Barber Shamlal was a great saint and man of religion. During those old days when he lived, a barber was considered to be a person of low birth. Shamlal believed that men took birth in low castes on account of the foul deeds they did during their previous birth. Only the worship of God could free them from worldly misery, just as a touchstone could turn iron into gold. With this thought in his mind, he spent most of his time in prayers.
In his house there was a beautiful idol of Lord Krishna to which he was extremely devoted. Each morning, after taking his bath, Shamlal would worship the deity and only after this take to his routine work.
Once the Badshah (king) sent a messenger to fetch Shamlal. Shamlal was so absorbed in his daily worship that he had it conveyed to the messenger, through his wife, that he was not at home. The messenger called at his house four times and each time Shamlal’s wife answered the same way.
One wicked neighbour of Shamlal, who bore a grudge against him, reported to the Badshah that Shamlal had been at home doing his worship, every time the messenger had called at his house. The arrogant Badshah flew into a rage and ordered his soldiers that Shamlal be caught and thrown into the river to die.
Before the order could be carried out, Krishna took the guise of Shamlal and came to his rescue. Carrying Shamlal’s bag of instruments of work on his shoulders, Krishna arrived at the Badshah’s door. He stood before the Badshah and bowed in an act of reverence.
At the sight of ‘Shamla”, the Badshah’s anger disappeared at once. Seating the Badshah before him, ‘Sham’al’ shaved him and shampooed him. Happy with the job, the Badshah then ordered that fragrant oil be anointed on his body.
As the Badshah sat on the square sandalwood seat, ‘Shamlal’ rubbed oil on his body. The beautiful cup containing the scented oil was studded with jewels and was placed in front of the Badshah. When he looked into the cup, the Badshah saw to his amazement, a reflection of Krishna with his dark complexion and yellow robes, with a golden crown shining on his head. Stupefied, he looked up only to see ‘Shamlal’ rubbing oil on him. Turning to the cup once more, he again saw the reflection of Krishna.
Dazzled by the brilliant figure of the Lord, the Badshah lost consciousness. When his servants rushed to the scene and woke him up, the Badshah requested ‘Shamlal’ to stay on with him. But `Shamlal’ said he would return a little later. The Badshah offered a handful of gold coins to ‘ShamIan
Krishna, in the guise of Shamlal, went to Shamlal’s house,.hung the bag of working instruments on a peg and put the coins into the bag.
After this incident, the Badshah became restless and nothing gave him peace of mind. He ordered his servants to fetch Shamlal immediately.
Shamlal was very nervous at the sight of the messengers because he thought that the Badshah must be very angry with him and must have planned a severe punishment for him.
As he went to the palace with his bag of instruments, Shamlal was surprised to see the Badshah walking down to greet him. His courtiers were also shocked to see such an unusual behaviour on the part of their monarch.
Falling down at Shamlal’s feet, the Badshah said, “This morning you showed me your true form in the cup of oil. Kindly show me the same form again.”
As the Badshah brought the cup of oil and made Shamlal look into it, he could not see anything except Shamlal’s face!
Shamlal got confused at such turn of events. After a little while he could guess what might have happened. Breaking into loud sobs, Shamlal said, “Oh, dweller of Vaikunth, oh, Narayana, what an unworthy task you performed for my sake! Why did you take the bag of a barber’s instruments on your shoulders?”
And as he wept, the Badshah fell again at his feet and, overjoyed, he remarked, “I am grateful to you that I was able to see Lord Krishna.”
Shamlal then saw the coins in his bag and distributed them among the poor.
From then on, the Badshah was a different person. He dedicated himself to the service of God.