Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Story of Krishna and the hat

When Krishna, prince of Shurasena, announced that he would be visiting Vrindavana on the first day of spring, the news created great commotion. Seventy-seven years had passed since the last time a prince had set foot in Vrindavana and nobody remembered anything at all.

In tearooms, men argued about what rules of protocol had to be followed; at the food market, women discussed about what preparations had to be made; at the local school, teachers drew the genealogy chart of the royal family on the chalkboard, but in reality, nobody had a clue of what to do.

The Mayor of Vrindavana called an urgent meeting of the Elders Council, listened politely to different opinions, and made a dozen objections against every suggestion. After a long debate, when the elders were tired and wanted to go home, the Mayor put forward his own plan.

They would not organize a banquet, he explained, to prevent the prince from becoming overweight; and they would not hold a beauty contest either, since the prince already had seven hundred wives; instead, the citizens of Vrindavana would walk in procession before Prince Krishna, all wearing their ceremonial hats.

Since boring proposals that fit the tradition tend to be quickly endorsed, the Mayor's plan was no exception.
The inhabitants of Vrindavana enjoyed wearing hats on formal occasions, although  since time immemorial they were divided in two opposing groups according to their allegiance to the morning and evening philosophies.

"Warmth gives life," was the essential tenet of the morning philosophy, which was highly popular amongst cloth manufacturers. The adherents to this conviction
always wore an orange hat on weddings and birthday parties. 

The evening philosophy, which professed that "light gives warmth," was the favourite of candle-makers. People who subscribed to the evening philosophy never failed to wear a yellow hat on funerals and anniversaries.

The Elders Council issued directives, the Mayor wrote instructions, and the citizens
of Vrindavana received orders. On the first day of spring, every man and woman without exception was to join the procession. Besides, each one was to wear an orange or a yellow hat, with no other choice than that.

When the day arrived, citizens filled the streets, some wearing orange hats, other yellow ones, but all with equal pride. The Mayor inspected the crowd satisfied, but he froze
horrified when he discovered a little boy wearing a hat of a colour that was not authorized.

"What on earth is this?" shouted the Mayor, pointing at the kid. "Take him to jail and put him to death so that justice can prevail!" While the crowd was echoing the Mayor's command, Prince Krishna arrived, stopped the procession, and asked for an explanation.

"The boy has disobeyed the orders and must die," the Mayor gave as reply. "Our tradition provides two philosophies for everybody's guidance and no one can remain outside." Krishna looked at the crowd, inquired if anyone had talked to the kid, and obtained a negative response.

"Let me speak to him, so that we can hear out his reasons," said Krishna. He advanced amongst the orange and yellow factions, walked up to the boy, examined the colour of his hat, and asked him why he had chosen it.

At first, no answer was forthcoming, but Krishna bent over and the kid whispered something in his ear. Krishna smiled, nodded, and turned around. "This is just what I had thought," he announced, raising his voice and presenting the boy's hat to the crowd. "This is the third colour allowed by the tradition."

"What third colour? No third colour is permitted," retorted the Mayor irritated. "Yes, this one," answered Krishna calmly, "the colour of happiness." A long silence ensued, while the crowd seized the meaning of Krishna's words. Then, one by one, the citizens of Vrindavana took off their orange and yellow hats, shook their heads, and began to walk home.

In our days, tourists who go to Vrindavana are surprised to see that people there never wear hats at all. Those who ask for the reason are told with a smile that while warmth gives life and light gives warmth, happiness combines them both.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Fr Antunes under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]