Balram – elder brother of Krishna, avatar of Sheesh Naag
Other names: Baldev, Balaram, Balarama, Sankarsana
Balram was the son of Vasudev and Devaki. He was the elder brother of Lord Krishna. He is said to be the incarnation of “Sheshnag” (the Serpent God on whom Lord Vishnu rests). His weapon was a plough and so he is also called ‘Hal-dhar’. He is a protector from desires symbolizing duty, honesty and simplicity.
In the Treta age (there are four ages according to Hinduism- Krita (Sat) Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapar Yuga and Kali Yuga) Balram’s eternal incarnation was as Lakshman, Shri Ram’s younger brother.
When Devaki was pregnant with her seventh child, Lord Vishnu called upon Yogmaya (goddess of the divine illusion) and said, “Devaki’s seventh eternal embryo should be placed in Rohini’s (another wife of Vasudev) body.”
Yogmaya transferred the embryo to Rohini’s womb from Devaki’s womb. This was done to prevent Kans from killing him at his birth. Kans knew that he was destined to be killed by Devaki’s eighth son, but did not to take any chances and killed at their birth all the children born to Devaki.
Rohini found herself pregnant and after nine months, eternal incarnation in the form of Balram was born. Kans was duly informed that Devaki’s seventh child was dead. Meanwhile, Balram was growing up at Nandbaba’s house. A year later, Krishna was born. Both of them were beautiful and intelligent. Sage Garg had said at the time of his naming ceremony, “This child will have infinite strength (BAL)”. That is why he is called Balram. Because he was drawn from Devaki’s to Rohini’s womb, He became known as Lord Sankarsana (ploughing). He was so powerful that he, singlehandedly, at a very tender age, killed the great demon, Asura Dhenuka, who was in the form of an ass.
Just before Rukmani’s marriage, Revati, daughter of King Raivat of Aanart region was married to Balram. For lifetime, Balram was always with Krishna and protected him. He was elder to Krishna but still he did not command him, but whenever Krishna needed him; he never hesitated to come to his aid.
He contributed his full share towards killing the demons and giants. Balram had gone away with Krishna to the Dhanush Yagya organized by Kans. He supported Krishna in killing Kubal, the elephant. While wrestling, Balram threw Mushtik (trusted lieutenant of Kans) so forcefully that Mushtik was killed on the spot.
Jarasandh used to attack Mathura on and off. Balram, along with the army of the Yadavas, fought in the battle against Jarasandh and forced him to retreat every time. When Kalyavan came to attack, Jarasandh came with him. Balram caught hold of Jarasandh with his strong hands. Krishna asked Balram to spare him, saying that there were many more demons alive and if Jarasandh were left alive then he would be sure to collect an army of the demons. When Jarasandh invariably showed up next time, with that demon army, many more demons could be killed all in one place. So Balram spared him.
Jarasandh had twenty-three armies with weapons. Slowly and gradually, Balram defeated them all. When Kalyavan had encircled them – then Krishna ran in front of them and Balram confronted his army. Krishna got Kalyavan burnt and Balram defeated his army.
Balram trained both Bhima and Duryodhan in club fighting. Eventually, his students would face one another in the final combat of the Kurukshetra war. Because of this, Balram chose to remain neutral during the conflict. When Bhima (of greater strength) defeated Duryodhan (of greater skill) by dealing him a blow below the navel with his mace (a move against the rules of mace combat), Balram threatened to kill Bhima, and only backed down when Krishna stepped in and reminded Balram of Bhima’s vow to kill Duryodhan by smashing that very thigh he exposed to his wife Draupadi.
Today also there are many temples of ‘Dauji’ (elder brother) where Balram is worshiped. It is a common belief that he bestows material riches.Lord Balram is also known as “God of farmers”. Farmers in India worship him before any task.
Farmers worship his weapon, the plough, before starting all important tasks related to farming. Balram performed the funeral ceremony of Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun, as He was the maternal uncle.
Due to a curse placed on the Yadu dynasty that they were destined to be the cause of their own destruction. This took place thirty-six years after the end of the battle of Kurukshetra. Balram took part in the drunken battle that caused the destruction of the rest of the Yadus, and after he witnessed the disappearance of Lord Krishna, Lord Balram sat down in a meditative state. In his last moments, a great white snake emerged from his mouth, and Balram departed from this world.
The place where he departed from this world is situated about 1 km away from the Somnath temple in Gujarat. As the local people of Veraval (a town in Gujarat) say, there is a cave in the town where it is believed that the white snake came out of Balram’s mouth.