Balarama

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This article is about the elder brother of the divine being Krishna. For other uses, see Balarama (disambiguation).
Balarama
Balarama.jpg
Bala Rama
Devanagari बलराम
Sanskrit Transliteration Balarāma
Tamil Transliteration பால தேவா
Affiliation Avatar of Shesha or Vishnu
Weapon Plough, Mace
Consort Revati

Balarama (Sanskrit: Balarāma), also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha, is the elder brother of Krishna (an avatar of the god Vishnu) and is regarded generally as an avatar of Shesha. He is also sometimes considered as the Sankarshana form of Vishnu and the eighth avatar of Vishnu.

He may have originated in Vedic times as a deity of agriculture and fertility hence his name Balaram (Rama with a plough). In scripture, Vishnu impregnated the belly of the goddess Devaki with two strands of hair, one black, one white. To ensure their safety, they were transferred before birth to Rohini. Krishna was born with darker complexion, while Balarama was fair. In Jainism he is known as Baladeva. He is often depicted with a drinking cup, pitcher, shield and sword.[1]

Early life[edit]

Jagannatha Subhadra Baladeva
From left to right is Balarama, Subhadra, and Jagannatha.

Birth and origin[edit]

Krishna and Balarama meet their parents. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma

Balarama was a son of Vasudeva. The evil king Kansa, the brother of Devaki, was intent upon killing the children of his sister because of a prediction that he would die at the hands of her eighth son.

Krishna-Balarama deities at the Krishna-Balarama Temple in Vrindavan

Vishnu then impregnated the belly of the goddess Devaki with two strands of hair, one black, one white. To ensure their safety, their essence was transferred before birth to Rohini, who also desired a child. At birth, Krishna had a darker complexion, while Balarama was born fair. The other name of Balarama is also Sankarshana, meaning a spirit transferred between two wombs. According to Bhagavata Purana, the name Sankarshana means, one who brings together two different families of King Yadu's and King Nanda's dynasties.[2]

He was named Rama, but because of his great strength he was called Balarama, Baladeva or Balabhadra, meaning "Strong Rama". He was born under Shravana nakshatra on Shraavana Purnima, or Raksha Bandhan.

He is often depicted with a drinking cup, pitcher, axe, shield and sword. Balarama may have originated in Vedic times as a deity of agriculture and fertility. In Jainism he is known as Baladeva.

Childhood and marriage[edit]

Balarama Kills Dhenukasura, Folio from a Harivamsha (Lineage of Hari, Vishnu), ca 1585-1590

One day, Nanda requested the presence of Sage Garga, his priest, to name the newborn Krishna and Balarama. When the Garga arrived, Nanda, received him well and requested the naming ceremony. Gargamuni then reminded Nanda that Kamsa was looking for the son of Devaki, and if he performed the ceremony in opulence, it would come to his attention. Nanda therefore asked Garga to perform the ceremony in secret, and Garga did so:

Because Balarama, the son of Rohini, increases the transcendental bliss of others, His name is Rama, and because of His extraordinary strength, He is called Baladeva. He attracts the Yadus to follow His instructions, and therefore His name is Sankarshana.

—Bhagavata Purana, 10.8.12[3]

Balarama spent his childhood as a cow herder with his brother Krishna. He killed Dhenuka, an asura sent by Kansa, as well as Pralamba and Mushtika wrestlers sent by the king. After the evil king died, Balarama and Krishna went to the ashrama of sage Sandipani's at Ujjayini for study. He later married Revati, the daughter of King Kakudmi, ruler of Kushasthali or Anarta[4]

Kurukṣetra war of the Mahābhārata[edit]

Duryodana was defeated by Bhima - A scene from Razmanama

Balarama taught both Duryodhana of the Kauravas and Bhima of the Pandavas the art of fighting with a mace. When war broke between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, Balarama cared for both sides, and so remained neutral. When Bhima defeated Duryodhana by striking him in the groin with his mace, Balarama threatened to kill Bhima. This was prevented when Krishna reminded Balarama of the vow of Bhima—to kill Duryodhana by crushing the thigh he had exposed to Bhima's wife Draupadi.[5]

Disappearance[edit]

Death of Balarama

In the Bhagavata Purana, it is described that after Balarama took part in the battle causing the destruction of the remainder of the Yadu dynasty, and witnessing the disappearance of Krishna, he sat down in a meditative state and departed from this world.[6]

Some scriptures describe a great white snake that left the mouth of Balarama, in reference to his identity as Ananta-Sesha. The place where he departed is situated near Somnath Temple in Gujarat.

The local people of Veraval believe that in the cave near the temple place, the white snake who came out of Balarama's mouth got into that cave and went back to Paatal Lok.

Status as avatar[edit]

Main article: Dashavathara

Narratives of Balarama are found in the Mahabharata, Harivamsha, Bhagavata Purana and other Puranas. The Bhagavata Purana suggests Balarama as incarnation of Vishnu. He is classified in the vyuha avathar Sankarshana, of Vishnu where in Adishesha and Lakshmana is part of.[7]

Worship[edit]

Balabhadra in golden attire on his Chariot in Puri

An earlier reference to Balarama is in Kautilya's Arthashastra (13.3)[8]

Maues coin depicting Balarama, 1st century BCE
Balarama at the lower right of a Maurya coin, holding a mace and conch; 3rd-2nd century BCE, from the British Museum
17th century mural of Balarama in a south Indian temple

Appearance[edit]

Balarama in Javanese Wayang

Balarama is depicted as fair skinned, in contrast to his brother, Krishna, who is dark skinned, Krishna in Sanskrit means dark. His āyudhas, or weapons, are the plough hala and the gadā. The plough is usually called Balachita.[9] He often wears blue garments and a garland of forest flowers. His hair is tied in a topknot, and he has earrings, bracelets and armlets, and he is known for his strength.[10]

Jainism[edit]

Main article: Śalākāpuruṣa

The Jain Puranas, notably, the Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacarita of Hemachandra, narrate hagiographical accounts of nine Baladevas or Balabhadras who are believed to be śalākāpuruṣas (literally "torch-bearers, great personalities"). These nine Baladevas are: Achala, Vijaya, Bhadra, Suprabha, Sudarśana, Ānanda, Nandana, Padma (Rama in Hinduism) and Rāma (Balarama in Hinduism).[11]

Temples[edit]

Baliyana Mandir, Bainsa (dist Nawanshahr) Punjab

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chandra, Suresh (Aug 15, 2012). Encyclopaedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Kindle Edition. 
  2. ^ Carl Woodham (2011). A God Who Dances: Krishna for You. Torchlight Publishing,. p. 104. ISBN 9780981727363. 
  3. ^ "Bhagavata Purana 10.8.12". 
  4. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1922, reprint 1972). Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.98
  5. ^ Varkey, C.P. (2001). A Pilgrimage Through The Mahabharata. Mumbai: St. Paul Society. pp. 148–149. ISBN 81-7109-497-X. 
  6. ^ Bhag-P 11.30.26
  7. ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1987). Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, ed. Srimad-Bhagavatam: Bhagavata Purana. ISBN 0892132507. 
  8. ^ Rangarajan, L.N. (1992) (edited, rearranged and translated), Kautilya — The Arthashastra, New Delhi: Penguin, ISBN 0-14-044603-6, p.518
  9. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 75. 
  10. ^ http://www.iskconmanchester.com/Balarama-Jayanti.html
  11. ^ Joshi, Nilakanth Purushottam (1979). Iconography of Balarāma. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. ISBN 81-7017-107-5. , p. 5

External links[edit]