HIMA -- THE WHITE SQUIRREL OF KRISHNA
One day some cowherds brought dry firewood and stacked it in front of the kitchen of Ma Yasoda because her stock of firewood was exhausted. By chance a small white squirrel had got trapped in the dry boughs and thus arrived at the kitchen courtyard of Chief Nanda. Afraid of her new surroundings, she ran nervously first to one side, then to another.
Suddenly Krishna came and stood before her. He bent down on his knees and gently spread out his hand towards the lovely visitor and said, "Come, little squirrel, sweet squirrel come to me."
On hearing that mellifluous voice the squirrel looked up and saw Krishna's enchanting face haloed in curls, on which rested a golden circlet with a peacock feather. She was no longer afraid but felt joyfully happy. As if in a trance the squirrel climbed on Krishna's spread out palm. Krishna caressed and petted her and then took his new little friend inside the house to show to Yasoda Ma, Nanda Baba, and to his many friends.
In Gokul nobody had ever seen such a beautiful squirrel before. Everyone said, "She is not of the forest of Vrinda. Surely she has come from the Himalayas -- that is why she is snow-white and has such a fluffy tail."
And so she was called Hima, named after the Himalaya which means `The Home of Snow'.
Slowly Krishna and Hima became inseparable companions. Krishna loved her and Hima simply adored Krishna. Wheresoever Krishna went, Hima followed. Sometimes she climbed on to his shoulders, sometimes onto his curly locks, to perch upon the headband of Krishna and to peep through the peacock feather. Sometimes she slid down inside Krishna's shirt and nestled against his heart, or sometimes she just ran after him. She used to look at Krishna with such interest that she even forgot to eat nuts. She would eat only when Krishna fed her himself. All the young cowherds brought the choicest nuts and fruits for Hima but she refused to feed from anybody else's hand. Only if Krishna asked her to go and take something from a friend would she go and take it.
This little Hima was very, very intelligent. She had one curious habit: she began to steal dry fruits from the homes of the milkmaids of Gokul and heap them in Krishna's room. The milkmaids eventually became fed up with this nuisance. By and by they learned to carefully hide the dry fruits out of Hima's reach. But Hima was not to be easily defeated. Her nose was so sharp that in a flash she could discover the new hiding place. She continued to steal away the choice almonds of Kabul and the sweet raisins of Kandhar. The milkmaids of Vrindavan became more and more cautious but to no avail. Invariably Hima triumphed.
Once two of the milkmaids Gori and Madhu had an argument. Madhu said that Hima could not possibly be an ordinary squirrel, that surely some goddess had taken her form. Gori scoffed at this idea. Madhu asked,"Then why is it that not a single one of us, trying our best, has been able to hide the dry fruits in a place which is safe from Hima?" Gori took up the challenge.
She went home and made a tiny bundle of dry fruits and then hid that bundle inside a pillow, sure that it would be safe. Thus reassured and quite happy at this precaution she went to milk the cows. But for Hima it was only a work of seconds to locate the scent of the treasure. She nibbled very fast and when Gori returned she found not only the fruits gone but the pillow spoiled as well. When the other milkmaids saw the scattered cotton of the pillow they laughed and laughed at Gori.
Now Gori was truly annoyed. The next month she tied a new supply of special nuts tightly inside a piece of cloth. Then she put this packet in a small earthen pot. This pot she put into an even bigger pot and then she hung the whole thing on a long rope, hanging from the ceiling. Somehow Hima sensed the challenge. When she came to visit Gori she saw a big pot hanging on the rope to the ceiling. Her nose told her that there were special nuts inside, nuts which she wanted to take for her Krishna. She climbed the wall, reached the ceiling and then, clinging to the rope, she slithered and slid to the pot. The covering was too heavy for her tiny paws to move. But Hima was not to be easily put off. She started to nibble at the strands of rope. In a few minutes the rope was cut and that big pot crashed with a very great noise. Both the pots were broken and when Gori came running in she was just in time to see the fluffy white tail of Hima as she escaped with a few nuts. Gori at last accepted defeat and started to store her nuts in a tin box.
Each morning when Ma Yasoda came to wake up her darling Krishna she beheld a strange sight. All around her sleeping Krishna would be spread heaps of nuts and flowers. These were the morning offerings of Hima to her dear adorable Krishna. The jasmine, hibiscus and roses around his face made it look as if someone had worshipped a sleeping god. Hima woke up early and gaily ran to the garden and collected the most beautiful flowers from the plants and placed them round her Krishna -- a great task for her tiny paws, but she never tired. If she saw some special flower in the Pooja room -- the room of worship of the family gods and goddesses -- she just took it off the deity and also put it near her Krishna.
Sometimes Ma Yasoda was upset about this. She didn't feel it was proper to take away flowers that had been offered to gods, but she didn't know how to punish this naughty Hima. On her side Hima felt all the beautiful and best things of the world were made for her Krishna.
One day Krishna went to Vrindavan with his friends to graze his cows. Hima was proudly perched on the peacock headband of Krishna. All the friends were laughing and playing pranks. Suddenly there was a swooshing noise in the air above and, before the children could think, a terrible bird from the sky swooped on Krishna. The noise of the wind against the bird's wings had alerted Krishna and just in time he ducked down, at the same time shouting to his friends, "Fall flat on the ground!"
All the children dived and lay face down on the ground. Because of Krishna's sudden ducking, the bird could not capture him. His aim fell a little short and only Hima came into his claws.
This flying creature was a demon of King Kamsa disguised as a bird. For a long time he had been hovering in the sky, looking for an opportune moment to pounce upon Krishna and kill him. He had to be very careful. He knew that if he were to come within reach of Krishna's hands nothing would save him, for Krishna had killed many demons.
Now by a split second his claws missed Krishna's neck and instead he held Hima and rose higher and higher. By the time Krishna and his friends stood up he was soaring high in the sky. Poor Hima was crying. She was saying in her squirrel language, "Krishna, save me! Krishna, save me!" But soon her piteous cries became too faint to be heard.
For a moment Krishna was undecided. What should he do? How could he save his beloved Hima? Except for the sticks and lassoes for herding the cows, the children had no arms.
The demon bird was flying farther and farther away. He was now like a black dot in the blue sky. Krishna was truly and terribly angry. "Oh! That brute! He has taken my Hima. I must punish him."
Then he sat upon a large rock. In a moment he became quiet. His anger left him. There was only a fierce determination in his heart to save Hima.
At last he took out his flute and started to play a sweet tune on it, the Raga of Sleep -- a strange tune which made the world feel drowsy. Krishna's friends, the cows, the trees and plants all started dozing. Even the wind stopped its whispering. The heads of the birds dropped onto their breasts and the beasts crawled under bushes to sleep.
The tune started spreading in the atmosphere. Its pure and clear notes were carried higher and higher. At last the demon bird heard the magic melody. Suddenly, as if for no reason at all, the demon bird started feeling lazy and sleepy. His wings beat slower and slower till he dozed and started falling towards earth. He tried his best but the notes of the flute as if enmeshed him in sleep. Falling like a stone he finally crashed just at the feet of Krishna, flattening many bushes by his fall. Hima was still clutched in his claws. Now those terrible talons opened and in a trice Krishna picked up Hima, trembling with fear, and placed her inside his kurta where she thankfully nestled against his heart.
Krishna replaced his flute in his waistband. With his left hand he patted Hima and with his right he caught hold of the unconscious demon-bird. Then he placed his foot on the back of the demon and bent its terrible neck backwards until the demon's body lay limp and lifeless. This demon would never cause trouble again.
Now Krishna went to another large rock a little farther away and sitting upon it he started to play a new tune -- the music of dawn, of new life, of awakening. Trees and plants, birds and beasts, and all the cowherds woke up as if from a sweet dream.
Hima was her usual happy self once again. She came out to perch on Krishna's headband. She was swaying to the tune of the flute as the children continued on their merry way.