Balarama (बलराम) is a Hindu God of Agriculture and Strength. He is the divine son of Vasudeva and Rohini, the elder brother of Lord Krishna, and an avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Lord Balarama is considered as one of the Dashavatar of Lord Vishnu. He is listed as one of the 24 avatars of Lord Vishnu, according to Srimad Bhagavata Purana. He is also referred to as a Sesha Naag Avatar in which Lord Vishnu resides, and then again Shesha (Adishesha, Seshnagh), is the energy of the Lord Vishnu himself.
Balarama and Krishna were originally conceived in the womb of Devaki, wife of Vasudeva (who was a half-sister of Kansa, the evil ruler of Vrishni). Kansa was fixated on killing all the children of Devaki because of a prediction that he would die at the hands of her eighth son. As a result, Kansa imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki and killed all of their first six children. However, Lord Vishnu is said to have intervened at the birth of the seventh and the eighth child.
Lord Vishnu implanted two of his hairs: one black and one white, into Devaki’s womb, in which the black one was Lord Krishna and the white one was that of Lord Balarama. When Kansa sensed the birth of the divine 7th child of Devaki, Lord Vishnu transferred the 7th offspring to the womb of Rohini, a woman who had desired to have children. Rohini then gave birth to the fairer child Balarama. He was born under Shraavana nakshatra on the Shravana Purnima. The birth of Lord Krishna is another interesting legend.
Both Balarama and Krishna shared a strong bond. The two brothers explicitly showed contrasting behaviors. While Krishna was charming due to his extreme beauty, Balarama possessed masculine strength. His ayudhas (weapons) were the Hala (plough) and the Gada (mace).
In the Vedic texts, however, his strength is depicted as being spiritual and not physical. Spiritual strength follows the spirit soul even to the next transmigration, so Balarama is believed to possess a never-ending strength.
Childhood and Marriage
Balarama spent his childhood with Krishna in Vrindavan as a cow herder. They took part in many childhood adventures together and sometimes even quarreled with one another. Balarama also defeated many asuras (demons) that were sent to kill them. He killed Dhenuka, an asura sent by Kamsha to kill them. Further, he also killed Mushtika and Pralambha, wrestlers sent by Kamsa.
Balarama was married to Revati, the daughter of king Kakudmi, the king of Kukasthali. Her account is given in Hindu scriptures such as Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana. Her tale is also narrated in the Vishnu Purana. Being the only daughter of Kakudmi, the king speculated that no human could marry Revati and so went to Brahmaloka to suggest for her marriage.
On reaching there, Kakudmi presented his shortlist of candidates for his daughter’s marriage. Brahma burst out in laughter as he confronted that 27 chatur-yuga (cyclic epoch in Hinduism) had already passed while they were here (also suggested by The General Theory of Relativity), and all of his candidates had already died. He suggested Revati to marry Balarama (the Godly incarnation). Kakudmi and Revati then went down to earth only to find that everything had changed.
The cycle of changing yugas had also impacted the physiology of humans then. This is described in Bhagwata Purana as the race of humans had become reduced in vigor, dwindled in stature, and attenuate in intellect. Revati was then taller than Balarama. So, Balarama had to alter her height by using his plow. They had two sons: Nisatha and Ulmuka and a daughter, Sasirekha. Later, his son Ulmuka died in the Yadu fratricidal war.
Kurukshetra War of Mahabharata
Bheemsena and Duryodhana were the disciples of Balarama. Balarama taught the skill of mace fight to both Bheemsena and Duryodhana. During the Kurukshetra war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, although he favored Duryodhana, he decided to remain neutral and aid none of the sides. However, he was ravaged once to kill Bheema when Bheemsena struck Duryodhana below the naval. Lord Krishna saved Bheemsena from Balarama’s wrath.
Balarama is said to take part in the battle that destroyed the Yadu dynasty, after which he sat down in a meditative state. Then a white snake left Balarama’s mouth and took him towards the river. This also references his identity as the Ananta-Sesha. The place where he meditated and departed from this world is situated about 1 km far from the Somnath temple in Gujarat.
Balarama is signified as the `God of Agriculture and Strength.’ He is also the harbinger of knowledge of agricultural tools and prosperity. Of the three transcendental elements: sat, cit, and ananda, Brahma represents sat, which means eternity and truth. Hence, he is worshiped as a supreme teacher. He is also the source of knowledge for agriculturists. On one occasion, he dug a water channel to bring the Yamuna river to Vrindavan for irrigation. Balarama’s importance also extends to the Jain religion, where he is mentioned alongside his brother in numerous texts.
There are numerous temples in which Lord Balarama is worshiped. They are mentioned below.
- Aluva Srikrishna Balarama Temple, Kerala
- Nenmini Balarama Temple, Kerala
- Mazhoor Balarama Temple, Kerala
- Jagannath temples of Puri
- Baladevjew Temple
- Ananta Vashudeva Temple
- RevtiBaladeviji Mandir, Jetalpur, Gujarat
- Shri Daauji Mandir, Vil-Banchari, Haryana,
- Shri Daauji Mandir, Mainipuri (U.P.)
- Shri Shri Baladev Jiu Gopal Jiu Temple, Belighata, Kolkata (W.B.)
There are also six major temples mentioned in the Puranas: Aring, Unchagaon, Ram Ghat, Baldeo, Talvan, and Nari.