Friends who were younger than Kṛṣṇa, who were always attached to Him and who gave Him all kinds of service, are called ordinary friends, or, simply, friends. Such ordinary friends are called sakhās, and the names of some sakhās are Viśāla, Vṛṣabha, Ojasvi, Devaprastha, Varūthapa, Maranda, Kusumāpīḍa, Maṇibandha, and Karandhama. All of these sakhā friends of Kṛṣṇa sought only to serve Him. Sometimes some of them would rise early in the morning and immediately go to Kṛṣṇa's place and wait at the door to see Kṛṣṇa and to accompany Him to the pasturing grounds. In the meantime, Kṛṣṇa would be dressed by Mother Yaśodā, and when she would see a boy standing at the door, she would call him: "Well, Viśāla, why are you standing there? Come here!" So with the permission of Mother Yaśodā, he would immediately enter the house. And while Mother Yaśodā was dressing Kṛṣṇa, he would try to help put on Kṛṣṇa's ankle bells, and Kṛṣṇa would jokingly strike him with His flute. Then Mother Yaśodā would call, "Kṛṣṇa, what is this? Why are You teasing Your friend?" And Kṛṣṇa would laugh, and the friend would also laugh. These are some of the activities of Kṛṣṇa's sakhās. Sometimes the sakhās would take care of the cows who were going hither and thither. They would tell Kṛṣṇa, "Your cows were going off here and there," and Kṛṣṇa would thank them.
Sometimes when Kṛṣṇa and His sakhās went to the pasturing ground, Kaṁsa would send a demon to kill Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, almost every day there was a fight with some different kind of demon. After fighting with a demon, Kṛṣṇa would feel fatigued, the hairs on His head would be scattered, and the sakhās would immediately come and try to relieve Him in different ways. Some friends would say, "My dear Viśāla, please take this fan of lotus leaves and fan Kṛṣṇa so that He may feel some comfort. Varūthapa, you just brush the scattered hairs on Kṛṣṇa's head which have fallen upon His face. Vṛṣabha, don't talk unnecessarily! Immediately massage Kṛṣṇa's body. His arms have become tired from fighting and wrestling with that demon. Oh, just see how our friend Kṛṣṇa has become tired!" These are some examples of the treatment given to Kṛṣṇa by the sakhās.
One of the sakhās, known as Devaprastha, is described as follows: he is very strong, a ready scholar, and is very expert in playing ball. He wears a white dress, and he ties his hair into a bunch with a rope. Whenever there is a fight between Kṛṣṇa and the demons, Devaprastha is the first to help, and he fights just like an elephant.
One of the gopīs once said to her friend, "My dear beautiful friend, when Kṛṣṇa, the son of Mahārāj Nanda, was taking rest within the cave of a hill, He was keeping His head on the arms of Śrīdāmā, and He was putting His left hand on Dāmā's chest. Taking this opportunity, Devaprastha, out of his strong affection for Kṛṣṇa, immediately began to massage His legs." Such are the activities of Kṛṣṇa's friends out on the pasturing grounds.
The more confidential friends are called priya-sakhās and are almost Kṛṣṇa's age. Because of their very confidential friendship, their behavior is only on the basis of pure friendship. Other friends' behavior is on the ground of paternal love or servitude, but the basic principle of the confidential friends is simply friendship on an equal level. Some confidential friends are as follows: Śrīdāmā, Sudāmā, Dāmā, Vasudāmā, Kiṅkiṇi, Stokakṛṣṇa, Aṁśu, Bhadrasena, Vilāsina, Puṇḍarīka, Viṭaṅka and Kalaviṅka. By their various activities in different pastimes, all of these friends used to give transcendental pleasure to Kṛṣṇa.
The behavior of these confidential friends is described by a friend of Rādhārāṇī, who told Rādhārāṇī: "My dear graceful Rādhārāṇī, Your intimate friend, Kṛṣṇa, is also served by His intimate boy friends. Some of them cut jokes with Him in mild voices and please Him very much by this." For example, Kṛṣṇa had one brāhmaṇa friend whose name was Madhumaṅgala. This boy would joke by playing the part of a greedy brāhmaṇa. Whenever the friends ate, he would eat more than all others, especially lāḍḍus, of which he was very fond. Then after eating more lāḍḍus than anyone else, Madhumaṅgala would still not be satisfied, and he would say to Kṛṣṇa, "If You give me one more lāḍḍu, then I shall be pleased to give You my blessings so that Your friend Rādhārāṇī will be very much pleased with You." The brāhmaṇas are supposed to give blessings to the vaiśyas (farming and merchant caste), and Kṛṣṇa presented Himself as the son of Mahārāj Nanda, a vaiśya; so the brāhmaṇa boy was right in giving blessings to Kṛṣṇa. Thus Kṛṣṇa was very pleased by His friend's blessings, and He would supply him with more and more lāḍḍus.
Sometimes a confidential friend would come before Kṛṣṇa and embrace Him with great affection and love. Another friend would then come up from the rear and cover Kṛṣṇa's eyes with his hands. Kṛṣṇa would always feel very happy by such dealings with His confidential friends.
Out of all these confidential friends, Śrīdāmā is considered to be the chief. Śrīdāmā used to put on a yellow-colored dress. He would carry a buffalo horn, and his turban was of reddish, copper color. His bodily complexion was blackish, and around his neck there was a nice garland. He would always challenge Kṛṣṇa in joking friendship. Let us pray to Śrīdāmā to bestow his mercy upon us!
Sometimes Śrīdāmā used to address Kṛṣṇa: "Oh, You are so cruel that You left us alone on the bank of Yamunā, and we were all mad from not seeing You there! Now it is our great fortune that we are able to see You here. If You want to pacify us, You must embrace each one of us with Your arms. But believe me, my dear friend, a moment's absence from You creates great havoc, not only for us but for the cows also. Everything becomes disarranged, and we become mad after You."
There are other friends who are still more confidential. They are called priya-narmā, or intimate friends. Counted among the priya-narmā friends are Subala, Arjuna, Gandharva, Vasanta and Ujjvala. There was talk among the friends of Rādhārāṇī, the gopīs, about these most intimate friends. One gopī addressed Rādhārāṇī thusly: "My dear Kṛśāṅgī (delicate one), just see how Subala is whispering Your message into Kṛṣṇa's ear, how he is delivering the confidential letter of Śyāmādāsī silently into Kṛṣṇa's hand, how he is delivering the betel nuts prepared by Pālikā into Kṛṣṇa's mouth, and how he is decorating Kṛṣṇa with the garland prepared by Tārakā. Did you know, my dear friend, that all these most intimate friends of Kṛṣṇa are always engaged in His service in this way?" Out of the many intimate priya-narmās, Subala and Ujjvala are considered to be the most prominent.