Divine Appearance and Pastimes of Lord Balarama
Lord Balarama appeared as the seventh son of Devaki and Vasudeva. On the day of the marriage ceremony of Devaki and Vasudeva, a celestial voice proclaimed to the demoniac Kamsa, the son of King Ugrasen that the eight child of Devaki and Vasudeva would kill him. Thus, being infuriated upon listening to this proclamation, the love that he had for his dear sister, suddenly transformed into such deep hatred and disgust that he even did not hesitate to catch hold of the hairs of his newly wedded sister and raised his sword to kill her. It was then that Vasudeva, the husband of Devaki and the king of Vrisni, promised to handover each and every child that would be begot by them to Kamsa. Out of fear of his life, the cruel Kamsa brutally killed the first six children of Devaki and Vasudeva who were leading a life of imprisonment.
At the very auspicious moment of the full moon day of Shravana month, the plenary portion of the Supreme Lord who is also known as Sankarshana and Sesa, appeared in the womb of Devaki. The Supreme Lord Vishnu, commanded Yoga Maya to transfer Lord Sankarshana into the womb of Devi Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva, who was then residing in Gokul. Having thus instructed by the Supreme Lord Vishnu, Yoga Maya transferred the seventh child from the womb of Devaki to the womb of Rohini in Gokul where He appeared as Rohininandana, Sri Balarama.
Krishna and Balarama performed many wonderful pastimes in Vrindavana. The sages of Naimisharanya wondered:
krtavan kila karmani saha ramena kesavah
atimartyani bhagavan gudhah kapata-manusah
Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, along with Balarama, played like a human being and so masked, He performed many superhuman acts. [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.20] These wonderful pastimes and superhuman acts are recorded in the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada presented the summary study of this tenth canto in the Krishna Book. Some of the wonderful pastimes of Lord Balarama are presented here. However it is always suggested to read the Krishna book to dive into the nectar of the pastimes of the Supreme, wonderfully depicted by Srila Prabhupada.
Killing of Dhenukasura
One day the cowherd boys desired to taste the ripened fruits of palm trees in the Talavana forest which was being guarded by the demon Dhenukasura, who is accompanied by many other demoniac friends, all assuming the forms of asses. The most merciful Krishna and Balarama wanted to please Their dear friends and hence took all of them to the Talavana forest. Balarama began to yank the trees with His strong arms, exhibiting the strength of a mighty elephant, and all the ripe fruits fell down on the ground. Upon hearing the sound of the falling fruits, the demon Dhenukasura, appeared before Balarama and kicked His chest with his hind legs. At first, Balarama did not say anything, but the demon kicked Him again with great anger and more vehemently. This time Balarama immediately caught hold of the legs of Dhenukasura with one hand and, wheeling him around, threw him into the treetops. While he was being wheeled around by Balarama, the demon lost his life. Balarama threw the demon into the biggest palm tree about, and the demon’s body was so heavy that the palm tree fell upon other trees, and several trees fell down. This exhibition of extraordinary strength is not astonishing because Balarama is the Personality of Godhead known as Ananta Sesha Naga, who is holding all the planets on the hoods of His millions of heads.
Killing of Pralambasura
Once, while Krishna and Balarama were playing with the cowherd boys a great demon named Pralambasura entered their company assuming the form of a cowherd boy. His intention was to kidnap both Balarama and Krishna. Krishna divided the boys into two teams. Some of them were on the side of Krishna, and some others took the side of Balarama. The condition of the game was that the defeated members would carry the victorious members on their backs, as a horse carries its master. The party of Balarama, accompanied by Sridama and Vrishabha, came out victorious. Krishna’s party, being on the losing side, had to carry them on their backs. Pralambasura had to carry Balarama on his back, just as he had planned. He took Balarama far away from the others. Though the demon was very strong and powerful, he was unaware that Lord Balarama is the Supreme Lord Himself. He could not carry Balarama and suddenly he assumed his real form. Realizing what had happened, Lord Balarama struck the head of the demon with His strong fist, and the demon fell down dead immediately, just like a snake with a smashed head.
Killing of Dvivida (The Gorilla)
The demon Narkasura who was killed by Lord Krishna, had an ally and a friend by the name Dvivida, an ape. Dvivida wanted to avenge the death of his friend. He used to disturb the cowherds by setting fire to their homes. He flooded the coastal lands by churning the ocean’s water with his mighty strong arms. He tore down the trees in the hermitage of great sages. He even went to the extent of passing stool and urine on their sacrificial fires. Not only this, He kidnapped men and women and imprisoned them in the mountain caves. Once, when Lord Balarama was in Raivataka Mountain, Dvivida came there and began insulting Him. His outrageous activities angered Lord Balarama. He threw a stone at the ape, but Dvivida managed to dodge it. He ridiculed Lord Balarama and tried to attack Him with a tree. Lord Balarama smashed the tree trunk to pieces without any difficulty. Dvivida uprooted all the trees one by one and attacked Lord Balarama, and the Lord simply broke all the trees to pieces. Then the foolish ape started throwing a barrage of stones, and Lord Balarama crushed them all to powder. Dvivida then charged at the Lord and hit Him on the chest with his fists. Lord Balarama kept aside His club and plow weapons & struck Dvivida’s throat and shoulder. The ape vomited blood and fell down dead.
Killing of the demon Balvala
On the request of the sages of Naimisharanya, Lord Balarama decided to kill the demon Balvala, son of Ilvala, who was disturbing the sacrificial performances of the sages. Lord Balarama prepared Himself to meet the demon Balvala. At the time the whole sky became covered with dust and there was a hailstorm. The atmosphere became surcharged with a filthy smell. The mischievous demon Balvala began to shower torrents of stool and urine and other impure substances on the arena of sacrifice. After this, the demon himself appeared with a great trident in his hand. He was a gigantic person, and his black body was like a huge mass of carbon. His hair, his beard and his mustache appeared reddish like copper, and because of his great beard and mustache, his mouth appeared dangerous and fierce. As soon as He saw the demon, Lord Balarama prepared to attack him. He first considered how He could smash the great demon to pieces. Lord Balarama then called for His plow and club, and they immediately appeared before Him. The demon Balvala was flying in the sky, and at the first opportunity Lord Balarama dragged him down with His plow and angrily smashed the demon’s head with His club. Balarama’s powerful strikes fractured the demon’s forehead, making blood flow profusely. Screaming loudly, the demon, who had been such a great disturbance to the pious brahmanas, fell to the ground like a great mountain with a red oxide peak being struck and smashed to the ground as if hit by a thunderbolt.
Yamuna devi chastised
Once Lord Balarama, who then was residing in the city of Dwarka, came back to stay in Vrindavana for two months. During his stay in Vrindavan He enjoyed transcendental pastimes with His gopi friends (who were different from the gopis of Krishna). Enjoying such pastimes on the bank of Yamuna at Rama-ghata, the Lord summoned Yamuna so that He could sport in the waters. When Yamuna devi did not respond, Lord Balarama took up His favourite weapon, His plow, and began to drag Yamuna in a hundred streams. Understanding the Supreme and transcendental position of Balarama, Yamuna devi personally appeared and offered her obeisances to the Lord with many prayers in His glorification. Thus pleased, the Lord entered and bathed in the waters of the river.
Samba, the dear son of Jambavati and Krishna, had been arrested after an intense battle with the Karauvas, for having kidnapped Lakshmana, the daughter of Duryodhana from the assembly where she was supposed to choose her husband. When the Yadavas heard of this they prepared for battle but Lord Balarama pacified them and preferred to find a peaceful solution. However, when He requested the Kauravas to return Samba and Laksmana, the Kauravas responded by insulting Him and the Yadava dynasty. Understanding them to be ignorant in their false prestige, Balarama took His plow and began to drag Hastinapura into the Ganges. The horrified Kauravas then surrendered unto the lotus feet of Balarama, begging for His mercy. They immediately returned Samba and Laksmana and had them married ceremoniously with many opulent gifts.