It will shortly pass into folk lore which, in the Indian subcontinent, abounds with umpteen instances of the Lord of the Universe being moved by his devotee’s simple will. This one was narrated by the younger sister of an elderly lady, who was passing on in her years and frequently suffered bouts of indifferent health.
She lived in Mathura, a large town in the northern region of Central India that was closely associated with Lord Krishna’s life. It was the seat of Yadav Kingdom, ruled by a tyrant whom the young Krishna had killed. It was a city Krishna had successfully defended a dozen times against the powerful army of Magadh Emperor Jarasandha. It was the place he had evacuated the last time Jarasandha had laid seige and had led its people to the safety of Dwarka, on the west coast in Gujarat. Mathura is close to Gokul and Vrindavan, where Krishna had spent his childhood and growing up years; and to Barsana, the village in which the kind, older woman Radha lived. Their uncorporeal love was legendary, between mature Radha and boy Krishna, much sung and diversely described in texts ancient and modern.
The lady was ill for some while then. She would often ask to properly bathed, as had been her routine over the decades before she sat at her worship corner in her home. But pouring water over her body, in weakened physical state was disallowed by the physician who was treating her. Besides, one couldn’t predict when exhaustion would overwhelm her body through the bathing process. The woman was well aware of these material factors to her being; but she would yet make an insistent plea every morning before relenting in the face of opposition by her two grown up sons and kind daughters in law. She would acquiesce to their sincere pleas and give in their service to her, take her breakfast and medicines prescribed, and sleep off while one of them would massage her legs and feet.
One day, just hours after midnight, while it was still dark, she felt being woken up by her elder son, who softly spoke into her ears : “Mother, would you want a bath now ? Come, I’ll help you through it.” The old lady was full of joy at this opportunity to go through the daily ritual of her lifetime. She would once again be able to present her clean self before Krishna and pray, singing praises and chanting his name. She was led to the attached bathroom by her son, who prepared a bucket of warm water for her to use and brought washed and nestly pressed clothes to change into.
The lady took her bath while her son wsited outside, ready to heed her call for help, if she needed. She changed into her new clothes, whereafter she was led by her son back to bed. She had tired of the effort she had to spent by the time she sat on her bed. “Son, I am exhausted. I will lie down to rest for a while before offering my prayers to Krishna. Go for now; I will give you call when I am ready.”
Her son assured her and helped her to lie down. She fell asleep while her son was still massaging her legs and feet. It was a deep, happy slumber that lasted through the night. Next morning, waking up, she gave a call to her elder son, lamenting her sense of loss at having missed out on the rest of the after-bath routine : her worship to Krishna. The members of her family quickly gathered around, enquiring about her need, any discomfort she might be feeling or help she wanted.
“No, no,” the woman cried, “it was nice bathing today, thanks to the elder one. But what good is it, since I missed out on my prayers before the Lord ? Come, take me to temple corner at least now !” But the sons and their wives were shocked, especially the elder one who had slept undisturbed through the night. He let the others know; his spouse too confirmed the truth. They also enquired of the lady if she wasn’t mistaken, had hallucinated about something she had intensely desired.
“No, I am not mistaken and have not hallucinated about the whole thing. Look at these clothes I am wearing now ? Are they the ones I had slept in ?” The wives turned to their husbands and nodded their agreement. They all then wondered and wondered again, disinclined to believe that someone other than any amongst them had served their mother fulfill her deepest desire.
It had been none other than Krishna, the dearest Lord of her lifetime, they all finally agreed. Which however caused the old lady to rant aloud an even more heart renting lament : “Lord ! Lord, you came to serve your maid and this ignorant one did not even recognise you. Lord ! Lord ! What am I to do now…”
She wailed incessantly, inconsolably in her ecstasy.