Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Balabhadra included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Balabhadra

(Balabhadrarāma, Balarāma, Baladeva). The elder brother of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the eighth incarnation of Mahāviṣṇu.*


When the number of wicked kings increased Bhūmīdevī (goddess of Earth) turned herself into a cow and took refuge in Mahāviṣṇu. Mahāviṣṇu then promised to be born as the sons of Vasudeva named Balabhadrarāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa and destroy the wicked. Vasudeva was the son of the Yādava, Śūrasena, King of Madhurā. To Devaka the brother of another Yādava King, Ugrasena, was born a daughter Devakī. The marriage of Devakī with Vasudeva was celebrated but on the same day an Aśarīriṇī (a heavenly voice from above) said that the eighth child of Devakī would kill Kaṃsa. Instantly Kaṃsa put both Vasudeva and Devakī in jail. The first six sons born to Devakī were killed the moment they were born by striking them against the ground. Devakī became pregnant for the seventh time. The babe in the womb was Ananta incarnate by Viṣṇu’s directive to be of help to him when he would also be born soon as Kṛṣṇa. Therefore it was necessary to save the child from the cruel hands of Kaṃsa as it was certain he would kill the babe the same way he had killed all the others before. So he ordered Māyādevī to take the child from the womb of Devakī and place it in that of Rohiṇī, another wife of Vasudeva. Māyādevī did so and the boy got the name Saṃgharṣaṇa, also because of this. The news spread that Devakī aborted. Rohiṇī delivered a boy and was named Saṃgharṣaṇa alias Balabhadrarāma. (Daśama Skandha, Bhāgavata).

The colour of Balarāma and Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the eighth child of Devakī. The elder brother Balarāma is white in complexion while the younger, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is black in complexion. There is a story behind this. The devas decided to be born as Gopālas (shepherds) in the earth to be of help to Kṛṣṇa in his duty of killing the wicked. They informed Mahāviṣṇu of their decision and the Lord was immensely pleased. He then took one white hair from his head and said that it would go to Rohiṇī’s womb and change into Balarāma and taking a black hair said that it would go into Devakī’s womb and change into Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It was thus that Balabhadra became white and Śrī Kṛṣṇa black. (Chapter 199, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).


Balabhadrarāma had six brothers born of his mother Rohiṇī. They were: Gada, Sāraṇa, Durddama, Vipula, Dhruva, and Kṛta. (Navama Skandha, Bhāgavata).

4) Till their marriage Śrī Kṛṣṇa spent his childhood in Aṃbāḍi and Balarāma, in Madhurā. Once the sage Garga went to the house of Vasudeva and it was he who then told the story behind the births of Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa. Hearing this Vasudeva went to Madhurā and brought Balabhadrarāma also to Aṃbāḍi. Gargamuni then performed all those sacred rites which were usually done to boys of that age and both of them then remained in Aṃbāḍi. Several important events happened during their stay here, notable among which are: Pūtanāmokṣam (killing of the demoness Pūtanā and giving her salvation). Śakaṭāsuravadha (killing the asura, Śakaṭa), Tṛṇāvarttavadha (killing the asura, Tṛṇāvartta), Vatsāsuravadha (killing the asura, Vatsa), Bakavadha (killing the demon bird, Baka), Aghāsuravadha (killing the asura, Agha), Dhenukāsuravadha (killing the asura, Dhenuka), Kāliamardana (beating the snake, Kālia) and Pralambavadha (killing Pralamba). (See under Kṛṣṇa for more details).

Kaṃsa conducted a Cāpapūjā (worship of the bow) to kill Kṛṣṇa. It was on a festive scale and both Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma went to Madhurā to attend the same. There they killed Kaṃsa and after that went to the āśrama of Sāndīpani Maharṣi for education. When they completed their education they at the request of the preceptor gave as Gurudakṣiṇā (The fee you pay in the end for the instructions given) the lost child of the guru. Then they went to Madhurā and there several events took place, important among which was the fight between Kṛṣṇa and Jarāsandha. By this time the Yādavas were becoming lean financially and so to make some money Kṛṣṇa and Rāma went to the diamond-infested mountain of Gomantaka. On their way they met Paraśurāma doing penance under a Banyan tree. On the advice of Paraśurāma they killed Sṛgālavasudeva and got immense wealth. On their return Rāma and Kṛṣṇa along with many Yādavas went and settled down in the island, Dvārakā, in the western ocean. (Daśama Skandha, Bhāgavata).


Before the advent of Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa the island Dvārakā was known as Kuśasthalī. It was ruled over by a famous Rājarṣi, Revata. This king was the son of King Ānartta and grandson of emperor Śaryāti. Revata got a hundred sons, Kukudmin being the first and a daughter named Revatī. When the time for marriage of his daughter came the King was anxious to find out a fitting husband for her and he went to Brahmaloka to take the advice of Brahmā. Revatī also accompanied him. There stupefied he saw Vedas, Yajñas, mountains, rivers, oceans, Ṛtus, all in divine figures standing before Brahmā, worshipping him. The sweet celestial songs gave them both untold happiness. He then told Brahmā the purpose of his visit and Brahmā meditating for some time told him that Balabhadrarāma, son of Vasudeva, was the only one person suited for her. The king returned to Dvārakā and gave his daughter in marriage to Balarāma. (Saptama Skandha, Devī Bhāgavata).

A pilgrimage.

When the great Pāṇḍava-Kaurava battle started Kṛṣṇa became the charioteer of Arjuna and Balarāma went to the forest, Naimiśa. He was not much interested in the battle. At the forest of Naimiṣa he saw Sūta telling Purāṇic stories to the several sages assembled there before him. Sūta did not rise up when he saw Balarāma and the latter moved to anger very soon cut off the head of Sūta. The sages assembled there decried the act of Balarāma and lamented deeply over the incident. At this Balarāma promised that he would give birth, from the dead body of Sūta, to one who will be well versed in all the Vedas, śāstras and sciences. The sages then blessed Balarāma.

During that time there lived in the vicinity of Naimiṣa forest a demon called Balvala (Vatkala). He used to annoy the sages there and the sages requested Balarāma to put a stop to the atrocities of that demon. He immediately killed the demon by his weapon, Hala, and then raised from the dead body of Sūta a paṇḍita of great erudition. Later, to remedy the sin of killing Sūta, Balarāma, repentant, visited all the sacred places in Bhārata. Once when he heard about the grim battle between Duryodhana and Bhīmasena, he went to the battle-field and tried his best to stop the war. Disappointed he returned to Dvārakā. (Daśama Skandha, Chapter 79, Bhāgavata).


Once the ṛṣis Nārada, Kaṇva and Viśvāmitra came to Dvārakā. To make fun of them some of the Yādavas dressed a Yādava like a pregnant woman and producing her before the sages asked them what child she would deliver. Enraged at this the munis said in one voice that she would deliver a mace and that iron mace would be the cause of the end of all Yādavas.

After the Mahābhārata battle the Yādava dynasty remained alive only for thirtysix years. After that by the curse of the brahmin the Yādavas were all killed in a drunken brawl between themselves in the very presence of Kṛṣṇa and Balabhadra. This happened on the shore of Prabhāsa tīrtha and Balarāma was sitting there then in deep meditation. Suddenly the soul of Balarāma went out from his mouth in the shape of a white serpent and the serpent entering the nether world was given a warm welcome by the prominent serpents there. (Mausala Parva, Mahābhārata).

Other details.

(1) It was Balabhadrarāma who taught Bhīmasena the mace-fight. (Śloka 4, Chapter 138, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).

(2) Balabhadrarāma was present along with Śrī Kṛṣṇa at the marriage of Pāñcālī. (Śloka 17, Chapter 185, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).

(3) Balabhadrarāma became very indignant when he heard about Arjuna carrying away Subhadrā and it was Kṛṣṇa who pacified him. (Chapter 22, Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata).

(4) He was present at the marriage of Abhimanyu conducted at the city of Upaplāvya. (Śloka 21, Chapter 72, Virāṭa Parva, Mahābhārata).

(5) He was very insistent that the Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas should come to a truce. (Chapter 2, Udyoga Parva, Mahābhārata).

(6) He witnessed the battle of maces between Duryodhana and Bhīmasena at Kurukṣetra. (Chapter 34, Śalya Parva, Mahābhārata).

(7) Balarāma conducted a pilgrim tour and visited all the holy places of Bhārata at a time when the Pāṇḍava-Kaurava war was in full swing. (Chapter, 35-54, Śalya Parva, Mahābhārata).

(8) Balarāma was of opinion that it was unjust of Bhīmasena to have killed Duryodhana and was about to kill Bhīmasena. (Śloka 4, Chapter 60, Śalya Parva, Mahābhārata).

(9) Once Balarāma spoke in extolling terms about the secrets of Dharma. (Śloka 17, Chapters 126, Śalya Parva, Mahābhārata).

(10) It was Balarāma who performed the obsequies of Abhimanyu. (Śloka 6, Chapter 62, Aśvamedha Parva, Mahābhārata).

(11) He went to Hastināpura when Yudhiṣṭhira performed the Aśvamedha yāga. (Śloka 4, Chapter 66, Aśvamedha Parva, Mahābhārata).

(12) Balarāma introduced Prohibition in Dvārakā. (Śloka 29, Chapter 1, Mausala Parva, Mahābhārata).

(13) Once he made dry the river Kālindī. (See Kālindī).

*) Since the life of Balabhadra is so mixed with that of Kṛṣṇa a complete life story of Balarāma could be had only if it is read along with that of Kṛṣṇa.

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