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.
Subala's body is described as follows. His complexion is just like molten gold. He is very, very dear to Kṛṣṇa. He always has a garland around his neck, and he wears yellow clothing. His eyes are just like lotus flower petals, and he is so intelligent that by his talking and his moral instructions, all the other friends take the highest pleasure. Let us all offer our respectful obeisances unto Kṛṣṇa's friend Subala!
The degree of intimacy shared by Kṛṣṇa and Subala can be understood by the fact that the talks between them were so confidential that no one else could understand what they were saying.
The description of Ujjvala, another intimate friend, is given as follows. Ujjvala always wears some garment of orange color, and the movements of his eyes are always very restless. He likes to decorate himself with all kinds of flowers, his bodily hue is almost like Kṛṣṇa's, and on his neck there is always a necklace of pearls. He is always very dear to Kṛṣṇa. Let us all worship Ujjvala, the most intimate friend of Kṛṣṇa!
About the confidential service of Ujjvala, this statement is to be found, addressed by Rādhārāṇī to one of Her friends: "My dear friend, it is impossible for Me to keep My prestige! I wanted to avoid talking to Kṛṣṇa anymore—but just see! There again is His friend, Ujjvala, coming to Me with his canvassing work. His entreaties are so powerful that it is very difficult for a gopī to resist her love for Kṛṣṇa, even though she may be very bashful, devoted to her family duties and most faithful to her husband."
The following is a statement by Ujjvala, showing his jubilant nature: "My dear Kṛṣṇa, O killer of Aghāsura, You have extended Your loving affairs so much that You can be compared to the great ocean, which is without limitations. At the same time, the young girls of the world who are all searching after the perfect lover have become just like rivers running into this ocean. Under the circumstances, all these rivers of young girls may try to divert their courses to some other place, but at the end they must come unto You."
Amongst the groups of different friends of Kṛṣṇa, some are well-known from various scriptures, and some are well-known by popular tradition. There are three divisions amongst Kṛṣṇa's friends: some are eternally in friendship with Kṛṣṇa, some are elevated demigods, and some are perfected devotees. In all of these groups there are some who by nature are fixed in Kṛṣṇa's service and are always engaged in giving counsel; some of them are very fond of joking and naturally cause Kṛṣṇa to smile by their words; some of them are by nature very simple, and by their simplicity they please Lord Kṛṣṇa; some of them create wonderful situations by their activities, apparently against Kṛṣṇa; some of them are very talkative, always arguing with Kṛṣṇa and creating a debating atmosphere; and some of them are very gentle and give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa by their sweet words. All of these friends are very intimate with Kṛṣṇa, and they show expertise in their different activities, their aim always being to please Kṛṣṇa.