Akshaya Paatra

When the Pandavas went into exile to the forest for twelve years, the eldest of them, Yudhisthira invoked and prayed to Lord Surya Narayana. Pleased with his prayers, the Lord bestowed on them a vessel, AKSHAYA PAATRA – the “Inexhaustible Vessel” – which would yield not only all varieties of food, but also any amount of food all through the day. But there was a condition associated with it. The miraculous vessel would yield food only so long as Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas had not eaten. Once she had taken her food, the vessel would cease to yield anymore food for that day.

Duryodhana, the Kaurava Prince heard of the ‘Akshayapaatra’. Overcome with extreme jealousy, he wanted to harm the Pandavas and was waiting for an opportunity. Around that time, Sage Durvasa came to Hastinapur. Duryodhana and his brothers waited upon and looked after the guest with great respect. Pleased with their hospitality, Durvasa told Duryodhana to ask whatever he wanted and it would be granted. The evil-minded Duryodhana pretended to be very good and told Durvasa that he was very happy to receive the grace and blessings of the Sage, and he wished for the same blessings for his cousins, the Pandavas. Late in the evening, when Duryodhana was sure that Draupadi would have finished her meal for the day, he requested Durvasa to go along with his hundred and odd disciples to meet the Pandavas in the forest. Durvasa agreed and went along with his disciples to the forest. When Yudhishthira received the news of the Sage, he went forward and very respectfully received the guests, asked them to have their bath in the nearby river and come for their meal. Yudhisthira informed Draupadi about the guests and told her to arrange for their food. She was shocked. She told him that her meal was over, and the Akshaya Paatra would not yield any more food for the day.

Not knowing what to do, in sheer helplessness, Draupadi invoked Lord Krishna. The All-compassionate Lord immediately came and without even allowing her to talk, he told her that he was very hungry and wanted food before any talk. She explained her helplessness and told him that there was no food for anyone including Krishna! He was not satisfied with her answer and asked for the Akshaya Paatra. She brought it and gave it to Him. Lo! there, in one corner of the vessel was a small grain of food-particle sticking to the vessel. Draupadi was embarrassed that she had not cleaned the vessel thoroughly. The Lord gleefully collected the tiny particle, put it in His mouth and with a heave of satisfaction said that His stomach was now full! He asked Yudhisthira to go and bring the guests. When Yudhisthira went to bring back Durvasa and his disciples to his humble dwelling, what he witnessed was nothing short of a miracle. All of them, including Sage Durvasa were suddenly feeling as though they had just then finished their meals, and were also feeling absolutely and completely full! Sage Durvasa knew what had transpired. He prostrated to the Lord and left with his disciples after bestowing his blessings on the Pandavas!

Significance: Draupadi along with the Akshaya Paatra represents the “mind with infinite possibilities”. But one should not pamper and misuse the mind, it is to be used with discipline. This is represented by the vessel yielding “food, but with conditions”. When the mind is empty of worldly thoughts, it gets filled up with the Lord’s Presence — empty, yet full! The sage and his retinue represent various desires in us. The mind does not know how to handle them, because a little bit of the ego (food-particle) is still sticking to the mind-vessel. At this point of time, when the devoted mind invokes the Guru (Krishna), he comes and asks us to surrender our ego unto him. When the ego (food-particle) is offered to the Guru or Lord, as our GURUDAKSHINA, one experiences the ‘STATE beyond desires’ — the State of Absolute FULLNESS within and without!!

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