The Ashta-Bharyas


Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi,
Mitravrinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshana

As mentioned in our ancient scriptures, they are the Ashta-Bharyas : the 8 principal wives of Lord Krishna. He loved Rukmini the most and she was His 1st wife, His main consort - the Patrani. As the incarnation of the enlightened Lakshmi, Rukmini bore all the qualities of a divine consort in human form. Rukmini was the daughter of Bhishmaka, king of Vidarbha, who had decided to marry her off to a prince named Shishupala from the kingdom of Chedi and was against her marrying Krishna. Rukmini having fallen deeply in love with Krishna sent a message to Him to come and rescue her. Krishna abducted Rukmini from the wedding ceremony and married her in Dwaraka.
Amongst all Krishna's wives, Srimati Rukmini Devi was His most Beloved one. The Skanda-Purana declares: "Rukmini is in Dwaraka what Radha is in the forest of Vrindavana".
Lord Krishna's 2nd wife, Satyabhama having undergone a lot of suffering in her previous mortal life on earth, sought refuge in Vaikuntha (Vishnu's Abode) after her death. Due to her relentless service to Vishnu as his care-taker, Vishnu promised to take her as his wife in her next re-birth. So in the Krishnavtara, when Satyabhama is re-born as the daughter of Satrajit, she is given in marriage to Krishna (Vishnu's reincarnation), who makes sure that she leads a happy life and all her wishes are fulfilled.
Though Satyabhama was a very courageous and strong-willed woman very adept in the warfare of Archery, but she was also known for her temper tantrums. It is said that Narada during one of his earthly visits, sang praise of Rukmini and gifted the heavenly parijata flower to her. This upset Satyabhama and she also insisted to have a Parijata flower, which grows exquisitely in the spiritual world and heavenly planets. So to fulfill her wishes, Krishna much against the wishes of Lord Indra, brought a Parijata tree from Swargalok and planted it in Satyabhama's palace garden in Dwaraka. Krishna stuck to his promise of keeping Satyabhama happy all the time, whatever it took him to fulfill her wishes.
Krishna's wives were all individual personalities. Amongst them, Satyabhama was the most feisty. She always used to offer an argument, which Krishna would enjoy.
Krishna's 3rd wife, Jambavati was the daughter of the bear-king Jambavan, given in marriage to Krishna. Jambavan was a very devoted disciple of Lord Rama and had helped him to defeat Ravana.
Once when Arjuna and Krishna were strolling on the banks of the river Yamuna, they saw a beautiful woman in deep penance. Krishna asked Arjuna who she was. Arjuna told him that she was Kalindi, the daughter of Surya (Sun-God), and also the river Yamuna personified. She was penancing because she only wanted to marry Lord Vishnu. Krishna, very touched, by her deep devotion, offered himself in marriage and thus Kalindi became Krishna's 4th wife.
Mitravrinda and Nagnajiti (also known as Satya or Nila) were the 5th and 6th wives of Krishna. Mitravrinda was the sister of the Kings of Avantipura (Vinda and Anuvinda) and Nagnajiti was the daughter of the King of Kosala. Bhadra, who was the daughter of Krishna's aunt, was his 7th wife, and married him in a Swayamvara Ceremony, choosing him as her husband.
The condition for seeking Lakshana's hand in marriage was more complex than Arjuna's endeavour to marry Draupadi. Jarasandha and Duryodhana failed to aim their arrows at the desired target. Arjuna tried but deliberately did not hit it right because he knew Lakshana was destined to be wed by Shri Krishna. Bhima did not even try aiming the arrow out of high regard for Krishna. So it was Shri Krishna who aimed right and after his win in the archery competition, married Lakshana in the Swayamvara ceremony, accepting her as his 8th wife.
From the Bhagavad Gita, there is evidence of the Ashta Bharyas, leading a happy married life with Krishna in the Yadava Dynasty. Krishna’s relationship with His wives has been glorified as something unique as for His giving pleasure. The Ashta Bharyas, simply by being attached to Krishna in conjugal love, in a life of luxury and opulence attained the highest salvation. The married life of Krishna has been an enigma to many of his devotees and followers.
Besides his 8 wives, Krishna also married 16,000 women who were abducted and imprisoned by a Demonic King in the Dwapara Yuga. The Narakasura episode relates the story of the slaying of Naraka, the demon who was tormenting the maidens of the Gods, saints and kings by shutting them up in his palace. Narakasura had gained a boon from Lord Brahma that he would die only in the hands of a woman. Hence, he had abducted and imprisoned all the women to safeguard his life. Krishna freed them all after killing the Demon in a fierce battle with the help of his brave wife Satyabhama, who aimed the fatal arrow at the demon.
In Vedic society, a girl who stays in the house of another man is considered defiled and unsuitable for marriage. No prospective groom accepts abducted women, suspecting their chastity because of possible rape / molestation by the Demonic perpetrators. Thus, the maidens had nobody to turn to after Krishna liberated them from the clutches of the Demonic King. So he married them all, giving them refuge and shelter and they were happy to have Krishna as their one and only husband.
Thus, Krishna had 16,008 wives and he begot 10 sons and 1 daughter with each of his wives. So he had 160,080 sons and the same number of daughters as his wives. This is the way he perpetuated the Yadava Clan / Dynasty. Polygamy existed during the Vedic times as being practised by kings and the rich gentry. The Vishnu Smriti also makes a reference to polygamy. Hence, Krishna could espouse so many women.
In Dwaraka, He built beautiful palaces for each of his 16,008 wives, so that there would be no jealousies and quarrelling in the household. Yet like a true human being (the form He had adorned), he would often be frivolous and flirtatious with his wives, teasing and baiting them.
Krishna as a complaisant householder catered to the needs of His wives in various ways. He did not as a regular strongman, take the women successfully in a long bout of love, but as the supreme God, magically divided Himself in many exact doubles and in this way satisfied all the ladies at the same time. This lifts Him from the level of a simple strong man to that of the cosmic, universal God of Indian mythology.
Once, the sage Narada was curious to know how Krishna was faring with so many wives. So he decided to visit each of their mansions and verify whether Krishna was personally present there. To his amazement, he found that Krishna was not only present there but actively taking part in the various activities of the home. He joined one wife to tend the children, another to graze the cattle, the third to help with the household purchases, and so on and so forth. The Bhagavad Gita presents Krishna as the divine prototype of the householder dedicated to the three aims of life - Dharma (virtue), Artha (wealth), and Kama (enjoyment of life).    

[compiled from various sources]


More By  :  Aparna Chatterjee

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