WHEN the battle was over, Krishna bade farewell to the Pandavas and went to Dwaraka. While on his way, he met his old brahmana friend Utanga. Krishna stopped and descending from his chariot saluted the brahmana.
Utanga returned the greeting and proceeded to make the usual inquiries about the health and welfare of relatives. "Madhava, do your cousins the Pandavas and the Kauravas love one another as brothers should? Are they well and flourishing?" he asked.
The innocent recluse had not heard about the great battle that had been fought. Krishna was astounded at the question of his brahmana friend. For a while, he stood silent not knowing what to say in reply. Then he softly disclosed what had happened.
"Sir, a terrible battle had been fought by the Pandavas and the Kauravas, I tried hard and applied every means to prevent the fight and make peace between them. But they would not listen. Almost all of them have perished on the field of battle. Who can stop the hand of fate?" Then he related all that had happened.
When Utanga heard the narrative, he was exceedingly wroth. With eyes red with indignation he spoke to Madhava: "Vasudeva, were you there standing by and did you let all this happen? You have indeed failed in your duty. You have surely practised deceit and led them to destruction. Prepare now to receive my curse!" Vasudeva smiled and said: "Peace, peace! Calm yourself. Do not use up the fruit of your great penances in this anger. Listen to what I say and then, if you like, you may pronounce your curse."
Krishna pacified the indignant brahmana and appeared to him in his all-embracing form, the Viswarupa.
"I am born in various bodies from time to time to save the world and establish the good. In whatever body I am born, I must act in conformity with the nature of that body. When I am born as a Deva, I act as a Deva does. If I appear as a Yaksha or as a Rakshasa, I do everything like a Yaksha or a Rakshasa. If I am born as a human being, or as a beast, I do what is natural to that birth and complete my task. I begged very hard of the ignorant Kauravas. They were arrogant and intoxicated by power and paid no heed to my advice. I tried to intimidate them. Therein also I failed. I was in wrath and showed them even my Viswarupa. Even that failed to have an effect. They persisted in wrongdoing. They waged war and perished. O best among brahmanas, you have no reason to be angry with me."
After this explanation of Krishna, Utanga recovered his calm. Krishna was, delighted.
"I wish to give a boon to you. What would you like?" said Krishna.
"Achchyuta," said Utanga, "is it not enough I have seen Thee and Thy Form Universal? I do not desire any further boon."
But Krishna insisted and the desert wandering simple brahmana said: "Well, my Lord, if you must give me some boon, let me find water to drink whenever I might feel thirsty. Give me this boon."
Krishna smiled. "Is this all? Have it then," he said, and proceeded on his journey.
One day Utanga was very thirsty and, unable to find water anywhere in the desert, he bethought himself of the boon he had received.
As soon as be did this, a Nishada appeared before him, clothed in filthy rags. He had five hunting hounds in leash and a water-skin strapped to his shoulder.
The Nishada grinned at Utanga and saying, "You seem to be thirsty. Here is water for you," offered the bamboo spout of his water-skin to the brahmana to drink from.
Utanga, looking at the man and his dogs and his water skin, said in disgust: "Friend, I do not need it, thank you." Saying this, he thought of Krishna and reproached him in his mind: "Indeed, was this all the boon you gave me?"
The outcaste Nishada pressed Utanga over and over again to quench his thirst, but it only made Utanga more and more angry and he refused to drink. The hunter and his dogs disappeared.
Seeing the strange disappearance of the Nishada, Utanga reflected: "Who was this? He could not have been a real Nishada. It was certainly a test and I have blundered miserably. My philosophy deserted me. I rejected the water offered by the Nishada and proved myself to be an arrogant fool."
Utanga was in great anguish. A moment later Madhava himself appeared with conch and discus. "O Purushottama!" exclaimed Utanga; "you put me to a difficult trial. Was it right of you to try me thus? Make an untouchable offer unclean water to me, a brahmana, to drink. Was this kind?" asked Utanga. Utanga spoke in bitter tones.
Janardana smiled. "O Utanga, for your sake, when you put my boon into action, I asked Indra to take amrita to you and give it to you as water. He said he could not give to a mortal what would give him immortality, while he was willing to do anything else. But I prevailed upon him and he agreed to take amrita and give it to you as water, provided I let him do it as a Chandala and tested your understanding and found you willing to take water from a Chandala. I accepted the challenge believing you had attained jnana and transcended externals. But you have done this and made me suffer defeat at Indra's hands." Utanga saw his mistake and was ashamed.