Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Balarama: Krishna’s Loyal Brother

Balarama, also known as Baladeva and Sankarshana, is a prominent figure in Hindu mythology and a revered character in Indian religious texts, particularly the Mahabharata and the Puranas. As the elder brother of Lord Krishna, Balarama plays a significant role in shaping the course of many legendary events and symbolizes various virtues. Lord Balarama is also known as one of the principal avatars of Lord Vishnu.

Iconography

Balarama’s portrayal in Hindu iconography is rich with symbolism, reflecting his unique attributes and his divine status. Typically depicted with a fair complexion, Balarama is adorned with jewels, dons a yellow dhoti, and has a serene countenance that radiates wisdom and strength. His most distinctive attributes are his weapons—the mace, Kaumodaki, and the plough, Halayudha. The Kaumodaki symbolizes the power to destroy evil and ignorance, while the Halayudha signifies the ability to till the soil, representing his connection to agriculture and prosperity.

Balarama’s representations often depict him in a standing posture, sometimes flanked by Krishna or his consorts. In this iconography, he exudes an aura of protection and guardianship, embodying the role of a reliable companion and a guide for devotees in their spiritual journey. In some forms of art, Balarama is shown carrying a platter of fruits and vegetables, reflecting his association with agriculture and fertility.

The deity is also depicted with a ploughshare in hand, standing in the pose of “Bhujangasana” or the Cobra Pose, which signifies his ability to control the serpent Kaliya, another noteworthy episode from his legendary life. This representation portrays Balarama’s dominion over natural forces, a reminder of the divine order he upholds as a protector of dharma.

Legend

Eighth Avatar of Lord Vishnu

The tale of Balarama begins with the celestial couple, Vasudeva and Devaki, who were blessed with the divine incarnation of Lord Krishna. Balarama is considered to be Krishna’s incarnation, making him the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver in the Hindu trinity. According to the Harivamsa, a supplement to the Mahabharata, Balarama is the seventh child of Vasudeva and Devaki, born after the gods manipulate the womb to ensure the safety of the divine siblings. Recognizing the impending threat posed by the tyrant Kamsa, Devaki’s brother, the gods transfer the fetus from Devaki’s womb to that of Rohini, Vasudeva’s first wife.

Childhood

As a child, Balarama demonstrated his extraordinary strength and valor. His most remarkable feat during this period was the killing of the demon Pralamba, sent by Kamsa to eliminate Krishna and Balarama. This incident showcases Balarama’s protective nature, as he fearlessly saves his younger brother from harm. Balarama’s early life also includes various adventures with Krishna and the cowherd boys, depicting their deep bond of friendship.

Marriage and Children

Balarama was married to Revati, the daughter of King Kakudmi. The marriage is considered significant as it is said to have a celestial aspect to it. King Kakudmi, Revati’s father, took her to Lord Brahma to seek his approval for the union. However, during their visit to Brahma, time passed at a different pace in the celestial realm, and when they returned to Earth, many ages had gone by. Despite the time difference, Balarama and Revati were happily married. They became the parents of Nisatha and Ulmuka, who were considered demigods and played important roles in various mythological narratives.

Pilgrimage to Saraswati

A significant episode in Balarama’s life is his pilgrimage to the sacred river Saraswati. On this journey, Balarama came across a group of angry sages, who accused him of drinking the water from the river. Unperturbed by their anger, Balarama calmly sipped the water through his plough, purifying the river and pacifying the sages. This incident highlights Balarama’s ability to maintain peace and restore harmony even in the face of adversity.

Role in Kurukshetra War

Balarama’s loyalty and commitment to the path of righteousness are further exemplified during the Kurukshetra War, a pivotal event in the Mahabharata. Despite being a fierce warrior, Balarama remained neutral during the war, choosing not to participate in the battle directly. Instead, he played the role of an advisor and guide to both the Kauravas and the Pandavas, respecting his duty as a brother to the former and a well-wisher to the latter.

Worshipping Lord Balarama

Balarama, Krishna, and their sister Subhadra hold the position of presiding deities at the renowned Puri temple in Odisha. Additionally, Odisha is home to several other temples dedicated to Balarama, such as the Baladev Jew temple situated in Kendrapara District, the Ananta Vasudeva temple in Bhubaneswar, and the Baladev temple in Ganjam District. Devotees believe that worshipping Balarama can bring a plethora of blessings, including strength, perfection, the fulfillment of desires, wealth, and assistance in overcoming adversaries.

Balarama Jayanti

Balarama Jayanti is a significant celebration dedicated to Lord Balarama. He was born on the sixth day of the Krishna Paksha during the Bhadrapada month. Balarama Jayanti marks the auspicious occasion of Baladeva’s birth anniversary. This joyous festival, known as Hal Sashti, is observed six days after Shravan Purnima or Raksha Bandhan.

During Hal Sashti, devotees enthusiastically celebrate this occasion with great joy and fervor. They observe a fast to honor Lord Balarama and engage in various festivities to commemorate the event. The spirit of the celebration is marked by devotion and happiness, as devotees come together to pay their respects to the divine Lord Balarama.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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