• 15 Jun, 2024

Krishna's Flute

Krishna's Flute

In most mythological representations of Krishna, we always see him with a flute, either holding it in his hand or playing it. This flute is one of the most evocative metaphors of love and surrender to the Divine. How did the flute come to Krishna? This story, as retold, is one of the several versions of the legend of the flute.


Every morning Krishna would go to his garden and whisper words of love to all the plants, and the plants would respond with their love and devotion for the Divine. Krishna, who was a flute player as well, once needed to make himself a new flute but he did not have the right material for it. So he came to the garden and went up to the bamboo plant.

The bamboo plant, being sensitive to Krishna, felt Krishna’s need and smiled at him.

Krishna said that he wanted to make a flute out of the bamboo plant.

“But for that,”, said Krishna, “I will have to cut you and drill holes in you. It will be painful!”

The bamboo plant reflected for a while and offered itself to Krishna. “It will be my privilege, O Krishna, to give myself to you and become a flute in your hands. Please go ahead and cut me off.”

So Krishna cut off the bamboo and made holes in it carefully. He then started scraping and rubbing, smoothening out the edges, smoothening the insides. It was painful at first, but as Krishna’s fingers moved dexterously on the bamboo,  giving it shape and beauty, it seemed the pain transformed into ecstasy, into ananda.

Krishna made a beautiful flute out of the bamboo and breathed into it, like it giving it his own life. The first note emerged from the flute, clear and strong, a note of primeval love that spread like ripples across the universe.

This flute would then be with Krishna all the time. Whenever the infinitudes would move him, Krishna would take up the flute and play. And the notes of his flute would fill the hearts of all who would listen with the raptures of the purest love and intensest delight.

Thus Krishna came to be associated with the flute in his hand. He would carry it with him, keep it safe with him. This made the Gopis jealous of the flute. If only I were to be that flute in his hands… each Gopi would think wistfully to herself.

Once some of the Gopis approached the flute and said, “Krishna is our Lord and Master, our Friend and Beloved. Yet he cannot spend so much time with us. But you are always with him. He carries you day and night. Tell us, what is the secret? What is the key?”

And the flute replied, simply and clearly, “I’m empty inside. I have no note of mine. I’m in Krishna’s hands, for him to do with me as he pleases. To keep me, throw me away, replace me, reshape me. I neither ask nor worry. I’m content just being in his hands, filled with his breath. I know no other existence, no other reason of being.”

And this was the song that floated into the hearts of the Gopis —

The notes just pass through me, to fill the world with His song,
The notes are not mine, nor mine the melody.

Curated and retold by Adi Varuni 

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