24 / The Liberation of Balvala, and Lord Balarama's Touring the Sacred Places
Lord Balarama 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 Balarama prepared to attack him. He first began to consider how He could smash the great demon to pieces. Lord Balarama 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 Balarama dragged him down with His plow and angrily smashed the demon's head with His club. By Balarama'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 brahmanas, 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 Naimisaranya, learned sages and brahmanas, became most pleased by seeing this, and they offered their respectful prayers to Lord Balarama. They offered their heartfelt blessings upon the Lord, and all agreed that Lord Balarama's attempt to do anything would never be a failure. The sages and brahmanas then performed a ceremonial bathing of Lord Balarama, just as King Indra is bathed by the demigods when he is victorious over the demons. The brahmanas and sages honored Lord Balarama 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 Balarama took permission from the brahmanas assembled at Naimisaranya and, accompanied by other brahmanas, went to the bank of the river Kausiki. After taking His bath in this holy place, He proceeded toward the river Sarayu and visited the source of the river. He began to travel on the bank of the Sarayu River, and He gradually reached Prayaga, where there is a confluence of three rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati. 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 asrama of the sage Pulaha and from there went to Gandaki on the river Gomati. After this He took His bath in the river Vipasa. Then gradually He came to the bank of the Sona River. (The Sona 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 Gaya, where there is a celebrated Visnu temple. According to the advice of His father Vasudeva, He offered oblations to the forefathers in this Visnu 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 Gangasagara, 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 Prayaga every year which is called the Magh Mela Fair.
After finishing His bathing and ritualistic ceremonies at Gangasagara, Lord Balarama proceeded toward the mountain known as Mahendra Parvata. At this place He met Parasurama, the incarnation of Lord Krsna, 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 Godavari. After taking His bath in the river Godavari and performing the necessary ritualistic ceremonies, He gradually visited the other rivers--the Vena, Pampa and Bhimarathi. On the bank of the river Bhimarathi there is the deity called Svami Karttikeya. After visiting Karttikeya Lord Balarama gradually proceeded to Sailapura, a pilgrimage city in the province of Maharastra. Sailapura is one of the biggest districts in Maharastra Province. He then gradually proceeded towards the Dravidadesa. Southern India is divided into five parts, called Pancadravida. Northern India is also divided into five parts, called Pancagaura. All the important acaryas of the modern age, namely Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnusvami, and Nimbarka, advented themselves in these Dravida Provinces. Lord Caitanya appeared in Bengal, which is part of the five Gauradesas.
The most important place of pilgrimage in southern India, or Dravida, is Venkatacala, commonly known as Balaji. After visiting this place Lord Balarama proceeded toward Visnukanci, and from there He proceeded on the bank of the Kaveri. He took His bath in the river Kaveri; then He gradually reached Rangaksetra. The biggest temple in the world is in Rangaksetra, and the Visnu Deity there is celebrated as Ranganatha. A similar temple of Ranganatha is in Vrndavana, although not as big as the temple in Rangaksetra.
While going to Visnukanci, Lord Balarama also visited Sivakanci. After visiting Rangaksetra, He gradually proceeded toward Mathura, commonly known as the Mathura of southern India. After visiting this place, He gradually proceeded toward Setubandha. Setubandha is the place where Lord Ramacandra constructed the stone bridge from India to Lanka (Ceylon). In this particularly holy place, Lord Balarama distributed ten thousand cows to the local brahmana 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 brahmana 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 brahmana priests who depended on such visitors have also deteriorated in their professional duty of helping the visitors. These brahmana priests in the places of pilgrimage are called panda or pandit. This means that they formerly were very learned brahmanas 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 Srimad-Bhagavatam that when Lord Balarama was visiting the different places of pilgrimage, He properly followed the Vedic system. After distributing cows at Setubandha, Lord Balarama proceeded toward the Krtamala and Tamraparni Rivers. These two rivers are celebrated as sacred, and Lord Balarama 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 Balarama visited him and offered His respects by bowing down before him. After taking the sage's blessings, Lord Balarama, with the sage's permission, proceeded toward the Indian Ocean.
At the point of the cape there is a big temple of the goddess Durga where she is known as Kanyakumari. This temple of Kanyakumari was also visited by Lord Ramacandra, and therefore it is to be understood that the temple has been existing for millions of years. From there, Lord Balarama went on to visit the pilgrimage city known as Phalgunatirtha, which is on the shore of the Indian Ocean, or the Southern Ocean. Phalgunatirtha is celebrated because Lord Visnu in His incarnation of Ananta is lying there. From Phalgunatirtha, Lord Balarama went on to visit another pilgrimage spot known as Pancapsarasa. There also He bathed according to the regulative principles and observed the ritualistic ceremonies. This site is also celebrated as a shrine of Lord Visnu; therefore Lord Balarama distributed ten thousand cows to the local brahmana priests.
From Cape Comarin Lord Balarama 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 Gokarnatirtha, where Lord Siva is constantly worshiped. Balarama then visited the temple of Aryadevi, which is completely surrounded by water. From that island, He went on to a place known as Surparaka. After this He bathed in the rivers known as Tapi, Payosni and Nirvindhya, and He came to the forest known as Dandakaranya. This is the same Dandakaranya forest where Lord Ramacandra lived while He was in exile. Lord Balarama next came to the bank of the river Narmada, the biggest river in central India. On the bank of this sacred Narmada is a pilgrimage spot known as Mahismati Puri. After bathing there, according to regulative principles, Lord Balarama returned to Prabhasatirtha, wherefrom He had begun His journey.
When Lord Balarama returned to Prabhasatirtha He heard from the brahmanas that most of the ksatriyas in the Battle of Kuruksetra had been killed. Balarama felt relieved to hear that the burden of the world had been reduced. Lord Krsna and Balarama appeared on this earth to lessen the burden of military strength created by the ambitious ksatriya 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 Balarama heard that although most of the ksatriyas had been killed, the Kurus were still engaged in fighting. Therefore He returned to the battlefield just on the day Bhimasena and Duryodhana were engaged in a personal duel. As well-wisher of both of them, Lord Balarama wanted to stop them, but they would not stop.
When Lord Balarama appeared on the scene, King Yudhisthira and his young brothers, Nakula, Sahadeva, Lord Krsna and Arjuna, immediately offered Him their respectful obeisances, but they did not speak at all. The reason they were silent was that Lord Balarama was somewhat affectionate toward Duryodhana, and Duryodhana had learned from Balaramaji the art of fighting with a club. Thus, when the fighting was going on, King Yudhisthira and others thought that Balarama might come there to say something in favor of Duryodhana, and they therefore remained silent. Both Duryodhana and Bhimasena 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 Balarama, wanting to stop the fighting, said, "My dear King Duryodhana and Bhimasena, I know that both of you are great fighters and are well known in the world as great heroes, but still I think that Bhimasena 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 Balarama to both Bhimasena 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 Balarama. Both of them then became like madmen in remembering the strong accusations and ill behavior they had exchanged with one another. Lord Balarama, 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 Dvaraka.
When He returned to Dvaraka, 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 Balarama. After this, He again went to the holy place of pilgrimage at Naimisaranya, and the sages, saintly persons and brahmanas all received Him standing. They understood that Lord Balarama, although a ksatriya, was now retired from the fighting business. The brahmanas and sages, who were always for peace and tranquillity, were very pleased at this. All of them embraced Balarama with great affection and induced Him to perform various kinds of sacrifices in that sacred spot of Naimisaranya. Actually Lord Balarama 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 Balarama instructed the sages and saintly persons at Naimisaranya 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 Paramatma feature.
Lord Balarama then took the avabhrtha 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 Balarama 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 Balarama is the original Visnu; therefore anyone remembering these pastimes of Lord Balarama 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 Krsna, "The Liberation of Balvala, and Lord Balarama's Touring Sacred Places."
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