Once the family members of Lord Kṛṣṇa, such as Sāmba, Pradyumna, Cāru, Bhānu and Gada, all princes of the Yadu dynasty, went for a long picnic in the forest near Dvārakā. In the course of their excursion, all of them became thirsty, and so they tried to find out where water was available in the forest. When they approached a well, they found no water in it, but, on the contrary, within the well was a wonderful living entity. It was a large lizard, and all of them were astonished to see such a wonderful animal. They could understand that the animal was trapped and could not escape by its own effort, so out of compassion they tried to take the large lizard out of the well. Unfortunately, they could not get the lizard out, even though they tried to do so in many ways.
When the princes returned home, their story was narrated before Lord Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the friend of all living entities. Therefore, after hearing the appeal from His sons, He personally went to the well and easily got the great lizard out simply by extending His left hand. Immediately upon being touched by the hand of Lord Kṛṣṇa, that great lizard gave up its lizard shape and appeared as a beautiful demigod, an inhabitant of the heavenly planets. His complexion glittered like molten gold, he was decorated with fine garments, and he wore costly ornaments around his neck.
How the demigod had been obliged to accept the body of a lizard was not a secret to Lord Kṛṣṇa, but still, for others' information, the Lord inquired, "My dear fortunate demigod, now I see that your body is so beautiful and lustrous. Who are you? We can guess that you are one of the best demigods in the heavenly planets. All good fortune to you. I think that you are not meant to be in this situation. It must be due to the results of your past activities that you were put into the species of lizard life. Still, I want to hear from you how you were put into this position. If you think that you can disclose this secret, then please tell us your identity."
Actually, this large lizard was King Nṛga, and when questioned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead he immediately bowed down before the Lord, touching to the ground the helmet on his head, which was as dazzling as the sunshine. In this way, he first offered his respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord. He then said, "My dear Lord, I am King Nṛga, the son of King Ikṣvāku. If you have ever taken account of all charitably disposed men, I am sure You must have heard my name. My Lord, You are the supreme witness. You are aware of every bit of work done by the living entities—past, present and future. Nothing can be hidden from Your eternal cognizance. Still, You have ordered me to explain my history, and I shall therefore narrate the full story."
King Nṛga proceeded to narrate the history of his degradation, caused by his karma-kāṇḍa activities. He said that he had been very charitably disposed and had given away so many cows that the total was equal to the number of particles of dust on the earth, stars in the sky or drops of water in a rainfall. According to the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies, a man who is charitably disposed is recommended to give cows to the brāhmaṇas. From King Nṛga's statement, it appears that he followed this principle earnestly; however, as a result of a slight discrepancy he was forced to take birth as a lizard. Therefore it is recommended by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā that one who is charitably disposed and desires to derive the benefit of his charity should offer his gifts to please Kṛṣṇa. To give charity means to perform pious activities by which one may be elevated to the higher planetary systems; but promotion to the heavenly planets is no guarantee that one will never fall down. Rather, the example of King Nṛga definitely proves that fruitive activities, even if very pious, cannot give us eternal blissful life. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, the result of work, either pious or impious, is sure to bind a man unless the work is discharged as yajña on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.