Krishna with the Ashtabharya including Jambavati
Jambavati (IAST jāmbavatī) is one Ashtabharya, the ninth principal queen-consorts of Hindu god Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu and the king of Dwarka – in the Dwapara Yuga (epoch). While she was married second to Krishna, Jambavati was fourth in the order of importance after Rukmini and Satyabhama, whom Krishna married fourth. She was the only daughter of the bear-king Jambavan. Krishna married her, when he defeated Jambavan to retrieve the stolen Syamantaka jewel.
Names and family
Jambavati, a patronymic, means daughter of Jambavan. Sridhara, a commentator on the Bhagavata Purana, identifies her with Krishna's wife Rohini. However, another commentator Ratnagarbha disagrees. The Harivamsa also suggests that Rohini may be an alternate name of Jambavati. Jambavati is also given the epithets Narendraputri and Kapindraputri.
Jambavan or Jambavat appears in the Hindu epic Ramayana as an advisor of the vanara-king Sugriva, who aided Rama, Krishna's previous humanly form. Though he is often described here as a sloth bear, he is also identified with monkeys as his nature is similar or same as to that of gorillas, chimps, or even monkeys. In the epic Mahabharata, Jambavan is introduced as Jambavati's father. The Bhagavata Purana and the Harivamsa calls him the king of bears.
Visvanatha Chakravarti mentions that while narrating this story, few devotees associated Jambavati with the girl that Jambavan offers to Rama. However, Rama, who is already married and has taken a vow to marry only once, politely refuses. Jambavati would marry Rama in his next birth. So, Rama marries Jambavati in his reincarnation as Krishna.
The marriage of Jambavati and Satyabhama to Krishna is closely linked with the story of Syamantaka, the precious jewel, which has its mention in the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana. The precious jewel originally belonged to the Sun god Surya. Surya pleased with his devotee – the Yadava nobleman, Satrajit, gave him the dazzling diamond as a gift. When Satrajit returned to the capital city of Dwarka with the jewel, people mistook him for Surya because of his dazzling glory. Krishna, impressed by the lustrous stone, asked him to present the jewel to Ugrasena, Mathura's king and Krishna's grandfather, but Satrajit did not comply.
Subsequently, Satrajit presented Syamantaka to his brother Prasena, who was a counselor. Prasena, who wore the jewel often, was attacked by a lion one day while hunting in the forest. He gets killed in a fierce battle and the lion flees with the jewel. The lion fails to retain the jewel though, as shortly after the battle, it enters Jambavan's mountain cave adobe, only to get killed. Jambavan, who seized the glittering jewel from the clutches of the lion gives it to his young son to play with.
Back in Dwarka, following the disappearance of Prasena, it was rumoured that Krishna, who had an eye on the Syamantaka jewel, had Prasena murdered and stolen the jewel. Krishna, who was furious with this false allegation, went out with other Yadavas in search of Prasena to establish his innocence by finding the jewel. He followed the trail that Prasena had taken and discovered the corpses of Prasena. He then followed the trail of the lion and reached the cave, where the dead lion was lying. Krishna told his fellow Yadavas to wait outside, while he entered the cave alone. Inside he saw a little child playing with the priceless jewel. As Krishna approached Jambavan's son, the child's nanny cried aloud, alerting Jambavan. The two then engaged in a furious combat for 27–28 days (as per Bhagavata Purana) or 21 days (as per Vishnu Purana). As Jambavan gradually grew tired, he realised that Krishna was none other his benefactor Rama from the Treta yuga. In gratitude and devotion to Krishna who spared his life, Jambavan gave up his fight and returned the jewel to Krishna. Jambavan offered his maiden daughter Jambavati in marriage to Krishna along with the Syamantaka jewel. Krishna accepted the proposal and married Jambavati. They then moved to Dwarka.
Meanwhile, Yadavas who accompanied Krishna to the cave had returned to the kingdom presuming Krishna as dead. Every member of the royal family had assembled to mourn his death. After returning to Dwarka, Krishna narrated the story of the recovery of the jewel and his marriage to Jambavati. He then returned the jewel to Satrajit in the presence of Ugrasena. Satrajit felt shy and ashamed to receive it as he had realised his error of judgement and his greediness. He then offered his daughter Satyabhama in marriage to Krishna along with the precious jewel. Krishna married Satyabhama, but refused the gem.
The Mahabharata and the Devi Bhagavata Purana narrate a story of the birth of Samba, Jambavati's chief son. Jambavati was unhappy when she realized that only she had not borne any children to Krishna while all other wives were blessed with many children. She approached Krishna to find a solution and to be blessed with a son like the handsome Pradyumna, Krishna's first-born son from his chief wife Rukmini. Then Krishna went to the hermitage of the sage Upamanyu in the Himalayas and as advised by the sage, he started to pray to the god Shiva. He did penance for six months in various postures; once holding a skull and a rod, then standing on one leg only in the next month and surviving on water only, during the third month he did penance standing on his toes and living on air only. Pleased with the austerities, Shiva finally appeared before Krishna as Samba, Samba, Ardhanarishvara the half-female-half-male form of the god, asked him to ask a boon. Krishna then sought a son from Jambavati, which was granted. A son was born soon thereafter who was named as Samba, the form Shiva had appeared before Krishna.
According to Bhagavata Purana, Jambavati was the mother of Samba, Sumitra, Purujit, Shatajit, Sahasrajit, Vijaya, Chitraketu, Vasuman, Dravida and Kratu. The Vishnu Purana says that she has many sons headed by Samba.
Samba grew up to be a nuisance to the Yadavas, Krishna's clan. His marriage to Lakshmana, the daughter of Duryodhana (the head of the Kauravas) ended up in his capture by Duryodhana. He was finally rescued by Krishna and his brother Balarama. Samba once pretended to be a pregnant woman and his friends asked some sages that who will the child. Offended by the mischief, the sages cursed that an iron pestle will be born to Samba and will destroy the Yadavas. The curse came true leading to the death of Krishna's clan.
After the death of Krishna, Jambavati along with Rukmini and few other ladies ascended herself to Krishna's pyre.
In puranic literature, Jambavati has been an epic character in Bhagavata Purana, Mahabharata, Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana. The legend of the fight between Jambavan and Krishna's over the Syamantaka jewel has been prominently featured. Even the great ruler of the kingdom of Vijayanagara, Krishnadevaraya, composed a drama called the Jambava Kalyanam. Ekaramantha wrote a poem with the theme Jambavati Parinayam (meaning: Jambavati's marriage).
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