Supriya Ghosh

Ashtabharya

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Ashtabharya

Ashtabharya(s) or Ashta-bharya(s) is the group of the eight principal queen-consorts of Hindu god Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu and the king of Dwarka - in the Dwapara Yuga (epoch). The most popular list, found in the Bhagavata Purana, includes: Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana. Variations exist in the Vishnu Purana and the Harivamsa, which includes queens called Madri or Rohini, instead of Bhadra. Most of them are princesses.

Contents

Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha was Krishna's first wife and chief queen (Patrani) of Dwarka. She is considered as an avatar of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Vishnu's chief consort. Satyabhama, the second wife, is considered the aspect of the earth-goddess Bhudevi and Vishnu's second wife. Though Rukmini and Satyabhama enjoy worship as the consorts of the married king Krishna, the others do not enjoy this honour. A young cowherd Krishna is worshipped with his lover Radha. Kalindi, the goddess of river Yamuna, is worshipped independently. Besides the Ashtabharya, Krishna had 16,000 or 16,100 junior wives.

The texts also mention the many children Krishna fathered by the Ashtabharya, the most prominent being the crown-prince Pradyumna, son of Rukmini.

Summary

Key
Abbreviations
  • General:
  • f: father
  • m: mother
  • d: daughter, unless specified otherwise, child is a son.
  •  ?: Statement is disputed
  • Scriptures
  • BP: Bhagavata Purana
  • Mbh: Mahabharta
  • VP: Vishnu Purana
  • HV: Harivamsa
  • PP: Padma Purana
  • Table

    Symbolism

    The hierarchy of the wives is under three groups according to their regal status and symbolizes Krishna's sovereignty. In the first group, Rukmini, avatar of the wealth-goddess Lakshmi (Shri), stands for majesty and wealth of Krishna; Satyabhama, the aspect of the earth-goddess Bhudevi represents the kingdom, and Jambavati is Victory (vijaya), who was won by defeating her father. The second group were representatives of Aryavarta (the nobility) with Kalindi given the central kingdoms, Nagnajiti representing the eastern kingdoms (including the Solar dynasty) and Lakshmana representing the western side. The third group of wives consisted of Mitravinda and Bhadra his patriarchal cousins representing his Yadava clan called Satvata.

    Legends

    Rukmini, the chief queen, was in love with Krishna. Rukmini's brother Rukmi fixed her marriage with his friend Shishupala. Rukmini sends a message to Krishna to rescue her. Krishna abducts Rukmini while her marriage preparations are going on. Krishna's army commanded by his brother Balarama defeat Rukmi and the other kings, who follow Krishna and Rukmini.

    The marriage of Satyabhama and Jambavati to Krishna is closely linked to the story of Syamantaka, the precious diamond given by the Sun-god Surya to his devotee Satyajit, father of Satyabhama. Krishna requests Satyajit to present the gem to the Yadava elder Ugrasena, which the latter refuses and instead presents it to his brother Prasena. Prasena wears it on a hunting expedition, where he is killed by a lion, who is in turn killed by Jambavan, the bear-king. When accused by Satyajit of stealing the jewel, Krishna goes in its search and finally following trials of the corpses of Prasena and the lion, confronts Jambavan. After 27/28 day duel, Jambavan - the devotee of Rama (Vishnu's previous avatar) - surrenders to Krishna, who he realizes is none other than Vishnu. He returns the gem and gives Jambavati to Krishna. When the presumed dead Krishna returns to Dwarka, a humiliated Satyajit begs his forgiveness and offers Satyabhama's hand in marriage along with the jewel.

    Among the queens, Satyabhama was most feisty, aggressive, highly temperamental and argumentative. She always used to offer an argument, which Krishna would enjoy. Not only was Satyabhama a very courageous and strong-willed woman, she was also skillful in archery. She even accompanied Krishna to kill the demon Narakasura. While Krishna kills the demon in Krishna-oriented scriptures, Satyabhama, the manifestation of Bhudevi - the mother of Narakasura, kills the demon to fulfil a curse that he will be killed by his mother in Goddess-centric texts. At Satyabhama's behest, Krishna also defeats Indra, the king of heaven and the gods and gets the celestial parijat tree for her.

    Indian folktales often tell stories of Krishna's competing wives, especially Rukmini and Satyabhama. A tale narrates how once Satyabhama, proud of her wealth, donated Krishna to the divine sage Narada and pledged to take him back by donating wealth to him as much as Krishna's weight. Krishna sat on one pan of a weighing scale and Satyabhama filled the other pan with all of the wealth, inherited from her father, but it could not equal Krishna's weight. The other wives, except Rukmini, followed suit but Krishna's pan did not leave the ground. The wives requested Satyabhama to approach Rukmini. A helpless Satyabhama asked her foremost rival, Rukmini, for help. Rukmini, who was kidnapped by Krishna, had no wealth of her own. She chanted a prayer and put the holy tulsi leaf in the other pan, as the symbol of her love; removing the wealth of Satyabhama and the other queens from the pan. Krishna's pan was suddenly lifted into the air and the other pan touched the earth, even though only a tulsi leaf in it.

    There is also a legend narrated in the Bhagavata Purana about a conversation between Krishna and Satyabhama about his love for Radha and the gopis. When Krishna had chest pain, he told Sataybhama about it and she offered him juice, tulsi water or milk as cure. But he wanted the dust of feet of his queens as the right treatment for his sickness. The queens were shocked and Narada who was present on this occasion was also surprised by Krishna’s strange request. Narada then told Krishna that nobody would give the Lord of the Universe the dust of their feet. Then Krishna sent Narada to Gokula to talk to Radha and the gopis who were ardent devotees. When Narada went there, the gopis - who were anxious to know from Narada about their lord’s health - were informed of Krishna’s request for the dust of their feet. The love of Radha and the gopis for Krishna was so intense that without second thoughts, they gave the dust of their feet to be given to Krishna for curing his problem. Krishna took this and got cured.

    References

    Ashtabharya Wikipedia


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