The story of Sudama is described in the Bhagwat Purana, an ancient scripture of the Hindus.
Sudama was a poor brahmin boy who became a close friend of Krishna in sage Sandipani’s hermitage. Krishna learnt to chant from Sudama.
Once, Sandipani’s wife asked Sudama and Krishna to get some wood from the forest. While they were collecting the wood, a storm came and they got lost. Sudama was scared. Krishna held his arms and assured his safety. When the storm was over, they found their way to the hermitage. Sudama was relieved. Sandipani blessed them with a long life and happiness.
After completing their studies, Sudama and Krishna went their own ways. Krishna became the king of Dwarka and married princess Rukmini, the goddess of prosperity. Sudama, on the other hand, married a simple brahmin girl and began to lead the life of a devotee, reading scriptures, praying, forsaking worldly pleasures. Everyone loved Sudama. His family was quite happy.
Then Sudma’s wife gave birth to two children. Because of Sudama’s austere life style, the family began to face difficult days, with little food to eat and no clothes to wear. Sudama’s wife was extremely devoted to her husband but when her children began to suffer, she was concerned.
Finally on a cold night, when her children were without blanket, she approached Sudama and humbly said, “Aren’t you and Krishna, the lord of Dwarika, friends? And, Krishna married to the goddess of prosperity, Rukmini?”
Sudama replied, “Yes.”
Sudama’s wife dreamed of seeing an improvement in her family’s poor condition. She earnestly said, “Go my lord, I beseech you, for the sake of our dear children, meet Krishna.”
The very prospect of meeting Krishna, his old friend, made Sudama happy. “I will go and see him, but I will not ask him for anything.” Sudama’s wife could hardly conceal her joy. She happily said, “Even a visit to Krishna will bless our family. Do not ask anything from him. I will be content my lord.”
Just before his departure for Dwarka, Sudama came to his wife. Both had the same thought. “What will I give to Krishna when I see him after such a long time?”
Sudama’s wife suddenly remembered, “My lord you used to tell me that Krishna immensely loved Powa, the flattened rice!” Sudama too remembered Krishna’s great liking for Powa. Sudama’s wife ran to her neighbor’s house and they happily gave her the gift of Powa in a small bundle. Sudama then set out on his long journey to Dwarka.
When Sudama came to the palace, surprisingly enough, no one stopped him.
He looked through various rooms and finally located Krishna and Rukmini. When Krishna saw Sudama he ran to embrace him. Then Krishna sat down and washed Sudama’s tired feet with warm water and put sandalwood paste on them.
After the royal meal, they all settled down to chat. Krishna and Sudama exchanged the happenings of their lives since they departed from Sandipani’s hermitage. Suddenly Krishna noticed a small bundle on Sudama’s waist. He remarked, “Ah! You have brought a present for me!”
Sudama hesitated, “How do I give a king, a poor man’s Powa?” When Krishna noticed that Sudama was ashamed to give him the bundle, he remarked, “Sudama, the poorest gifts given to me with love is dearer to me than the richest of gifts given without love.” Krishna was thoughtful, “He has not come to ask anything for himself. He came out of love for his wife and me.” Then he quickly snatched off the bundle and opened it. There it was, his favorite Powa! He tossed some in his mouth with great satisfaction. Then they talked and talked, as old friends, to their heart’s content. Sudama could not ask anything from Krishna.
Next morning Sudama bid Krishna and Rukmini farewell. The long road back home did not seem to be that hard as he thought of Krishna. When he reached home, he was amazed to see that a huge mansion was standing in place of his poor hut. His wife and children, wearing new clothes, came to receive him. He could hardly recognize them. Sudama felt the touch of the all-knowing Krishna who had rewarded Sudama for his gift of love.
Sudama continued to lead the life of a hermit while his family enjoyed the generous gifts of wealth from Krishna.