 

In Vrindavan, Balarama and Krishna were simple cowherds. They, therefore, did not have to undergo any formal education. Now, as princes, they had to learn various arts and crafts. For a formal education, like kshatriyas, they had to be trained formally in a gurukula (a school system prevalent in ancient India where the students were taught and trained by a guru/ master and his chosen disciples in various disciplines). Hence they were sent to the ashram of Sandipani to be trained in the Vedas and the Shashtras.

Balarama and Krishna were ideal students, always eager to learn and please their guru. With all humility, without any trace of arrogance of the knower – for he was the one who was the source of all knowledge – Krishna learnt the Mahakavyas. They were taught the art of warfare as well. Their guru found them very inquisitive and intelligent. It is believed that they learnt the sixty-four arts in sixty-four days.

With such speed, their stay at the gurukula was not a very prolonged one. They completed their studies quickly and as their term in the gurukula came to an end, they asked Sandipani what he would like as guru-dakshina (a practice in ancient Indian schools/gurukuls, where the students offered something to their guru, as per his choice, for all the knowledge that he has kindly bestowed on them). Sandipani mentioned that all this was unnecessary, but eventually had to succumb to the repeated requests of Balarama and Krishna.

He consulted his wife and narrated a tragedy that had shattered them in the past. Their only son had been drowned in the sea many years back when the three of them had gone to Prabhasa. After having heard the various miracles that Balarama and Krishna had performed, Sandipani asked if his son can be brought back alive.

Krishna instantly granted is wish and along with Balarama, he set out to find Sandipani’s son… 

 (To be continued)

Footnote: Srimad Bhagavatam is often called the Bhagavad Purana. Authored by Ved Vyasa, the stories are about the various avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu, also known as Narayana. These stories are narrated by Ved Vyasa’s son Sukhadeva to King Parikshit.

©Nilanjana Dey

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A story-teller at heart, Nilanjana Dey is on a journey to experiment with fiction and poetry. Her first novel, largely aimed towards children, is titled ‘The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail’. Her poems have been published at various prestigious portals. An alumni of English Literature from Jadavpur University (Kolkata), she is a marketing and communication professional based in Mumbai. She volunteers with a Mumbai based NGO working with the marginalised sections of the society.