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The Childhood Pastimes of Lord Balarama
During their formative years Shri Balarama and his younger brother Shri Krishna played and acted just like normal cowherd boys except for the events brought about by the unkind acts of certain demons these extraordinary activities were played out for the enjoyment and salvation of jivas in the material world. Krishna and his brother Balarama passed the childhood age known as kaumara and stepped into the age known as paugunda, from the sixth year up to the tenth.
At that time all the cowherd men conferred and agreed to give those boys who had passed their fifth year charge of the cows in the pasturing ground.
Given charge of the cows, Krishna and Balarama traversed Vrndavana, purifying the land with Their footprints. Accompanied by the cowherd boys and Balarama, Krishna herded the cows and played on His flute through the forest of Vrndavana, which was full of flowers, vegetables, and pasturing grass. The Vrndavana forest was sanctified as the clear mind of a devotee and was full of bees, flowers and fruits. There were chirping birds and clear lakes with waters that could relieve one of all fatigue.
Sweet-fragranced breezes blew always, refreshing the mind and body. Seeing the favorable situation, Krishna, Balarama, and Their cowherd friends entered the forest and enjoyed the atmosphere to the fullest extent. Krishna saw that all the trees, overloaded as they were with fruits and fresh twigs, were bending down to touch the ground as if welcoming Him by touching His lotus feet. He was very pleased by the behavior of the trees, fruits and flowers, and, He began to smile, realizing their desires.
Krishna then spoke to Balarama as follows; "My dear brother, You are superior to all of us, and Your lotus feet are worshipped by the demigods.
Just see how these trees, full of fruits, have bent down to worship Your lotus feet! It appears that they are trying to get out of the darkness of being obliged to accept the form of trees. Actually, the trees born in the land of Vrndavana are not ordinary living entities. Having held the impersonal point of view in their past lives, they now have the opportunity of seeing you in Vrndavana, and they are praying for further advancement in spiritual life through Your personal association.
"The herbs, creepers, and grass are also fortunate to touch Your lotus feet.
And by Your touching twigs with Your hands, these small plants are also made glorious. As for the hills and rivers, they too are now glorious because You are now glancing at them. Above all, the damsels of Vraja, the Gopis, attracted by Your beauty, are most glorious, for You embrace them with Your strong arms."
In this way Krishna and Balarama enjoyed in the forest of Vrndavana to Their fullest satisfaction, along with the cows and the cowherd boys Once the cowherd friends of Krishna and Balarama told Them, "In the Talavan forest many fruits are falling from the trees, and many are lying on the ground. But all the fruits are being guarded by the evil Dhenuka. O Rama! O Krishna! Dhenuka is a most powerful demon in the form of an ass. He is surrounded by many friends who have assumed similar shapes and who are just as powerful as he. Dhenuka has eaten men alive, and therefore all people and animals are terrified of going to the Tala forest. O killer of the enemy, even the birds are afraid to fly there. In the Tala forest are sweet-smelling fruits no one has ever tasted. Indeed, even now we can smell the fragrance of the tala fruits spreading all about. O Krishna! Please get those fruits for us. Our minds are so attracted by their aroma! Dear Balarama, our desire to have those fruits is very great. If you think it's a good idea too, let's go to that Tala forest."
Hearing the words of Their dear companions, Krishna and Balarama laughed and, desiring to please them, set off for the Tala forest surrounded by Their cowherd boyfriends. Lord Balarama entered the Tala forest first. With His arms he began shaking the trees with the power of a maddened elephant, causing the tala fruits to fall to the ground. Hearing the sound of the falling fruits, the ass demon Dhenuka ran to attack Balarama, making the earth and trees tremble. The powerful demon rushed up to Lord Balarama and sharply struck His chest with the hooves of his hind legs. Then Dhenuka began to run about, braying loudly.
Again the furious ass rushed toward Balarama and situated himself with his back toward the Lord. Then screaming in rage, the demon hurled his hind legs toward Him. Lord Balarama seized Dhenuka by his hooves, whirled him about with one hand, and threw him into the top of a palm tree. The violent wheeling motion killed the demon. Lord Balarama threw the dead body of Dhenukasura into the tallest palm tree in the forest, and when the body landed in the treetop the tree began shaking. The great palm tree first caused a tree by it's side to shake, and then it broke under the weight of the demon. As the second tree shook it caused a third one to shake. In this way a chain reaction was created, and many trees in the forest shook and broke.
Thoroughly enraged by the death of Dhenuka, the remaining ass demons ran to attack Krishna and Balarama. As the demons attacked, Krishna and Balarama easily seized them one after another by their hind legs and threw them all into the tops of the palm trees. (Krishna Book vol. 1, pg. 113) One day while Krishna and Balarama and Their cowherd friends were tending the cows in the Vrndavana forest, the demon Pralamba entered their midst. He had assumed the form of a cowherd boy with the intentions of kidnapping Krishna and Balarama. Since Lord Krishna sees everything, he understood who the demon was. Still, the Lord pretended to accept the demon as a friend-while at the same time considering how to kill him. Krishna assembled the cowherd boys and divided them into two even teams. After the cowherd boys had chosen Krishna and Balarama as the leaders of the two teams, the boys began to play various games involving carriers and passengers.
In these games the winners would climb up on the back of the losers, who would have to carry them. Thus carrying and being carried by one another, and at the same time tending the cows, the boys went to a banyan tree known as Bhandiraka. When Shridama, Vrsabha, and the other members of Lord Balarama's party were victorious in these games, Krishna and His followers had to carry them. Thus Krishna had to carry Shridama, Bhadrasena had to carry Vrsabha, and Pralamba had to carry Balarama.
Considering Lord Krishna invincible, the demon Pralamba quickly carried Balarama far beyond the spot where he was supposed to put his passenger down. As the great demon carried Balarama, the Lord became as massive as mount Sumeru, and Pralamba had to slow down. Prlambasura then resumed his actual form-an effulgent body that was covered with golden ornaments and that resembled a cloud flashing with lightning and carrying the moon. When Lord Balarama saw the gigantic body of the demon as he moved swiftly in the sky-with his blazing eyes, fiery hair, terrible teeth reaching toward his scowling brows, and amazing effulgence generated by his armlets, crown and earrings-the Lord seemed to become a little frightened. Remembering the actual situation, the fearless Balarama understood that the demon was trying to kidnap Him and take Him away from His companions. The Lord then became furious and struck the demon's head with His hard fist, just as Indra, the king of the demigods, strikes a mountain with his thunderbolt weapon. Thus smashed by Balarama's fist, Pralamba's head immediately cracked open. The demon vomited blood from his mouth and lost all consciousness, and then with a great noise he fell lifeless to the ground, like a mountain devastated by Indra. The cowherd boys were most astonished to see how the powerful Balarama had killed the demon Pralamba, and they exclaimed, "Excellent! Excellent!" They offered Balarama profuse benedictions and glorified Him.
Their minds overwhelmed with ecstatic love, they embraced Him as if He had returned from the dead. (Krishna Book Vol. I, pg. 133) The demons killed by Lord Balarama represent different anarthas which are as follows: Dhenukasura and other asses- Ignorance of the truth due to idiocy; loss of knowledge of one's spiritual identity, ignorance concerning the non-difference of Krishna and His name and ignorance of our relationship with Krishna. The killing of Pralambasura- removes licentiousness, personal gain, worship and honor."
"If a devotee cries out humbly and sincerely to Lord Shri Krishna to remove these demoniac qualities which are represented by the demons killed by Lord Krishna, then Shri Krishna Himself will remove those evils. But the devotees must personally work to drive out the anarthas represented by the demons killed by Lord Balarama. This is a mystery of Vraja bhajan. The aspirant must personally remove these strong impediments with his best care and efforts and by obtaining the mercy of Krishna. If the devotee's humility becomes very deep and intense, Krishna will be merciful. In that case, the feeling of Lord Balarama will arise in his mind and quickly destroy these demoniac qualities. Then one will gradually improve his cultivation of Bhajan"
Shrila Prabhupada offers further enlightenment about the powerful mercy of Lord Balarama. "The word of knowledge is given by Krishna, and when one serves the guru and Krishna in order to hold the sword of Krishna's instructions, Balarama gives one strength. Balarama is Nityananda. Thus one should accept the sword of knowledge from Krishna and be strong with the mercy of Balarama. We are therefore worshipping Krishna-Balarama in Vrndavana. (Appreciating Shri Vrndvana Dhama,, pg. 153) Sometimes Krishna and Balarama would play on Their flutes; sometimes They would throw ropes and stones devised for getting fruits from the trees; sometimes Krishna and Balarama would only throw stones; and sometimes, Their anklebells tinkling, Krishna and Balarama would play football with the fruits like amalaki.
Sometimes Krishna and Balarama would cover Themselves with blankets and imitate the cows and fight one another, roaring loudly, and sometimes Krishna and Balarama would imitate the voices of the animals.
Lord Balarama is called "Douji" (the elder brother who protects and cares for the younger brother). After lifting Govardhana Hill Lord Krishna killed a succession of ferocious demons including Sankasura and Aristasura.
Balarama hadn't killed a demon for a long time, and He was concerned about His duty of protecting Krishna as His elder brother. Desiring to dress like Krishna, Lord Balarama asked Krishna if He could wear His peacock feather and play Krishna's flute for just one day. Krishna who dearly loved His elder brother, agreed and personally gave His peacock feather and flute to Balarama. Krishna and Balarama warmly embraced and then Balarama laughing happily, ran away playing gaily on Krishna's flute. Meanwhile, in Mathura, the wicked King Kamsa was about to send the horse demon, Keshi, to Vrndavana in order to kill Krishna. The Keshi demon asked King Kamsa, "How will I recognize Krishna?"
Kamsa told him that it would be easy to tell, because Krishna would be the only person wearing a peacock feather and playing a flute. While Balaramaji was fully enjoying His pastime of being Krishna for the day, the fierce horse demon, Keshi, stormed into Vrndavana. Seeing Balarama wearing a peacock feather in his crown and playing a flute, matching the description King Kamsa had given of Krishna, the Keshi demon roared up and gave Balarama a mighty kick that could have killed a full grown elephant.
This kick totally knocked the wind out of Balarama, and sent Him tumbling out of the demon's sight. Thinking that he had killed Krishna, the Keshi demon galloped away. Balaramaji, picking Himself up, began to cry.
Balarama's chest still hurt from the demon's kick and He was short of breath. Balarama was hungry, very tired and sore all over from tumbling so far.
Reaching home, Balarama immediately went to Krishna an returned His flute and peacock feather. Balarama told Krishna that he never again wanted to wear them, and that a huge horse demon had just violently kicked Him; thinking He was Krishna. Then Balaramaji met His mother Rohini and fell asleep in her arms. Krishna replaced the peacock feather in His crown, tucked the flute back in His belt and walked into the village. Then Shri Krishna met the horrible horse demon and effortlessly killed him.
Shrila Prabhupada writes, "Lord Balarama is the original Vishnu; therefore anyone remembering these pastimes of Lord Balarama in the morning and the evening will certainly become a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus his life will become successful in all respects."(Appreciating Shri Vrdavana Dhama, pg. 113)
Lord Balarama is constantly serving Lord Krishna in every respect. In all of Krishna's incarnations and manifestations. In Rama-lila, Balarama serves Lord Ramachandra as His younger Brother, Laxmana. In Kali-yuga, Shri Balarama spreads the Sankirtan movement of Shri Chaitanya as Lord Nityananda. Lord Balarama serves Shri Krishna in all five rasas (mellows), santa to madhurya rasa. In santa rasa Lord Balarama fulfills Shri Krishna's desires for blissful transcendental pastimes by expanding Himself as the holy dhama of Vraja Mandala. All of Krishna's personal possessions such as Krishna's crown, bed, clothes, throne, ornaments; and any other objects that Krishna utilizes are all expansions of Lord Balarama. As Krishna's cowherd friend and elder brother in sakhya rasa, Shri Balarama sometimes accepts service from Krishna after defeating Him in a wrestling match. But generally, Balarama's fraternal feelings are mixed with servitude (dasya rasa) and parental affection (vatsalya rasa). In the mood of vatsalya rasa, Shri Balarama sometimes protects Krishna as a parent or chastises Him as the elder. Once Lord Balarama told Subala, "my dear friend, please inform Krishna not to go to Kaliya today. Today is Krishna's birthday, and so I wish to go along with Mother Yasoda to bathe Him. Tell Krishna He should not leave the house today!" This shows how Balarama, Krishna's elder brother took care of Krishna with parental love, within the scope of fraternal affection.
The splendor of Lord Balarama's transcendental form eclipses many millions of glistening rising moons, and the slightest scent of His boundless strength is sufficient to destroy many armies of demons. Although He knows the supernatural power of His younger brother Krishna, still, out of love for Him, Balarama never leaves Krishna alone in the forest even for a moment. I offer my prayers to Lord Balarama, the enemy of Dhenukasura.