Balaram Jayanti celebrates the appearance day of Lord Balaram, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. This day is known as Hal Shashti or Lalahi Chhath in the Northern states of India. Lord Balarama was incarnations of Lord Krishna glorified in the Vedic Puranas and Itihasas. It is also said that Lord Balarama is an incarnation of Lord Krishna himself. Hence, Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama are one and the same with different physical forms.
The Braj region celebrates this day by the name of Baladeva Chhath and Randhan Chhath in Gujarat. Mostly, all Vaishnavas young and old, women as well as men celebrate this festival with great joy.
Lord Balaram was born as the seventh son of Devaki and Vasudeva. It is believed that the two were incarnated from two strands of Lord Vishnu’s hair. One was white which incarnated as Krishna in devaki’s womb, while the other one was black, which was incarnated as Lord Balaram. As Kamsa was killing all the children of his sister Devaki, an unborn Balaram was transferred to the womb of Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva. Balaram was thus born as the son of Rohini, hence the name “Rohini Nandan”. The popular belief is Lord Balram is an incarnation of Ananta : the snake on which Lord Krishna sleeps.
Special prayers are offered on this day in Lord Krishna temples. Lord Balaram symbolizes strength and devotees pray for physical strength and a healthy life. Balaram is also known as “ Lord of beauty and strength”. It is believed to get the blessings and if one has to please Lord Krishna, he first have to please Lord Balaram and get his blessings. This explains why he is called the “Adi Guru”, which means the first spiritual teacher.
Who is Lord Balarama?
Krishna is the spiritually manifest Supreme Person, whose internal spiritual energy is the all-pervading Brahman. He is glorified as Narayana, Vasudeva, Mahavishnu, Hari, Vishnu, and many other names. Shiva and Brahma are said to be His qualitative expansions. He is the Supreme Lord, the Lord of all universes. Everything emanates from Him and dissolves back in Him. He is the cause of creation, maintenance, and dissolution of everything and every living entity. His chatur-vyuha (four-handed) expansions are Vasudeva, Sankarshana; Pradyumna; and Aniruddha. The Bhagavatam (12.11.21) says,
vasudevah Sankarsanah pradyumnah purushah svayam aniruddha iti brahman murtir vyuho abhidhiyate
“O brahmana (saint) Shaunaka, the quadruple primary expansions of Pususha (Supreme Soul Narayana or Krishna) are Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha.”
The primary expansion of Krishna is said to Sankarsana, the infinite snake Ananta on which the Lord rests. Sankarsana beholds all universes and maintains everything united. The descended form of Sankarsana is Lord Balarama, who appeared as the elder brother of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna and Sankarsana are originally one, although they appear different to the external eye. Lord Balarama assists Lord Krishna in His glorious transcendental lilas. Lord Balarama appeared as the younger brother of Lord Ramachandra by the end of treta-yuga.
Once when the four Kumaras visited the bottom of the universe, they found Lord Sankarsana as a gigantic snake with numerous hoods. The Lord was seen in deep meditation beholding innumerable universes on His head. Since He holds everything together, He is called Sankarsana, the binder who unites all. Lord Shiva always meditates Lord Sankarsana as the Bhagavatam (5.17.16) tells,
bhavani nathaih stri ganarbuda sahasrair avarudhyamano bhagavatash chatur murter maha purushasya turiyam tamarsim murtim prakrtim atmanah Sankarsana samjnam atma samadhi rupena sannidhapyaitad abhigrnan bhava upadhavati
“Lord Shiva, served by tens of billions of maid servants of Goddess Bhavani (in Ilavrta-varsha), deeply meditates, chants and worships one of the four expansions of the Supreme Lord known as Sankarsana in the predominant quality of ignorance.” At the time of destruction, it is said that the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarsana would dissolve all the worldly manifestations at the end of the universe. Therefore, Sankarsana helps Lord Krishna and causes the union and destruction of all universal manifestations. That Sankarsana appeared as Balarama and any devotee who seeks Krishna should first seek His mercy to be blessed with proper bhakti (devotion) to Lord Krishna.
Appearance of Lord Balarama
Hearing the celestial voice that the eighth child of Devaki would kill the demoniac King Kamsa, he killed all the children born from Devaki. Mother Devaki was in deep distress during her seventh pregnancy because she felt the child would be divine in nature. To allay the fear of Devaki, Lord Krishna called Yogamaya and told her to transfer the child in the womb of Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva living in Nanda Gokula. Suddenly Devaki felt loss of her pregnancy while Rohini sensed pregnant. When Garga Muni, the kula-guru of the Vrishnis, visited Nanda Gokula, Rohini met the saint and he said, “Your child’s father is your husband Vasudeva and he will grow into a strong and beautiful divine boy.” After the birth of the child, Garga Muni again visited Nanda Gokula and named Him Rama (the one who brings piety and prosperity). Garga Muni also said that He would grow very strong and become famous as Bala as well. Since He is the common child lived in the wombs of Devaki and Rohini and therefore he would be called Sankarsana because he would unite people and He would be known as Dauji being the elder brother to Krishna.
Balarama grew up into a handsome and powerful youth. He was gaura (fair in complexion) and adored always in blue. He preferred the colour blue because it resembled the embodiment of the Supreme Lord Krishna. He wore a bejewelled necklace, flower garlands, long ear rings, and tied His graceful hair on head. He also wore splendid armlets, bracelets and anklets. He applied a tilaka on forehead and wore a gunja on chest. He had long arms and His voice was grave like rumbling of clouds. His splendid embodiment defeated the beauty of the rising moon and His awesome power could destroy many mighty armies and even the whole world. Balarama always carried a plow on hand as His weapon. Krishna and Balarama moved together from childhood and He rarely remained separate from the Supreme Lord and always participated in the nectarine lilas of His Younger Brother.
Balarama married Revati, the daughter of King Raivata, who lived in sattya-yuga. Unable to find a suitable match, the king and his daughter visited Brahmaloka and met Lord Brahma and sought his opinion. Lord Brahma advised to solemnise the marriage of Revati with Balarama. People of sattya-yuga were much taller and when they returned, Balarama shrunk the size of Revati placing His plow on her head.
Glories of Lord Balarama
Lord Balarama always participated in the Krishna-lilas. The lilas of Krishna-Balarama are in the tenth kanda of Srimad Bhagavatam a few of them are briefed here. Balarama destroyed the demon Dhenuka appeared as a powerful ass and denied the Gopas the fruits of Talavana. Balarama destroyed the assistants of Dhenuka hurling them on treetops and did the same to Dhenuka as well and killed him. The tala trees bent down in supplication and offered fruits to the celestial siblings and the Gopas.
Once while playing with the Gopas in Vrindavan, the demon Pralamba arrived in disguise like a Gopa and played with them to kill the divine boys. The looser would carry the winner on shoulders was the bet. Pralamba lost the game and he carried Balarama on his shoulders. When the demon assumed strength, Balarama became a shade heavier than him. Unable to carry further, the huge demon took to the sky and grew gigantic. Balarama hit on the head of Pralamba and instantaneously killed him.
When both Krishna and Balarama moved in the forest, the trees adored them bending down to touch their feet. Krishna often said, “Even the trees and divinities want to touch the lotus feet of Dauji to receive His blessings.” In fact, the great sages took the form of trees to grace the lotus feet of the divine brothers. It is said that Krishna often massaged the feet of Balarama while He took a brief nap in the jungle resting his head on the lap of their cowherd boy friends.
While living in Dwaraka, once Balarama visited the Vrajavasis at Vrindavan and enjoyed the pastimes with the Gopis on the bank of Yamuna. He drank the juice of the Varuni tree and wanted to enjoy water sport with His friends. He called on Yamuna, but she didn’t respond. Balarama took His plow and dragged Yamuna and soon the goddess of Yamuna appeared and begged to forgive her. After taking bath, Lakshmidevi appeared and offered new clothing to Lord Balarama.
Shamba, the son of Lord Krishna and Jambavati, loved Lakshmana, the daughter of Duryodhana (the eldest among the Kauravas) and lived incognito in Hastinapura. The Kauravas arrested the valiant Shamba and imprisoned him. Balarama went and requested to free Shamba and solemnise their marriage, but the proud Kauravas disobeyed Him. He immediately took His plow and began to drag Hastinapura into River Ganga, Seeing the disturbances, the Kauravas agreed for the marriage, and Shamba and Lakshama returned to Dwaraka with massive gifts.
Balarama was Sankarshna and therefore he opposed the Mahabharata war. He approached both the Kauravas and Pandavas not to war seeing their destruction thereafter. The proud Pandavas never listened to Him. Therefore, Balarama went on a pilgrimage to tour the entire Bharat-varsha. He visited Naimisaranya and sage Romaharshana, giving a lecture of Bhagavatam in the assembly of great sages, did not get up to greet Him thinking His visit was to listen to the lectures. In bit of rage, Balarama withdrew his life using a blade of grass and gave him refuge and deliverance in the Supreme Lord. He then proceeded his journey.
Lord Balarama retreated from this world at Prabhasa Kshatra on the bank of River Ganga. A snake emerged from His embodiment and entered in the holy waters of Ganga. Thus Balarama returned to Goloka Vrindavana as Sankarsana. Anyone who fasts and listen to the glories of Lord Balarama and Lord Krishna on the day of Balaram-Jayanti and sing in praise of Them will verily become eligible to live in Goloka Vrindavan and witness their divine nitya-lilas eternally.
All the temples that worship Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama celebrate this day with great enthusiasm. The devotees fast until noon without eating anything at all. The idols of Krishna and Balarama in the temples are given holy bath with panchamitra by the devotees and saints. All devotees together prepare special bhog to offer God and then share it among themselves as prasad and celebrate the day with lots of bhajans and dance. The temples in Puri, Punjab, and Ganjam district celebrate this day. Other temples like Baliyana mandir, Baladevjew mandir, Ananta Vasudeva mandir also worship Lord Balarama in the country.
Lord Balaram and Lord Krishna are worshipped with the same devotion by one and all. May their blessings be showered on you all !