- Balarama is the elder brother of KRISHNA. He is depicted as having a light color in contrast to Krishna’s dark skin; one legend says that Balarama was created from a light hair of VISHNU, and Krishna from a black hair. Sometimes Balarama is seen as an AVATA R of Vishnu alongside his brother Krishna; sometimes the two are considered to share an avatar as two “parts” of the whole. He is also sometimes seen as an incarnation of ADISHE-SHA, the divine serpent on whom Vishnu rested.Balarama’s mother, DEVAKI, was the wife of VASUDEVA, minister to the evil king Kamsa. When Kamsa learned that a son of Devaki’s would eventually kill him, he had the couple guarded and had six of Devaki’s children killed in succes-sion. Miraculously, however, the seventh child, Balarama, was transferred as an embryo into the womb of Rohini, a second wife of Vasudeva. When Krishna, the eighth child, was born, the guards miraculously fell asleep, and Vasudeva was able to deliver his new child to a woman from a cowherd family, YASHODA.There are few stories about Balarama indepen-dent of those that associate him with Krishna. He is said to have gone to the ocean to meditate when he was very old, when Adishesha emerged from his mouth and returned to the ocean whence he had emerged.Iconographically, BALARAMA is known as “Rama with the Plow” and carries a plow and axe in either hand.Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986); N. P. Joshi, Iconogra-phy of Balarama (New Delhi: Abhinav, 1979).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.