Our scriptures, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat have some examples of great friendships. Social status, caste or race couldn’t deter friendships even then. These stories go on to substantiate the strength of the relationship we choose for ourselves.
Ram – Sugreev
Ram was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. He was in pursuit of his wife Sita, abducted by the demon king Ravana. Sugreev, the king of apes too had a similar story. His brother Bali had banished from the kingdom. Sugreev lived in the mountains of Rishimukh, where Bali would never come due to a curse. Sugreev needed someone powerful enough to overthrow Bali. Ram needed someone with the resources to locate Sita and free her from Ravana’s captivity. The situation sowed the seeds of friendship between individuals of two different species. As per the pact, first Ram killed Bali and made Sugreev the king. Sugreev then mobilized a huge army of apes to locate Sita and help Ram kill Ravana in battle. A friendship forged in mutual distress, lasted lifelong. Adversities create strong friendships!
Ram – Vibhishan
Ravana’s brother Vibhishan was a firm devotee of Vishnu. This was peculiar given he belonged to the demon race and it was obviously not appreciated by the demon king. Vibhishan was quick to recognize Ram has the supreme self and insisted Ravana return Sita and apologise for the act. Ravana, too egoistic to realize his mistakes and blinded by his powers, banished Vibhishan from the kingdom. Left with no choice, Vibhishan befriended Ram who promised to make him the king after killing Ravana. In a friendship between individuals of two different races, Vibhishan helped Ram in various stages of the war and ended up divulging the secret of Ravana’s immortality. A victorious Ram, as promised, declared Vibhishan the king of Lanka. A foe’s foe, always a useful friend!
Krishna – Sudama
Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu belonged to the royal family of Mathura. Sudama had his roots in a poor Brahmin household. Being classmates, they became closest friends. Once, when assigned the task of gathering firewood, they got stuck in a thunderstorm and spent the night on two adjacent trees. Sudama carried all the food and ended up eating Krishna’s portion as well. Krishna joked about making Sudama ‘pay-up’ for the same, someday. As grown-ups, they moved on with life. Krishna became the king of Dwarka whilst Sudama remained poor. With time, Sudama’s poverty got worse and he decided to seek help from Krishna. He reached the palace of Dwarka with a fistful of beaten rice as a humble gift for his long lost friend. Krishna wept at Sudama’s state and greeted him with open arms. Such a bond friendship that went beyond social status shocked everyone. Sudama was treated as a royal guest whilst Krishna savoured every bite of the beaten rice. Sudama returned home to realize his poverty was a thing of the past. Mystic powers of Krishna had given him all that he needed but could not say. A true friend listens to words unspoken!
Krishna – Arjun
Krishna and the Pandav princes were cousins and Krishna was particularly fond of Arjun. It was friendship that that bound them more than the family relations. A friendship that stood the test of time, Krishna was by Arjun’s side through thick and thin. Among many things, it was Krishna who helped Arjun build the city of Indraprasth. To strengthen their ties, Krishna got his sister Subhadra married to Arjun, against the wish of his elder brother Balram. It was on Krishna’s advice that Arjun set on his pursuit of divine weapons and attained them. Arjun considered Krishna’s guidance and advice so valuable that he chose an unarmed Krishna over Krishna’s million strong army. In spite of being a king himself, Krishna agreed to be Arjun’s charioteer is the war of Mahabharat. When Arjun’s mind wavered at the thought of fighting his own kith and kin, it was Krishna who guided him back to the path of Karma through the Bhagwat Geeta discourse. During the war, it was the combination of Krishna’s strategic thinking and Arjun’s execution that led to victory. Right friendships do put you on the winning track!
Duryodhan – Karn
The citizens of Hastinapur had just witnessed the martial skills of their royal princes who trained under the tutelage of Guru Drona. The young Pandav prince Arjun, an archer, had the audience mesmerized with some sharp shooting and use of divine arrows. Guru Drona claimed Arjun to be most skilled archer of the time. A young man entered the scene, challenging the claim. Karn, who claimed to be a skilled archer himself wanted to fight Arjun to show his mettle. On being asked to introduce himself, Karn claimed to be the son of a charioteer. He came from a lowly class versus the royalty of Arjun. Karn was denied an opportunity to exhibit his skills and was insulted. Duryodhan, the eldest Kuru prince was impressed by Karn’s courage and declared him the king of Anga, which bestowed Karn a status equal to that of Arjun. Thus began a friendship that went beyond caste. Karn, till the end of his life, remained a staunch friend. He remained a loyal friend when Duryodhan needed him most, fighting the Pandavs. Even after discovering that he too belonged to the Pandav clan. Friends in need, friends indeed!