The eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu talks about the mighty Balarama who has guided and consulted Lord Krishna from time to time. Balarama and Krishna lived a simple village life in Vrindavan with their parents – Nanda and Yashoda. They were given the duties of herding the cows, pasteurizing the ground and taking care of the cows.
Balarama was whitish in colour and often dressed in blue dhoti. He always carried in a plough in his hand which later became one of his most powerful weapons. He has always been a guiding light and a patient teacher to Krishna and later the Pandavas too.
Balarama and Krishna one day decided to leave Vrindavan with the promise of coming back one day. They went to Mathura and defeated the evil King – Kans and freed Krishna’s birth parents. They started living in Mathura and growing their family with wives and kids.
Balarama was an expert at Gada Yuddha (Mace warfare) and had also extended his knowledge of combat and weapons to Bhima and Duryodhana. They both were extremely dear to him. He was a calm and smart person but could not withstand any wrongdoings. He had become extremely furious at Arjuna when he married Subhadra after being married to Draupadi already. Krishna however pacified him by explaining the situation.
Balarama was named Rama but due to his great strength, they started to call him Balarama. His alternate names were Baladeva, Balabhadra. His measure of strength can be imagined from the fact that he was considered to be stronger than the herd of elephants. Even as a kid, he has destroyed many demons which were sent by Kans. Due to his agricultural background, he is also known as the farmer god. It is clearly mentioned in the “Vishnudharmottara Purana” that one who wishes to possess strength and success in agriculture should worship Lord Balarama.
Although we consider Balaram to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, a lot of ancient writings have put forth the following theories:
Balaram is considered to be an incarnation of Adi-Anant Shesh Naag. He is the many-headed serpent on which the supreme Lord Vishnu rests in the ocean of milk, Kshirasagara. Shesh Naag is considered to be the king of nagas and the bearer of the entire universe in his hood. This might be an explanation of the tremendous strength of Balaram.
Another theory suggests that Balaram is the reincarnation of Lord Lakshaman. Lakshman wanted to become an elder brother as being a younger brother meant he had to follow all of Rama’s orders. His wish was fulfilled when he became Balarama and Rama was incarnated as Krishna.
Talking about the wise behaviour of Balarama, he guided his disciples Bhima and Duryodhana to use their strength right. When Mahabharata was announced and he came to know of his two disciples fighting against each other, he decided to take a neutral stand and not participate in the war to avoid bias and remain fair.
Balarama led a very interesting life right from his divine birth to a fascinating marriage story to be one of the greatest warriors of all times.