Balram is one of the most revered Hindu gods, known by many names and worshipped across India and beyond. He is considered an avatar or incarnation of the supreme god Vishnu. Balram is associated with strength, courage, and skill as a warrior. He also has close ties to agriculture and is revered by farmers. Balram’s myths and legends are recorded in Hindu scriptures such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Puranas. As a prominent Hindu deity, details of Balram’s personal life including his marital status hold great interest for worshippers. This article will examine the question – who is God Balram’s wife?
Balram’s Origins and Significance
According to Hindu mythology, Balram was born as the elder brother of the god Krishna, who is the eighth avatar of Vishnu. Balram and Krishna were born into the Yadava clan and were the children of Devaki and her husband Vasudeva. The evil king Kamsa kept Devaki and Vasudeva prisoners and killed their first six children, fearing prophesy that their eighth child would cause his death. When Balram and Krishna were born, they were smuggled out of the prison to be raised by foster parents in safety and secrecy.
Balram was brought up by the chief of cowherds Nanda and his wife Yashoda, along with foster brother Krishna. Balram is particularly significant because he is considered to be an incarnation of Seshnag, the serpent deity with seven heads who symbolizes eternity. Balram is revered for his strength and his role in protecting Krishna and enabling Krishna’s divine mission on earth. He is also linked to agriculture and is deeply revered by farmers as the god who holds the plow.
Most Hindu texts do not explicitly mention a wife for the god Balram. However, some scriptures suggest he had two wives named Vallavi and Rohini.
The Vishnu Purana mentions that Balram married a woman named Vallavi and had one son with her, named Nisatha.
The Mahabharata contains a legend about another woman named Rohini who was married to Balram. According to this text, the sage Durvasa cursed Rohini to be abandoned by her husband. This caused Balram to temporarily separate from Rohini until the curse was lifted. They later reunited and Rohini bore Balram’s son Balarama.
Rohini is linked to the star Aldebaran which is known as “Rohini” in Hindu astronomy. She is sometimes described as a manifestation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Vishnu’s wife. The union of Balram and Rohini has cosmological significance, representing the linking of matter and spirit.
Some scholars think Vallavi and Rohini may have originally been different regional names for Balram’s wife, later appearing as separate figures in the evolving mythology. Others believe they may symbolize two ceremonial marriages reflecting Balram’s divine powers – his duty as a householder with children and his yogic ascetic side, residing occasionally in the forest.
Balram’s Wives in Context
While the identity of Balram’s wife or wives is not fully clear in Hindu sacred texts, he is primarily depicted as the elder brother of Krishna, serving to support and protect his younger sibling in their divine mission.
Balram’s marriage and fathering of sons connects him to worldly family duties and masculine strength as a warrior and farmer/plowman. But he transcends this role by maintaining a close metaphysical connection to Krishna and the supreme god Vishnu.
The duality reflected in his two marriages may represent an attempt to reconcile his transcendental nature with earthly duties and norms. It also emphasizes how human role models cannot fully capture the multidimensional nature of a deity.
In summary, Hindu scriptures mention two main wives associated with Balram – Vallavi and Rohini. But the fragmented and complex nature of these ancient texts means that absolute clarity on this issue is elusive. The symbolic significance of these unions carries more weight than the individual identity of Balram’s wife or wives. His marriages affirm his ties to family life and earthly concerns, while retaining a cosmic connection to divinity. They underscore his multifaceted nature as a god who transcends yet operates within the human realm.
|Mother of Nisatha
|Cursed by Durvasa, reunited later, mother of Balarama
Balram’s Birth and Early Life
Balram was born at the same time as Krishna to Devaki and Vasudeva, but was transferred to be raised by Nanda and Yashoda in secrecy. He was Krishna’s elder brother and acted as his protector. Balram demonstrated great strength as a baby – according to legend he slipped from Yashoda’s hands into a wagon where he dragged the wagon uphill with his massive weight. Stories recount that Putana, a demoness who tried to kill infant Krishna by offering him her poisoned breastmilk was also killed by infant Balram, kicking her and draining the life from her body.
Childhood Adventures with Krishna
Balram and Krishna had many adventures together during their childhood in Vrindavan. They were responsible for slaying demons that threatened the community including Bakasura, Aghasura, Dhenukasura and Pralambasura. Another time, they crept into a farmer’s field and ate some of his rice pudding so stealthily that the farmer only realized the next morning, when he saw the little Krishna’s footprint. The brothers often grazed cattle in the meadows and frolicked with the other cowherd boys. Balram is said to have flattened an entire hill simply by lying on it so that Krishna could play there.
Later in youth, Balram and Krishna traveled to Mathura to overthrow their evil uncle Kamsa who had imprisoned their parents. Balram is said to have insured Krishna’s safety through this endeavour. Armed with conch shell and his plow as weapons, Balram killed several of Kamsa’s warriors. He also pummelled the royal elephant Kuvalayapida who attacked Krishna. Finally, Krishna slew Kamsa and liberated his parents from prison.
Balram’s Adulthood and Relation to Krishna
In adulthood, Balram continued to act as friend, protector and aid to Krishna. He gave his armies to support the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war. His prowess with the mace and plow made Balram an acclaimed warrior.
Meanwhile, his relationship with Krishna became complex. At times, Balram resented Krishna’s greater popularity and charisma. However he continued to subordinate himself and act as Krishna’s charioteer or sarathi, handling the reins of Krishna’s chariot in battle.
When Krishna departed the earth, Balram could no longer endure his absence. He sat in meditation and his soul departed his body in the form of a white serpent, symbolizing his incarnation of Seshnag returning to Vaikuntha (the abode of Vishnu). The place where Balram departed the earth became known as Seshnag Sagar.
In summary, Balram played the role of Krishna’s stalwart companion through childhood adventures, triumph over enemies and later glories. He represented divinity, ethics and strength combined.
Attributes and Iconography
Balram is one of the most visually recognizable Hindu gods due to his immense strength and distinctive attributes. He is depicted in art as powerfully built and muscular, often with blue-grey skin suggesting his hidden spirituality. He wears yellow silk garments representing purity.
His main weapons are the haladie which is a type of plow that cuts deep furrows, signaling his link to agriculture. He also bears the gada or mace, evoking his strength.
Other attributes of Balram include a conch shell known as the panchajanya which represents the five vital airs; a palm tree representing fertility; and a pot of the intoxicating varuni drink, representing power over the elixir of life. Images also show him with sheaves of rice or wheat, exemplifying his position as a deity of farmers.
In many artworks, Balram has a solar halo around his head. This affirms his position as the elder brother of Krishna but also links him to the solar deity Surya. It alludes to the cosmic energy inherent in Balram. Scenes from Krishna’s life often show him standing behind his younger brother in a sign of love, loyalty and protection.
Balram’s vahana or vehicle is Shesha, the multi-headed serpent responsible for cradling Vishnu as he rested between cycles of creation. Statues sometimes show Balarama seated or reclining on the coils of the serpent Shesha, or simply protected by the raised hoods behind him.
He also has associations with other transport including:
- A chariot pulled by donkeys or mules
- A cart pulled by oxen
This connects him to pastoral life and humble farm work.
Worship and Festivals
Balram receives devotional worship (bhakti) focussed on his strength, protection and support of agriculture. Major festivals and observances associated with Balram include:
- Rama Navami – This spring festival celebrates Balram’s birth. It takes place on the ninth lunar day of the Hindu month Chaitra.
- Jhulan Yatra – “Swing Festival” celebrated over five days inAugust at both Puri and Vrindavan. A swing is decorated with flowers and the image of infant Krishna and Balram is placed in it.
- Ratha Yatra – Chariot festival in June/July when the deities of Jagannath (Krishna), Balabhadra (Balarama) and Subhadra are pulled inprocession on huge decorated chariots at Puri, Odisha as devotees chant and dance in celebration.
- Hal Shashti – Marks Balram’s death anniversary when devotees abstain from plowing and agricultural activities in Balram’s honor.
Balram also receives devotional worship before major rites of passage like weddings and during planting and harvesting seasons. Seeking his blessings is believed to help remove obstacles and hurdles. Overall, Balram is revered as a symbol of spiritual and physical strength, protection, support and sustenance.
Temples and Holy Sites
Some of the most prominent temples and sacred sites associated with Balram include:
- Jagannath Temple, Puri – One of the holiest Hindu temples in India, it has Balarama depicted as the sibling of Jagannath.
- Seshnag Sagar, Kashmir – Pilgrimage site enroute to Amarnath where Balarama is said to have departed earth.
- Sammeta Sikhara, Odisha – Unique Pancharatha style temple entirely dedicated to Balarama.
- Baldeo, Mathura – Birthplace of Balarama with ancient shrine and water tank.
- Vaduvur Kothandaramaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu – Site of special Balarama shrine and processions.
These are just a few significant sacred sites out of numerous temples and places of worship dedicated to Balram/Balarama across India. His wide following reflects his enduring significance to Hinduism.
Philosophy and Teachings
Although depicted as strong and skilful in battle, Balram also had philosophical and ethical facets that developed later in his life. He is linked to India’s classical Samkhya philosophy which emphasised dualism between spirit (purusha) and matter/nature (prakriti).
Balarama represented the ideal of detached action in the world, fulfilling one’s duties without egoistic attachments. In many ways he highlighted the eternal truth that real change and righteousness emerges from doing one’s prescribed work selflessly, not running away from responsibility.
Some of Balram’s philosophical teachings as found in scripture are:
- On life’s true meaning: Happiness is found by seeing the soul within and serving the cosmic order not feeding the senses.
- On human nature: No amount of personal advice can improve one whose nature is intrinsically flawed, just as no amount of cleaning can turn dog’s tail into a flower garland.
- On wisdom: A wild elephant tied to a plantain tree can only run as far as the tree permits. Similarly, those lacking wisdom do not see their limitations.
Such teachings emphasized detachment, self-awareness and wisdom as the means to prevent suffering and attain enduring happiness.
Ahimsa and Non-Violence
Despite his great strength and talent in war, Balram urged restraint and avoidance of useless violence through his philosophy of ahimsa or non-violence. He sought to uphold rather than destroy.
His teachings on non-violence highlighted that the strong harm themselves by harming the weak. Power should only be used to uplift others and create the spirit of ahimsa.
Balram encouraged people to perceive oneness and divinity in all. His philosophy emphasized seeing the soul beyond superficial bodily distinctions.
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]”. – Gita 10:4
Such inclusive vision cohered with Balram’s role as a protector and sustainer of all living beings.
Significance and Legacy
Balram holds a vital position in Hinduism as a god who connects people to the virtues of duty, strength, humility and non-violence in combination. His enduring appeal stems from some key factors:
- As Krishna’s elder brother, he highlights family values along with virtue and ethics.
- His love of farming makes Balram relatable and relevant to daily life.
- Stories of his childhood appeal to the young at heart of all ages.
- His strength gives courage, while his teachings inspire insight into life’s meaning beyond force.
- Balram is approachable as both a down-to-earth farmer and a cosmic serpent with deep wisdom.
This rare combination of the material and spiritual uplifted Balram as one of Hinduism’s most beloved deities for both simple village devotees and elite philosophers alike. His legacy remains vital to Hindu religion today as the god who links humanity to the true purpose beyond life’s transitory attractions and trials. By serving the divine while fulfilling one’s duties, Balram conveys that every being can become an agent of cosmic order and moral courage.