Balaram, an Introduction
Balaram is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the God of protection and sustenance. He is the elder brother of Krishna, who himself is a Vishnu incarnation. Balaram joined Krishna in the annihilation of evil and in the establishment of good in this world. ‘Bala’ means strength and as this Ram was mighty, he came to be referred to as Bala Ram. Though regarded as an Avatar of Vishnu, Balaram is also taken as the personification of Vishnu’s serpent couch, known as Adisesha or Seshnag. Incarnating as the elder sibling of Krishna, Balaram also played a significant role in the destruction of demons and ridding the world of their atrocities.
Balarama Jayanti is the day of his birth or incarnation. It is observed on Shravana Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Shravan (July–August), when people worship Lord Balaram as the Lord of agriculture, fertility and strength. That day is also celebrated with piety as Raksha Bandhan. However, there are some regional variations, as this Jayanthi day is observed on Akshaya Trithiya in some places and during the month of Vaishak in some others. While it is called Hal Shashti or Lalahi Chhath in north, Gujarat calls it as Randhan Chhath and the Braj region, where he spent his childhood celebrates it as Baladeva Chhath.
Legend of Balaram
Balaram is regarded as the 8th Avatar of Lord Vishnu and Bhagavatha Puran talks in detail about his extraordinary birth and life. He was born as the son of Vasudeva and was conceived originally by his wife Devaki as her 7th child, when both remained imprisoned by the cruel demon, Kamsa. As the Asura had already put to death all their 6 earlier babies mercilessly and also, as Vishnu himself was incarnating as their 8th child Krishna for destroying Kamsa, the Lord intervened through his divine powers and got the embryo shifted from Devaki’s womb to that of Rohini, the other wife of Vasudeva, living in the village of Gokulam, who actually delivered him. Balaram grew into a lad of immense physical strength and along with Krishna, started putting an end to the demonic forces of Kamsa. He is credited with the slaying of the giant demon Dhenuka, who came in the guise of a donkey, when the young man caught hold of him, flung him down and crashed him to the ground. He also put an end to another mighty Asura, who tried to lift the young man, when Balaram simply thrashed his head with his powerful fist.
Balarama Jayanti — Rituals and Celebrations
Balarama Jayanti is observed with religious fervor by many of the devotees. People take bath early in the morning on that day, install pictures or idols of Lord Balaram and Krishna at the appointed spots, decorate the place and offer prayers. Some do abhishekam, the sacred bath of the idols with Panchamritham also. Then, they read sacred texts like Bhagavatham, chant hymns and sing Bhajans. Special food items are also offered to the deities, which is then distributed as Prasad. People also offer prayers at Krishna temples. Also, while there are temples for Lord Balaram at some places, his temple at Puri is the biggest and the most important one, where this Avatar of Vishnu is worshipped with great reference as Balabhadhra, along with brother Krishna, as Lord Jagannath, and sister Subhadhra.
Balaram represents strength, and his worship, especially on the Jayanthi day, is believed to bestow people with positive energies, healthy life, physical strength and mental power.