Hindu dharma presents married life, or Grihastha as the most important part of an individual’s life. The act of marriage, starting a family, raising and providing for the family is of utmost importance for the continuity of humankind and religion. Even Gods have settled with their spouses no matter how many avatars they take on the earth.
Marriage constitutes the equal footings of a male (nar) and female (nari) to navigate the turmoil of everyday life successfully; one such story of love and marriage is that of Devi Satyabhama and Shri Krishna.
Who is Satyabhama?
Devi Satyabhama is believed to be an avatar of Bhumī Devī, the Goddess of Earth. Satyabhama was the daughter of Satrajit, a Yadava who was the treasurer of Dwarka and owned the divine jewel Symantaka, obtained from Lord Surya.
Syamantaka was very precious to Satrajit. Shri Krishna had advised Satrajit to send the jewel to Ugrasen for added protection. However, Satrajit’s brother Prasenjit wore the jewel and took off for hunting. In the forest, he was attacked and killed by a lion. At the same time, Jambavan found the jewel and gave it to his daughter to play with it.
When Satrajit got news of Prasenjit’s death and realized the jewel was missing, he accused Shri Krishna of thievery. Enraged, Krishna took off to search for the jewel. He soon found it with Jambavan, and a fight ensued for 28 days. Recognizing Shri Krishna, Jambavan surrendered and asked for forgiveness. He worshiped him and asked him to marry his daughter Jambavati.
On returning, Krishna returned the jewel to Satrajit. When Satrajit learned the truth, he begged for Krishna’s forgiveness and offered his daughter Satyabhama in marriage to Shri Krishna.
Vaishnava Kanda, Kartikamasa Mahatya of Skanda Purana, has another version for the previous birth of Satyabhama. Satyabhama was Gunavati in her previous birth who lost her father and husband just after marriage. She was plunged into the ocean of grief and was overcome by it. Soon Gunavati sold all domestic articles and performed the rites beneficial to the two in the next world.
She became highly engrossed in her devotion to Vishnu, calm, truthful, pure, and with her senses controlled, lived in that city only and sustained her life. From birth till death, she properly observed two vows or vratas: the vow of Ekadasi and the vow of (i.e., relating to) Kartika. Pleased by her devotion, upon her death, she was granted a boon that she would marry a form of Lord Vishnu in her next life. And thus, she was born as Satyabhama to king Satrajit, who was also her father in a previous life.
Hiranyaksha, the asura, terrorized all the people on earth and the heavens alike. Unable to tolerate him anymore, the people went to Lord Vishnu to protect them from Hiranyaksha. Using his powers and might, the clever asura to hide from Vishnu pushed the earth off its axis to hide under. When Hiranyaksha touched the earth to push her, an asura was created from the contact between Bhumadevi, Mother Earth, and Hiranyaksha- Narakasura.
The earth plummeted deep inside space. Lord Vishnu incarnated as a boar, held the earth in its horns, and pushed her back in her axis. Lord Vishnu fought Hiranyaksha and defeated and killed him. But when Bhumadevi told Vishnu about the asura, he informed her that he was her son and was as powerful as his parents, but his fate was yet to be seen, so he was left to be.
Narakasura grew up to be powerful. Banasura, a powerful asura, saw Narakasura’s strength and decided to use him. He coaxed him to pray for Lord Brahma, who would bless him with powers equivalent to immortality. So he meditated, prayed, and penanced. Soon, Brahma, though aware of his growing powers and asura heritage, decided to ask him for the boon, to which Narakasura replied, ‘My Lord! I have come to know that Mother Earth – Bhumadevi herself is my mother. So this is my wish. If I have to die, it has to be in my mother’s hands and no one else.’
Brahma granted him the boon, but Narakasura was happiest since he thought a mother could never slay her son, no matter how evil a person was. Narakasura returned to his kingdom – Pragjyotishyapur, and made preparations for war. Armed with the boon, he attacked all the kingdoms on earth. Soon Narakasura was the ruler of all the kingdoms on earth.
Narakasura even eyed the heavens. Indra, the Lord of the Devas, was no match for him. Indra and the other Devas crumbled and fled from there. He captured 16,000 women in the heavens and imprisoned them in his palace. He did not even let Aditi, the mother of the Devas, alone. Aditi had a pair of heavenly earrings made for her. The earrings were so precious that they even glowed in the dark. Narakasura, without a moment’s hesitation, tore the earrings from Aditi.
Satyabhama, Aditi, and the War
Satyabhama is said to be a relative of Aditi, the mother of the Devas. As she sat alone in the royal palace gardens, she was visited by Aditi. She broke down in tears on seeing Satyabhama and told her of the austerity of Narakasura. Enraged, Satyahama decided to take matters into her own hand and went to seek Krishna. It was decided they would go into a war with Narakasura.
Soon, Stayabhama gathered her weapons, sat on Garuda, and flew toward Pragjyotishyapur. The battle between the army of Narakasura and Krishna was ridiculously one-sided. Krishna and Garuda easily destroyed the enemy army.
Narakasura saw all this from inside his palace and was furious. Even his general Mura had been defeated in the war. When Narakasura saw Mura die on the battlefield, he yelled and ran toward Krishna. He threw his Sataghini [a thunderbolt] at Krishna, but Garuda dived, and the weapon missed Krishna altogether.
Narakasura was able to neutralize all of their weapons, and soon he retrieved ‘Shakti,’ a powerful weapon, and threw it at Krishna. Satyabhama watched in horror as the weapon hit Krishna in the chest.
Satyabhama furiously grabbed a powerful weapon and threw it at Narakasura. Her shock at seeing Krishna fall gave her the strength to hurl the weapon at Narakasura’s chest. Narakasura swayed on the spot and looked as Krishna woke up without a single scratch on his body! Satyabhama also looked surprised. Krishna smiled as they both got down from Garuda and came towards Narakasura.
Narakasura was surprised at how his boon failed him at this point but, in the end, was guilty of his choices under Banasur’s guidance.
Narakasura soon repented his ways and asked for forgiveness. Krishna said. ‘Narakasura! This is Satyabhama, who is actually an incarnation of Bhumadevi….’ Both Satyabhama and Narakasura looked at Krishna with surprise as Krishna continued, ‘She incarnated with the special purpose of defeating you…I could never have defeated you…Only Satyabhama could…so I pretended to fall unconscious, and she did the rest.” Satyabhama held him in her lap as she questioned his ways and choices.
Narakasura looked around at the end of the day and said, ‘I have seen light today, my Lord…I wish that people would celebrate this day as the day of victory of light over darkness’ to Shri Krishna.
Even to this day, Narakasura’s death is celebrated as the victory of light over darkness…It comes on the second day of Diwali as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi.’
Krishna killed Narakasura’s general, Mura. For this reason, he is known as ‘Murari’ ( the killer of Mura).
Satyabhama took Aditi’s earrings and handed them over to Aditi.