In the Story of Mahabharatha, the five Pandava Princes along with their wife Draupadi were banished from the kingdom to live in exile in the forest, following their defeat in a game of dice with Duryodhana.
The Princes had no other go but to undergo this punishment and were living in the jungle. They were collecting roots and fruits available to meet their food requirements but felt very bad when any guest visited them. Being used to be generous and most hospitable, they found it extremely insulting not being able to provide food for their guests.
Yudishtira used to perform many penances while in exile and after one such penance to propitiate Surya, the Sun God, Surya, pleased with his penance appeared before him with his entire glorious splendor and gifted him an “akshaya patra”. In Sanskrit, “Kshaya” means waning or declining and when an ‘a’ is added to it means the opposite that is inexhaustible, growing etc. So the ‘patra’ (vessel) which Surya gave was capable of giving food continuously. But Surya, very well knowing their living conditions gave the ‘patra’ with another boon that the vessel would be full of food from the time the brothers or Draupadi wanted it to be, till such time Draupadi had her food and once Draupadi had her food, the vessel would be empty and after being kept away after washing would resume its duty the next day.
The Pandavas and Draupadi were extremely happy that by this boon, they could provide tasty food to their visitors who were sages, kings, noblemen and sometimes some strangers too. Such was the spirit of hospitality and the value this virtue carried. Every day the brothers would feed their guests , eat themselves and Draupadi ate last of all, almost in the evening. The vessel was washed and put away for the next day.
Things went on smoothly and the news of this reached Duryodhana the envious and wicked cousin of the Pandavas. Duryodhana had his spies planted everywhere and all the news of his five cousins was reported to him immediately. He was very much enraged, at the thought that not only the cousins were no more troubled for food, but were able to get the wholehearted blessings of all those they fed. His mind started to think of what impediment could be created to thwart this.
Much to his joy, one day the sage Durvasa came to visit him with one hundred of his disciples. Durvasa was well known for his anger and the number of curses he hurled upon the ones who had angered him. Duryodhana, who was very much aware of this trait of Durvasa, welcomed him and offered him the best hospitality ever and after enjoying few days of this hospitality, Durvasa wanted to leave to his ashrama. He called Duryodhana and said, “Son, you have taken care of me and my disciples very well. I wish to leave for my ashram now. But I would like to give you a boon for the excellent treatment you have given to me. Tell me, what is it that you seek?”
Duryodhana, who was waiting for this very moment, said in a very humble tone, “Sire, it is indeed my greatest fortune to have had an opportunity to serve you and your disciples and get your blessings. I wish that my Pandava cousins who are living in the jungle also get your blessings. Just as you have visited me with your disciples, please visit them also and shower your blessings. But take care to go in the late afternoon since they might have gone out in the mornings for collecting wood or hunting. This is the boon I want”
Durvasa was a bit surprised, but happy at this ‘good intention’ of Duryodhana, granted the boon. “Done” he said, and went the next day with the same hundred disciples to the jungle where the Pandavas where. It was late afternoon and just a while back, Draupadi had had her food and washed and kept away the ‘akshaya patra’.
The brothers, not aware of this, wholeheartedly welcomed the sage and washed his feet and Yudishtira said, “O Holy one, you have blessed our abode with your coming. You should partake food here and give your blessings!”
“Why not?” said Durvasa, “I will certainly take food with my disciples, but I need to have a bath first. I shall go to the river nearby and have a bath and come back.” So saying, he along with his disciples, went towards the river which was nearby.
Draupadi was aghast. “What shall we do now?” she asked the brothers. “Just a while back, I had my food and washed the vessel. Now, how do we feed the sage and his disciples? If we now tell him that, he will surely curse us out of his anger. As it is we are suffering in the jungle and do we need the sage’s curse now?” She was in tears and started sobbing. The brothers also realized the gravity of the situation and were in a fix, not knowing what to do. To feed one person would be possible, but to feed a hundred and one?
All of them knew that their cousin Krishna, the Lord of this Universe could alone save them from this embarrassment. They all prayed with folded hands inviting him from the bottom of their hearts and there he came, the ever delightful Krishna, with his mischievous smile.
“Draupadi” said he as soon as he came . “I am terribly hungry. I want some food immediately. Bring some, my dear sister!” The Pandavas and Draupadi were even more puzzled. What was this, the omniscient Lord was asking. They never had to spell out their difficulties to Him. He knew it all and now, he was asking them food? The Pandavas said, “Krishna, we are in great difficulty….” He cut them short and said, “Draupadi, can you not feed a hungry being at your doorstep. You have the great ‘akshaya patra’ and yet, when I ask for food, there is so much delay… Go, bring the vessel!”
Unable to disobey his command, Draupadi brought the vessel muttering to herself, “The vessel has been washed for the day…” Krishna heard it and said, “Do not worry Draupadi, show it to me” and snatched the vessel from her. Looking inside and near the inner rim, he suddenly exclaimed, “Aha, here is a morsel of rice, and here, what is this, a bit of greens?” Draupadi peered in to see a small morsel of rice and a wee bit of greens sticking to the rim. The vessel had not been washed completely clean. And to the surprise of the Pandavas and Draupadi, Krishna took out the morsel of rice and greens carefully and popped it into his mouth and chewed it as if he were having a mouthful. Swallowing it he said, “Hmmm.. my hunger is satiated. Bhima, I think Durvasa and his disciples are getting ready to come here. Go to the riverfront and welcome them”. A puzzled Bhima hesitated to which Krishna said, “Go my dear Bhima, go fast!” Bhima, still puzzled rushed to the riverfront.
At the riverfront Sage Durvasa and his disciples suddenly experienced a strange phenomenon. Their stomachs became suddenly full, as if they had eaten two full meals. Their bellies were bulging and some of them were literally dragging themselves out of the water! “I cannot eat even one morsel of rice now !” exclaimed one . “Yes, same here!” chorused many others. They all looked pathetically at Sage Durvasa, who was also no different from them , feeling full and satiated. All they needed was a good nap. As Durvasa said, “Let’s go away”, he saw Bhima approaching. “Hurry, hurry”, he told his disciples, “Let’s move fast!” And seeing Bhima at a distance he waved and said in a loud voice, “Thank you Bhima for your hospitality, but we are in some urgency, we shall come later some day” And raising his hands he said “My blessings are always with you” And all of them hurried away into the thick jungle.
Bhima could not understand what had happened for the sages to go away, but he and his brothers and Draupadi understood one thing clearly, that Krishna had come to their rescue!!.