78. The Liberation of Balvala, and Lord Balarama's Touring the Sacred Places
24 / The Liberation of Balvala, and Lord Balarāma's Touring the Sacred Places
At the first opportunity Balarama dragged the demon Balvala down with His plow.
Lord Balarāma prepared Himself to meet the demon Balvala. At the time when the demon usually attacked the sacred place, there appeared a great hailstorm, the whole sky became covered with dust and the atmosphere became surcharged with a filthy smell. Just after this, the mischievous demon Balvala began to shower torrents of stool and urine and other impure substances on the arena of sacrifice. After this onslaught, the demon himself appeared with a great trident in his hand. He was a gigantic person, and his black body was like a huge mass of carbon. His hair, his beard and his moustache appeared reddish, like copper, and because of his great beard and moustache, his mouth appeared to be very dangerous and fierce. As soon as He saw the demon, Lord Balarāma prepared to attack him. He first began to consider how He could smash the great demon to pieces. Lord Balarāma called for His plow and club, and they immediately appeared before Him. The demon Balvala was flying in the sky, and at the first opportunity Lord Balarāma dragged him down with His plow and angrily smashed the demon's head with His club. By Balarāma's striking, the forehead of the demon became fractured. There was a profuse flow of blood from his forehead, and he began to scream loudly. In this way the demon, who had been such a great disturbance to the pious brāhmaṇas, fell to the ground. His falling was like a great mountain with a red oxide peak being struck by a thunderbolt and smashed to the ground.
The inhabitants of Naimiṣāraṇya, learned sages and brāhmaṇas, became most pleased by seeing this, and they offered their respectful prayers to Lord Balarāma. They offered their heartfelt blessings upon the Lord, and all agreed that Lord Balarāma's attempt to do anything would never be a failure. The sages and brāhmaṇas then performed a ceremonial bathing of Lord Balarāma, just as King Indra is bathed by the demigods when he is victorious over the demons. The brāhmaṇas and sages honored Lord Balarāma by presenting Him first-class new clothing and ornaments and the lotus flower garland of victory, the reservoir of all beauty, which was never to be dried up, being in everlasting existence.
After this incidence, Lord Balarāma took permission from the brāhmaṇas assembled at Naimiṣāraṇya and, accompanied by other brāhmaṇas, went to the bank of the river Kauṣikī. After taking His bath in this holy place, He proceeded toward the river Sarayū and visited the source of the river. He began to travel on the bank of the Sarayū River, and He gradually reached Prayāga, where there is a confluence of three rivers, the Ganges, Yamunā and Sarasvatī. Here He also regularly took His bath, worshiped the local temples of God and, as it is enjoined in the Vedic literature, offered oblations to the forefathers and sages. He gradually reached the āśrama of the sage Pulaha and from there went to Gaṇḍakī on the river Gomati. After this He took His bath in the river Vipāśā. Then gradually He came to the bank of the Śoṇa River. (The Śoṇa River is still running as one of the big rivers in the Behar Province.) He also took His bath there and performed the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. He continued His travels and gradually came to the pilgrimage city of Gayā, where there is a celebrated Viṣṇu temple. According to the advice of His father Vasudeva, He offered oblations to the forefathers in this Viṣṇu temple. From here He traveled to the delta of the Ganges, where the sacred river Ganges mixes with the Bay of Bengal. This sacred place is called Gaṅgāsāgara, and at the end of January every year there is still a great assembly of saintly persons and pious men, just as there is an assembly of saintly persons in Prayāga every year which is called the Magh Mela Fair.
After finishing His bathing and ritualistic ceremonies at Gaṅgāsāgara, Lord Balarāma proceeded toward the mountain known as Mahendra Parvata. At this place He met Paraśurāma, the incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and He offered him respect by bowing down before him. After this He gradually turned toward southern India and visited the banks of the river Godāvarī. After taking His bath in the river Godāvarī and performing the necessary ritualistic ceremonies, He gradually visited the other rivers--the Veṇā, Pampā and Bhīmarathī. On the bank of the river Bhīmarathī there is the deity called Svāmī Kārttikeya. After visiting Kārttikeya Lord Balarāma gradually proceeded to Śailapura, a pilgrimage city in the province of Mahārāṣṭra. Śailapura is one of the biggest districts in Mahārāṣṭra Province. He then gradually proceeded towards the Draviḍadeśa. Southern India is divided into five parts, called Pa�cadraviḍa. Northern India is also divided into five parts, called Pa�cagaura. All the important ācāryas of the modern age, namely Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇusvāmī, and Nimbārka, advented themselves in these Draviḍa Provinces. Lord Caitanya appeared in Bengal, which is part of the five Gauradeśas.
The most important place of pilgrimage in southern India, or Draviḍa, is Veṅkaṭācala, commonly known as Bālajī. After visiting this place Lord Balarāma proceeded toward Viṣṇukā�cī, and from there He proceeded on the bank of the Kāverī. He took His bath in the river Kāverī; then He gradually reached Raṅgakṣetra. The biggest temple in the world is in Raṅgakṣetra, and the Viṣṇu Deity there is celebrated as Raṅganātha. A similar temple of Raṅganātha is in Vṛndāvana, although not as big as the temple in Raṅgakṣetra.
While going to Viṣṇukā�cī, Lord Balarāma also visited Śivakā�cī. After visiting Raṅgakṣetra, He gradually proceeded toward Mathurā, commonly known as the Mathurā of southern India. After visiting this place, He gradually proceeded toward Setubandha. Setubandha is the place where Lord Rāmacandra constructed the stone bridge from India to Laṅkā (Ceylon). In this particularly holy place, Lord Balarāma distributed ten thousand cows to the local brāhmaṇa priests. It is the Vedic custom that when a rich visitor goes to any place of pilgrimage he gives in charity to the local priests gifts of houses, cows, ornaments and garments. This system of visiting places of pilgrimage and providing the local brāhmaṇa priests with all necessities of life has greatly deteriorated in this age of Kali. The richer section of the population, because of its degradation in Vedic culture, is no longer attracted by these places of pilgrimage, and the brāhmaṇa priests who depended on such visitors have also deteriorated in their professional duty of helping the visitors. These brāhmaṇa priests in the places of pilgrimage are called paṇḍa or paṇḍit. This means that they formerly were very learned brāhmaṇas and used to guide the visitors in all details of the purpose of coming there, and thus both the visitors and the priests were benefited by mutual cooperation.
It is clear from the description of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that when Lord Balarāma was visiting the different places of pilgrimage, He properly followed the Vedic system. After distributing cows at Setubandha, Lord Balarāma proceeded toward the Kṛtamālā and Tāmraparṇī Rivers. These two rivers are celebrated as sacred, and Lord Balarāma bathed in both. He then proceeded toward Malaya Hill. This Malaya Hill is very great, and it is said that it is one of seven peaks called the Malaya Hills. The great sage Agastya used to live there, and Lord Balarāma visited him and offered His respects by bowing down before him. After taking the sage's blessings, Lord Balarāma, with the sage's permission, proceeded toward the Indian Ocean.
At the point of the cape there is a big temple of the goddess Durgā where she is known as Kanyākumārī. This temple of Kanyākumārī was also visited by Lord Rāmacandra, and therefore it is to be understood that the temple has been existing for millions of years. From there, Lord Balarāma went on to visit the pilgrimage city known as Phālgunatīrtha, which is on the shore of the Indian Ocean, or the Southern Ocean. Phālgunatīrtha is celebrated because Lord Viṣṇu in His incarnation of Ananta is lying there. From Phālgunatīrtha, Lord Balarāma went on to visit another pilgrimage spot known as Pa�cāpsarasa. There also He bathed according to the regulative principles and observed the ritualistic ceremonies. This site is also celebrated as a shrine of Lord Viṣṇu; therefore Lord Balarāma distributed ten thousand cows to the local brāhmaṇa priests.
From Cape Comarin Lord Balarāma turned toward Kerala. The country of Kerala is still existing in southern India under the name of South Kerala. After visiting this place, He came to Gokarṇatīrtha, where Lord Śiva is constantly worshiped. Balarāma then visited the temple of Āryādevī, which is completely surrounded by water. From that island, He went on to a place known as Śūrpāraka. After this He bathed in the rivers known as Tāpī, Payoṣṇī and Nirvindhyā, and He came to the forest known as Daṇḍakāraṇya. This is the same Daṇḍakāraṇya forest where Lord Rāmacandra lived while He was in exile. Lord Balarāma next came to the bank of the river Narmadā, the biggest river in central India. On the bank of this sacred Narmadā is a pilgrimage spot known as Māhiṣmatī Purī. After bathing there, according to regulative principles, Lord Balarāma returned to Prabhāsatīrtha, wherefrom He had begun His journey.
When Lord Balarāma returned to Prabhāsatīrtha He heard from the brāhmaṇas that most of the kṣatriyas in the Battle of Kurukṣetra had been killed. Balarāma felt relieved to hear that the burden of the world had been reduced. Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma appeared on this earth to lessen the burden of military strength created by the ambitious kṣatriya kings. This is the way of materialistic life: not being satisfied by the absolute necessities of life, people ambitiously create extra demands, and their illegal desires are checked by the laws of nature or by laws of God, appearing as famine, war, pestilence and similar catastrophes. Lord Balarāma heard that although most of the kṣatriyas had been killed, the Kurus were still engaged in fighting. Therefore He returned to the battlefield just on the day Bhīmasena and Duryodhana were engaged in a personal duel. As well-wisher of both of them, Lord Balarāma wanted to stop them, but they would not stop.
When Lord Balarāma appeared on the scene, King Yudhiṣṭhira and his young brothers, Nakula, Sahadeva, Lord Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, immediately offered Him their respectful obeisances, but they did not speak at all. The reason they were silent was that Lord Balarāma was somewhat affectionate toward Duryodhana, and Duryodhana had learned from Balarāmajī the art of fighting with a club. Thus, when the fighting was going on, King Yudhiṣṭhira and others thought that Balarāma might come there to say something in favor of Duryodhana, and they therefore remained silent. Both Duryodhana and Bhīmasena were very enthusiastic in fighting with clubs, and in the midst of large audiences, each was very skillfully trying to strike the other, and while attempting to do so they appeared to be dancing. But although they appeared to be dancing, it was clear that both of them were very angry.
Lord Balarāma, wanting to stop the fighting, said, "My dear King Duryodhana and Bhīmasena, I know that both of you are great fighters and are well known in the world as great heroes, but still I think that Bhīmasena is superior to Duryodhana in bodily strength. On the other hand, Duryodhana is superior in the art of fighting with a club. Taking this into consideration, My opinion is that neither of you is inferior to the other in fighting. Under the circumstances, there is very little chance of one of you being defeated by the other. Therefore I request you not to waste your time in fighting in this way. I wish you to stop this unnecessary fight."
The good instruction given by Lord Balarāma to both Bhīmasena and Duryodhana was intended for equal benefit of both of them. But they were so enwrapped in anger against each other that they could only remember their long-lasting personal enmity. Each thought only of killing the other, and they did not give much importance to the instruction of Lord Balarāma. Both of them then became like madmen in remembering the strong accusations and ill behavior they had exchanged with one another. Lord Balarāma, being able to understand the destiny which was awaiting them, was not eager to go further in the matter. Therefore, instead of staying, He decided to return to the city of Dvārakā.
When He returned to Dvārakā, He was received with great jubilation by relatives and friends, headed by King Ugrasena and other elderly persons; all of them came forward to welcome Lord Balarāma. After this, He again went to the holy place of pilgrimage at Naimiṣāraṇya, and the sages, saintly persons and brāhmaṇas all received Him standing. They understood that Lord Balarāma, although a kṣatriya, was now retired from the fighting business. The brāhmaṇas and sages, who were always for peace and tranquillity, were very pleased at this. All of them embraced Balarāma with great affection and induced Him to perform various kinds of sacrifices in that sacred spot of Naimiṣāraṇya. Actually Lord Balarāma had no business performing the sacrifices recommended for ordinary human beings; He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore He Himself is the enjoyer of all such sacrifices. As such, His exemplary action in performing sacrifices was only to give a lesson to the common man to show how one should abide by the injunction of the Vedas.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Balarāma instructed the sages and saintly persons at Naimiṣāraṇya on the subject matter of the living entities' relationship with this cosmic manifestation, on how one should accept this whole universe and on how one should relate with the cosmos in order to achieve the highest goal of perfection, the understanding that the whole cosmic manifestation is resting on the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is also all-pervading, even within the minutest atom, by the function of His Paramātmā feature.
Lord Balarāma then took the avabhṛtha bath which is accepted after finishing sacrificial performances. After taking His bath, He dressed Himself in new silken garments and decorated Himself with beautiful jewelry amidst His relatives and friends. He appeared to be a shining full moon amidst the luminaries in the sky. Lord Balarāma is the Personality of Godhead Ananta Himself; therefore He is beyond the scope of understanding by mind, intelligence or body. He descended exactly like a human being and behaved in that way for His own purpose; we can only explain His activities as the Lord's pastimes. No one can even estimate the extent of the unlimited demonstrations of His pastimes because He is all-powerful. Lord Balarāma is the original Viṣṇu; therefore anyone remembering these pastimes of Lord Balarāma in the morning and evening, will certainly become a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus his life will become successful in all respects.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Second Volume, Twenty-fourth Chapter, of Kṛṣṇa, "The Liberation of Balvala, and Lord Balarāma's Touring Sacred Places."