Balarama, who is also known as Balabhadra, is the elder brother of Shri Krishna. Balarama is a symbol of strength, an obedient son, an ideal brother and husband, an ideal man and a God. He is also known as Nilavastra as he is said to have a fair complexion and clad in a dark blue vest. Although Balarama was addicted to wine and was very short-tempered and stubborn, he is also regarded as a protector from desires, the divinity of strength or the strength of the divine, symbolizing duty, honesty, and simplicity.
Here are 10 interesting facts about Balarama.
1. The Divine
The elder brother of Krishna, Balarama is also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra, Haladhara, and Halayudha. Significant in the Jagannath tradition, Balarama is regarded as one of the triad deities and generally, Balarama is also included as the eighth avatar of Vishnu in the Sri Vaishnava lists. From the evolutionary angle, this Avatar marks the period when humans started a settled way of life taking to agriculture. (also read – 10 Vishnu avatars and their parallels in scientific world of evolution and civilization)
It is said that Vishnu incarnated as Balarama when Indra and the other gods came to Lord Vishnu and asked for the release from the demon son Kamsa, King of Mathura. Vishnu took one black and one white hair from his head and promised that these two would come to fight against the demons. This way, first Balarama (the white hair) and then Krishna (the black hair) took birth and grew up together in a cowherd’s family.
2. An incarnation of Adi-Anant Shesh Naag
Along with, being an avatar of Vishnu, many texts also mention Balarama as an avatar of Adi Anant Shesh Naag, the many-headed serpent, upon whom Lord Vishnu rests in Kshirasagara, which is the ocean of milk. Shesh Naga is king of all nagas. He holds all the planets of the universe on its hood. That could explain the reason behind Balarama’s tremendous strength, believed to be stronger than a herd of elephants.
3. Lakshmana reincarnated as Balarama
Lakshmana once said that since he is younger to Rama, each command by his elder brother had to be obeyed by him. This is the reason why his wish to become the elder brother was fulfilled in the next incarnation. While Lord Vishnu became the younger Krishna and Sesh Naag became the elder brother Balarama.
Even here, the brotherhood of Balaram and Krishna is similar to that of Ram and Lakshmana, both were sons of Dasharath although they had different mothers.
Sheshnaag is inseparable from Vishnu, as when Vishnu descended on earth as Rama, Sheshnaag incarnated as Lakshmana and when Vishnu later incarnated as Krishna, Shesh Naag accompanied him as his elder brother Balarama.
4. A Powerful Warrior
Balaram was an excellent warrior in mace warfare (Gada Yuddh). As a child, Balaram killed many asuras (demons) sent by Kansa: prominent of those were Dhenukasur and Pralambasur. While a majority were killed by Krishna, those killed by Balaram were also very dangerous. He was so strong that he believed to be stronger than a herd of elephants.
5. The Guru of Bhim and Duryodhana
Duryodhana and Bhima were disciples of Balarama. Both Bhim and Duryodhana were taught the skills of mace fight (Gada Yuddh) by Balarama. Both of them had also approached him to be part on their sides. Though, Duryodhan was his favorite disciple he refused to fight for him. He also did not fight from the side of Bhima during, Balarama remained neutral as he cared for both.
6. The God of Agriculture
Balaram usually wields a plough and is known as the “Farmer God”. Thus, he was very strong and his weapons were a mace and a plough. In the ‘Vishnudharmottara Purana,’ it was laid down that Balabhadra should be worshipped by those who desire to possess power and obtain success in agriculture.
7. Yoga Samadhi
Few years after Mahabharata, men in Krishna’s empire who were known as Yadavas forgot their religious duties and started fighting. Yadava civil war, where even Balarama took part in the battle caused the destruction of the remainder of the Yadu Vanshia and all of them killed each other. This distraught Balaram and he lost all interest in life. He sat under a tree in meditation and soon reached the state of Yoga Samadhi and a spirit in shape of a snake came out of the body, as, Balaram was an incarnation of Adi Anant Seshnaag and his body fell off like a corpse.
He chooses his incarnation first as he is Adisesha and he had to be there in Vaikuntha before Krishna’s return who is Vishnu. 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 Pataal Loka.
8. Simple and Honourable
Balaram was very straight-forward and did not always understood Lord Krishna’s complex logic although, he always agreed with his younger brother. When Krishna gave Narayani Sena to Duryodhana, it also included Balarama, but Balarama did not want to fight for both the sides. The reason being he was an honorable person who could not fight his own brother Krishna and his disciples Bhim or Duryodhana. He advised them to stop the war, but none responded, so in Krishna’s suggestion he simply left for Pilgrimage to avoid the war and arrived only at the end of the war.
9. An Interesting Marriage
Revati was the only daughter of King Kakudmi, a powerful monarch who ruled Kusasthali, a prosperous and advanced kingdom. Feeling that no human could prove to be good enough to marry his lovely and talented daughter, Kakudmi took Revati with him to Brahmaloka (abode of Brahma) to ask the God’s advice about finding a suitable husband for Revati.
Brahma laughed loudly and explained that time runs differently on different planes of existence and that during the short time they had waited in Brahmaloka to see him, 27 chatur-yugas(a chatur-yuga is a cycle of four yugas, hence 27 chatur-yugas total 108 yugas, the Garga Samhita differs and says 27 yugas in total) had passed on Earth and all the candidates had died long ago. However, Brahma comforted him and added that God Vishnu was currently on Earth in the forms of Krishna and Balarama and he recommended Balarama as a worthy husband for Revati.
Kakudmi and Revati then returned to earth, which they regarded as having left only just a short while ago. They were shocked by the changes that had taken place. Not only had the landscape and environment changed, but over the intervening 27 chatur-yugas, in the cycles of human spiritual and cultural evolution, mankind was at a lower level of development than in their own time. The Bhagavata Purana describes that they found the race of men had become “dwindled in stature, reduced in vigour, and enfeebled in intellect.”
Kakudmi and Revati found Balarama and proposed the marriage. As she was from an earlier yuga, Revati was far taller and larger than her husband-to-be. Balarama tapped his plough (his characteristic weapon) on her head or shoulder and she shrunk to the normal height of people in Balarama’s age. The marriage was then duly celebrated.
10. The Divine Birth
Kansa was the brother of Devaki and was informed that we would be killed by his 8th Nephew. Hearing which Kansa, in no time, had Devaki and her husband Vasudeva arrested. Thus, he killed all their children which followed till the birth of other six sons. Now, The Sesha Nag started to inhabit the womb of Devaki Maa and Kansa saw the divinity on the face of Devaki and suddenly understood that God was residing inside her womb. This was the seventh son.
Thus, Lord Vishnu called Yogmaya and told her about the change in his plans. Then, Yogmaya took Sesha Nag to the womb of Rohini, who was another wife of Vasudeva. Ensuring which, Yogmaya penetrated into the womb of Yashoda and Vishnu entered the womb of Devaki Maa. The Seventh Son was non-other than Balarama himself and the rest is history.