Krishna’s Pearls is a legend of virtue, a fable of sorts, I suppose. It is a story passed down by a number of India’s greatest poets. Here, I offer my rendition of the famed story of June’s birthstone.
The cow-herd girls (gopis) were legendary in the times when Krishna walked the earth. He was the sole object of their affections, and they devoted their every thought to him.
But sometimes, he tested them by approaching them in disguise. He called this a pastime, and enjoyed immensely the opportunity to involve himself in his devotees’ lives.
One day, he disguised themselves and paid them a visit. Noticing their beauty and their bliss as they strung pearls for decorating their cows for an upcoming festival, he drew near to them as they worked.
Desiring to engage them, he attempted to gain their attention with subtleties. When this did not work, he boldly approached them with a request.
“May I acquire from you a few of your pearls for my two most favorite cows, Hamsi and Harini?” he asked the one named Radha. “In doing so, you will secure for yourself a reputation for generosity among the fairest of the fair.”
Radha chose to pretend she heard nothing more than the wind. Her friends followed suit, continuing to string the shimmering pearls onto silken cords in their laps.
Struck by their disrespect, Krishna (still disguised as Hari) scolded the maidens, “Has your beauty dimmed your wits? Please, I beg of you for your sake, listen to my humble request.”
Instead of listening, the maidens began to laugh, Radha laughing the loudest of all. To Krishna, the sound was as delightful as the waves lapping the shores. He stood transfixed by the scene before him.
Finally, Lalita blurted out a response: “These pearls are intended for the cows of the queens and kings of this land. Should we really stoop so low as to offer even a few of them to your humble cows, Shri Hari? Perhaps we should go all the way and give you the whole lot of them!?”
“Oh, my dear maiden,” Krishna responded in glee, “I am so honored by your response, though I must reply that I only require enough to decorate just the horns of my two favorite cows. That is all I ask. Just four short strings of your fine and lovely pearls.”
Lalita made a brazen show of inspecting all of her pearls. “Shri Hari! I am at a loss as to what to do. I see not one single pearl worthy of your cows.”
At this point, Krishna (remaining in disguise) lost his wits and told her to forget the whole matter. He stomped off to his mother and begged her for a number of her finest pearls.
“I’ll show those silly girls,” he said. “I will plant these in the ground and see them sprout and blossom for me in pearls of my very own, of the finest quality.”
And after some cajoling, his devoted mother loaned him her pearls. He planted them in the ground, making a big show of preparing the soil and hedging the field in with thorns, which blossomed in violet flowers which offered a pleasing fragrance to all who were near.
The gopis caught wind of the fragrance and of the success Hari was having with his pearls. By now, they understood that Hari was Krishna, and that he was up to divine business. Seeing themselves as no less than he, they set about gathering pearls from their neighbors to plant in their own field.
While Krishna’s plants bloomed in pearls, theirs sprouted in thistle flowers and thorns. Disappointed in their results and pressured by their neighbors, who had invested in their efforts with their own pearl stores, the gopis were forced to ply their trade in exchange for pearls at the marketplace.
There they were refused and rejected. They returned dejected, and Krishna despaired of their sorrow. No longer were the happy maidens stringing pearls. Instead they were lying in state upon their beds, crying their eyes out.
Krishna approached the maidens and offered them each a box full of his finest pearls to ease their sorrows. In gratitude, they humbled themselves and were restored to their previous bliss.
“Ahh! Krishna’s pearls are the most beautiful in the land,” Radha remarked. “And isn’t he such a clever one?”
They laughed at their misfortune, enjoying the favor of their beloved once more.
~Angela Magnotti Andrews