Ashtabharya

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Ashtabharya with Krishna - 19th Century Mysore painting depicting Krishna with his eight principal consorts.

Ashtabharya(s) or Ashta-bharya(s) is the group of the eight principal queen-consorts of Hindu god Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu and the king of Dwarka - in the Dwapara Yuga (epoch). The most popular list, found in the Bhagavata Purana, includes: Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana. Variations exist in the Vishnu Purana and the Harivamsa, which includes queens called Madri or Rohini, instead of Bhadra. Most of them are princesses.

Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha was Krishna's first wife and chief queen (Patrani) of Dwarka. She is considered as an avatar of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Vishnu's chief consort. Satyabhama, the second wife, is considered the aspect of the earth-goddess Bhudevi and Vishnu's second wife. Though Rukmini and Satyabhama enjoy worship as the consorts of the married king Krishna, the others do not enjoy this honour. A young cowherd Krishna is worshipped with his lover Radha. Kalindi, the goddess of river Yamuna, is worshipped independently. Besides the Ashtabharya, Krishna had 16,000 or 16,100 junior wives.

The texts also mention the many children Krishna fathered by the Ashtabharya, the most prominent being the crown-prince Pradyumna, son of Rukmini.

Summary[edit]

Krishna with his two principal queens.(From left) Rukmini, Krishna, Satyabhama and his mount Garuda.
Key
Not always included in Ashtabharya list
Abbreviations
Table
[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]
Name Epithets Princess of Parents Mode of marriage Attestations Children
Rukmini Vaidarbhi Vidarbha Bhishmaka(f) Secret romance and kidnap by Krishna BP, Mbh, VP, HV Pradyumna, Charudeshna, Sudeshna, Charudeha, Sucharu, Charugupta, Bhadracharu, Charuchandra, Vicharu and Charu (BP);

Pradyumna, Charudeshna, Sudeshna, Charudeha, Sushena, Charugupta, Bhadracharu, Charuvinda, Sucharu, Charu, Charumati (d) (VP); Pradyumna, Charudeshna (2 sons with same name), Charubhadra, Charugarbha, Sudeshna, Druma, Sushena, Charuvinda, Charubahu, Charumati (d) (HV)

Satyabhama - - Satrajit (f) Offered by her father (Syamantaka episode) BP, Mbh, VP, HV Bhanu, Subhanu, Svarbhanu, Prabhanu, Bhanuman, Chandrabhanu, Brịhadbhanu, Atibhanu, Shribhanu and Pratibhanu. (BP);

Bhanu, Bhaimarika (VP); Bhanu, Bhimaratha, Rohita, Diptiman, Tamrapaksha, Jalantaka, Bhanu (d), Bhimanika (d), Tamrapani (d), Jalndhama (d) (HV)

Jambavati Narendraputri, Kapindraputri, Pauravi, Rohini (?) - Jambavan (f) Offered by her father (Syamantaka episode) BP, Mbh, VP, HV Samba, Sumitra, Purujit, Shatajit, Sahasrajit, Vijaya, Chitraketu, Vasuman, Dravida and Kratu (BP);

sons headed by Samba (VP); Samba, Mitravan, Mitravinda, Mitravati (d) (HV)

Kalindi Yamuna, identified with Mitravinda (HV) Surya (f), Saranyu (m) (BP) Performed austerities to gain Krishna as husband BP, VP Shruta, Kavi, Vrsa, Vira, Subahu, Bhadra, Santi, Darsa, Purnamasa and Somaka (BP);

sons headed by Shruta (VP); Ashruta and Shrutasammita (HV)

Nagnajiti Satya, Kausalya Kosala Nagnajit (f) Won by Krishna in her svayamvara by defeating seven bulls BP, Mbh (?), VP, HV Vira, Chandra, Ashvasena, Citragu, Vegavan, Vrsha, Ama, Shanku, Vasu and Kunti (BP);

many sons headed by Bhadravinda (VP); Mitrabahu, Sunitha, Bhadrarakara, Bhadravinda, Bhadravati (d) (HV)

Mitravinda Sudatta (VP), Shaibya or Shaivya (BP), [Kalindi is given the epithet Mitravinda; Shaibya (Sudatta) is a different queen in HV] Avanti Jayasena (f), Rajadhidevi (m) - Krishna's aunt (BP), Shibi (HV) Choose Krishna as husband in svayamvara. Krishna defeated her brothers in battle to take her away as they disapproved BP, Mbh, VP, HV Vrika, Harsha, Anila, Gridhra, Vardhana, Unnada, Mahamsa, Pavana, Vahni and Kshudhi (BP);

many sons headed by Sangramajit (VP); Sangramajit, Satyajit, Senajit, Sapatnajit, Angada, Kumuda, Shveta and Shvetaa (d) (HV, Shaibya's )

Lakshmana Lakshana, Charuhasini, Madri (BP), Madraa (BP) Madra (BP), unknown (VP, HV) Brihatsena (f) (PP), unnamed (f) (BP) Abducted from her swayamvara. Krishna defeat rival suitors in the pursuit BP, Mbh, VP, HV Praghosha, Gatravan, Simha, Bala, Prabala, Urdhvaga, Mahashakti, Saha, Oja and Aparajita (BP);

many sons headed by Gatravan (VP); Gatravan, Gatragupta, Gatravinda, Gatravati (d) (HV)

Bhadra Kaikeyi Kekaya Dhrishtaketu(f), Shrutakirti (m) - Krishna's aunt Married by brothers to Krishna. BP, Mbh Sangramajit, Brihatsena, Shura, Praharana, Arijit, Jaya, Subhadra, Vama, Ayur and Satyaka (BP)
Madri Subhima (HV) Madra (VP, HV) - - VP, HV many sons headed by Vrika (VP);

Vrikashva, Vrikanivriti and Vrikadipti (HV)

Rohini Jambavati (?) - - - BP, VP, Mbh Diptiman, Tamratapta and others (BP);

Diptiman, Tamrapaksha and others (VP)

Symbolism[edit]

The pecking order of the wives is under three groups according to their regal status and symbolizes Krishna's sovereignty. In the first group, Rukmini, avatar of the wealth-goddess Lakshmi (Shri), stands for majesty and wealth of Krishna; Satyabhama, the aspect of the earth-goddess Bhudevi represents the kingdom, and Jambavati is Victory (vijaya), who was won by defeating her father. The second group were representatives of Aryavarta (the nobility) with Kalindi given the central kingdoms, Nagnajiti representing the eastern kingdoms (including the Solar dynasty) and Lakshmana representing the western side. The third group of wives consisted of Mitravinda and Bhadra his patriarchal cousins representing his Yadava clan called Satvata.[1]

Legends[edit]

Rukmini as the main consort of Vithoba, a regional form of Krishna.

Rukmini, the chief queen, was in love with Krishna. Rukmini's brother Rukmi fixed her marriage with his friend Shishupala. Rukmini sends a message to Krishna to rescue her. Krishna abducts Rukmini while her marriage preparations are going on. Krishna's army commanded by his brother Balarama defeat Rukmi and the other kings, who follow Krishna and Rukmini.[8][9]

Jambavati weds Krishna

The marriage of Satyabhama and Jambavati to Krishna is closely linked to the story of Syamantaka, the precious diamond given by the Sun-god Surya to his devotee Satyajit, father of Satyabhama. Krishna requests Satyajit to present the gem to the Yadava elder Ugrasena, which the latter refuses and instead presents it to his brother Prasena. Prasena wears it on a hunting expedition, where he is killed by a lion, who is in turn killed by Jambavan, the bear-king. When accused by Satyajit of stealing the jewel, Krishna goes in its search and finally following trials of the corpses of Prasena and the lion, confronts Jambavan. After 27/28 day duel, Jambavan - the devotee of Rama (Vishnu's previous avatar) - surrenders to Krishna, who he realizes is none other than Vishnu. He returns the gem and gives Jambavati to Krishna. When the presumed dead Krishna returns to Dwarka, a humiliated Satyajit begs his forgiveness and offers Satyabhama's hand in marriage along with the jewel.[10][11]

Krishna and Satyabhama fighting Narakasura's armies -Painting from the Metropolitan Museum

Among the queens, Satyabhama was most feisty, aggressive, highly temperamental and argumentative. She always used to offer an argument, which Krishna would enjoy. Though Satyabhama was a very courageous and strong-willed woman, she was also skilful in archery. She even occupied Krishna to kill the demon Narakasura. While Krishna kills the demon in Krishna-oriented scriptures, Satyabhama, the manifestation of Bhudevi - the mother of Narakasura, kills the demon to fulfil a curse that he will be killed by his mother in Goddess-centric texts. At Satyabhama's behest, Krishna also defeats Indra, the king of heaven and the gods and gets the celestial parijat tree for her.[10]

Indian folktales often tell stories of Krishna's competing wives, especially Rukmini and Satyabhama.[12] A tale narrates how once Satyabhama, proud of her wealth, donated Krishna to the divine sage Narada and pledged to take him back by donating wealth to him as much as Krishna's weight. Krishna sat on one pan of a weighing scale and Satyabhama filled the other pan with all of the wealth, inherited from her father, but it could not equal Krishna's weight. The other wives, except Rukmini, followed suit but Krishna's pan did not leave the ground. The wives requested Satyabhama to approach Rukmini. A helpless Satyabhama asked her foremost rival, Rukmini, for help. Rukmini, who was kidnapped by Krishna, had no wealth of her own. She chanted a prayer and put the holy tulsi leaf in the other pan, as the symbol of her love; removing the wealth of Satyabhama and the other queens from the pan. Krishna's pan was suddenly lifted into the air and the other pan touched the earth, even though only a tulsi leaf in it.[13]

There is also a legend narrated in the Bhagavata Purana about a conversation between Krishna and Satyabhama about his love for Radha and the gopis. When Krishna had chest pain, he told Sataybhama about it and she offered him juice, tulsi water or milk as cure. But he wanted the dust of feet of his queens as the right treatment for his sickness. The queens were shocked and Narada who was present on this occasion was also surprised by Krishna’s strange request. Narada then told Krishna that nobody would give the Lord of the Universe the dust of their feet. Then Krishna sent Narada to Gokula to talk to Radha and the gopis who were ardent devotees. When Narada went there, the gopis - who were anxious to know from Narada about their lord’s health - were informed of Krishna’s request for the dust of their feet. The love of Radha and the gopis for Krishna was so intense that without second thoughts, they gave the dust of their feet to be given to Krishna for curing his problem. Krishna took this and got cured.[14]

See also[edit]

Junior wives of Krishna

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b D Dennis Hudson (27 August 2008). The Body of God : An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram: An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Oxford University Press. pp. 263–4. ISBN 978-0-19-970902-1. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic Encyclopaedia: a Comprehensive Dictionary with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-8426-0822-0. 
  3. ^ Horace Hayman Wilson (1870). The Vishńu Puráńa: a system of Hindu mythology and tradition. Trübner. pp. 81–3, 107–8. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Genealogical Table of the Family of Krishna". Krsnabook.com. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Prabhupada. "Bhagavata Purana 10.61.17". Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 
  6. ^ Prabhupada. "Bhagavata Purana 10.58.56". Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 
  7. ^ "Harivamsha Maha Puraaam - Vishnu Parvaharivamsha in the Mahabharata - Vishnuparva Chapter 103 - narration of the Vrishni race". Mahabharata Resources Organization. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic Encyclopaedia: a Comprehensive Dictionary with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 657. ISBN 978-0-8426-0822-0. 
  9. ^ "Chapter 53: Krishna Kidnaps Rukmini". Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Srimad Bhagavatam. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic Encyclopaedia: a Comprehensive Dictionary with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 704–5. ISBN 978-0-8426-0822-0. 
  11. ^ "Chapter 56: The Syamantaka Jewel". Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Brenda E. F. Beck; Peter J. Claus; Praphulladatta Goswami; Jawaharlal Handoo (15 April 1999). Folktales of India. University of Chicago Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-226-04083-7. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Devdutt Pattanaik (1 September 2000). The Goddess in India: The Five Faces of the Eternal Feminine. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. pp. 26–7. ISBN 978-0-89281-807-5. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Bellur Krishnamachar Sundaraja Iyengar (2002). Astadala Yogamala, Vol. 3. Allied Publishers. p. 147. ISBN 978-81-7764-361-9. Retrieved 3 January 2013.