Did Krishna Support Polygamy?
“What’s wrong in having affairs? Why can’t I have multiple wives? Krishna had many wives, so why can’t I?”
“Krishna is a dirty immoral character. Having affairs with each and every girl he meets…”
“No, Krishna only had 8 wives”
“Even 8 is a bigger number yaar…Still you consider him as god?”
“Krishna was a perverted man who loved to have many girlfriends and wives – what a Nasty character!”
“No – Krishna had only one wife. All other information is fiction…”
– I am quoting people’s comments and questions from various messages and e-mails. Did Krishna’s really have lot of wives and multifaceted love affairs?
First and foremost, can anybody tell me how many wives Krishna actually had? 16008, 16010, 9, 8, 7, 1? Because various scriptures provide different numbers.
And, frankly, why are you restricting the number to approx. 16000? Krishna was a good singer. He was also very handsome. He was charming. He was always smiling too. Many Puranas say that many millions of unmarried gopis [cowherd girls] were also attracted by Krishna. He was known as “Shyamasundara” (Dark and very beautiful), “kandarpa koti kamaniya visesasobham”(He was so beautiful that His beauty surpasses that of billions of Cupids) and “Madanamohana” (Madana=cupid, mohana = enchanter; means Cupid enchants everyone in this world, but even he is enchanted by Krishna). It is even stated that when the wives of the Demigods’ saw Krishna from the heavenly planes, there were almost falling down of the plane seeing Krishna’s beauty. If you add all those numbers too it could run well above a whopping 20,000!
What about Mirabai and Andal? They were also married to him!
Now, let me ask you a simple question: “Women had equal or more status of men in the Vedic and later Puranic period. Ancient world put wife’s name first while even addressing gods- Sita Ram or Lakshmi Narayan, Laksmi Narasimha, Parvati-Vallabha, etc. Krishna is adored as Radhe-Krishna? Radhe is not Krishna’s wife…Why his wife’s name was not added?”
Whatever answer you have for the above question, I have a subsequent question: “Why don’t Radhe’s name was not mentioned in Bhagavatam or Mahabharat?”
Now, let’s come back to the questions and comments. I am using primary school mathematics here.
-Even if Krishna spends one day with each wife, it will take him 54 years to complete a single round, given 20k plus wives! But it is also stated that he had 10 sons and 1 daughter in each wives. That means he should at least live for more than 600 years! Krishna lived for 126 years and most of the time he was in the war-field. So, how is it physically possible for him to meet all those females?
If you don’t have logical rationale answer for this, then all those questions and comments are irrelevant and illogical. If you say, he is god, everything possible, then you have answer for all those questions and comments… If you say those are just primary school stories, then why should they have such questions and comments, those are just stories after all, right?
Obviously the intentions of those sceptical guys are not to gain wisdom, but to tease Krishna and our ancestral scriptures. Have you have actually read Bhagavatam or any authentic Krishna’s literature? (Not translated and misinterpreted versions). The answer would be “No”. Then where did such questions and comments pop up? Somebody said so or read about it somewhere! So what’s the intention behind those questions and comments on Krishna?
However, let’s address those who ask such question with an intention of knowing the logical and rational reasonale with an open mind to admit that “I don’t know” or “I really want to know.”
To begin with, to best of my memory, Mahabharata talks only about 3 wives of Krishna- Rukmini, Jambavathi and Satyabhama. That’s the most authentic source.
In later literature like Bhagavatam, this was hiked up to 8 just to match with the concept of Ashtalakshmi (8 Lakshmis), as Krishna was increasingly being identified with Vishnu. Rukmini is considered to be an earthly manifestation of Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife. To match the powerful and magnificent nature of Krishna, the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi was projected into eight times powerful – in eight forms or AshtaLakshmi that is popularly called Ashta Bharya (eight wives).
As per Bhagavata Purana the eight wives (Ashtabharya) are: Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana.
Those names have bit deeper meaning and relevance than that we think. As we discussed in earlier articles (See ‘The secret of Krishna’s birth’: http://udaypai.in/the-secret-of-krishnas-birth/) everything in Puranas have multiple dimensions. You can be either just read as fantasy stories or can go in deeper to get messages or inner meaning – it is up to you. Our ancestors have given us the freedom to understand based on our limitation of brain. The meaning depends upon the capacity of your brain.
Rukmini (daughter of King Bhismaka, the king of Vidharba), is direct avatar of Lakshmi, hence doesn’t need any explanation. Rukmini has a secret romance with Krishna. He fulfilled it.
It has been clearly stated that Satyabhama is an incarnation of mother earth (Bhoomi Mata) whom Krishna had already saved during his Varaha Avatar. Satyabhama is re-born as daughter of King Satrajit and was offered by her father. Krishna just accepted it.
Jambavati was the daughter of Jambava, the immortal, the King of the Bears. He appears in Ramayan and was a devotee of Rama. He had a fight with Krishna. When Jambava recognized Krishna as a form of Rama (Vishnu) he requested the Lord to marry his daughter Jambavati. Krishna just accepted it.
Kalindi is the Goddess of the river Yamuna and the daughter of Sun god. She performed austerities to gain Krishna as husband. She considered Krishna as god. What can a god do to his devotee other than accepting her as is?
Balarama, Krishna’s brother, required Krishna to abduct and marry their cousin Mitravinda, who otherwise would actually have married Kaurava prince Duryodhana.
Nagnajiti was daughter of king Nagnajita of Koshala; she was won by Krishna in her svayamvara by defeating seven bulls. She and her father also prayed to get Krishna as her husband.
Bhadra was daughter of King Dhrishtaketu and his wife Shrutakirti. She was married by brothers to Krishna. He just accepted it.
During the Swayamvar to find a suitable partner for Lakshmana (daughter of the king of Madra), Arjuna misses the target intentionally, so that his friend Krishna will get her. Another story says that, Lakshmana was abducted by Krishna. Well he chooses this his own.
– See out of 8, only one time Krishna chooses someone his own.
All other marriages were based on Swayamvara (girls chose him), or offered by father or brothers. He just fulfilled everyone’s wishes. We have to understand that at the time of Krishna marrying more than one woman, it was an accepted practice. Marriage was also used to as a means of setting good relationships with other countries. For example, you can see many examples of the kings offering their daughters to neighbour or visiting kings or princes. If the king or price was already married was not a concern in those days.
According to Vedic culture, although polygamy is allowed, none of the wives should be ill-treated. In other words, one may take many wives only if he is able to satisfy all of them equally as an ideal householder; otherwise it is not allowed.
In Krishna’s case, the concept of eight wives have another special significance too. It symbolizes Krishna’s sovereignty. The hierarchy of the 8 wives is based according to their regal status.
Rukmini, avatar of Lakshmi, stands for majesty and wealth of Krishna; Satyabhama, the aspect of the earth-goddess represents the kingdom, and Jambavati is Victory (vijaya), who was won by defeating her father.
Kalindi (the central kingdoms) Nagnajiti (the eastern kingdoms – including the solar dynasty) and Lakshmana (western side) are representatives of Aryavarta (the nobility).
The group of wives consisted of Mitravinda and Bhadra his patriarchal cousins representing his Yadava clan called Satvata.
We know, Krishna was a good diplomat and strategist. So the relationships with other countries were crucial for him. By marrying 8 wives from 8 different kingdoms, he established a close relationship with these 8 kingdoms.
And what about the 16,000 wives? We have discussed about it Interview with Krishna (See: http://udaypai.in/interview-with-krishna/).
Narakasura (Bhaumasura), the demon King had kidnapped 16,100 (some sources say 16,000 probably for the sake of ease) women and held them in his captivity in his capital Pragjyotisha. After killing Naraka, Krishna released 16,100 women that Narakasura had in captivity. When Krishna asked them to return to their houses, they refused. They were aware that the society of that age would not take back those who were taken by another man. So they were left with nowhere to go and eventually they would commit suicide. He didn’t want them to be left destitute. So he declared that all those women should be honoured in an equal status of his wives! This is how he protected the women of his Kingdom. All of them were respected as royal wives!
In ancient prayers, “Rukmani, Satyabhama sametha Sri Krishnamasra” is what (is) recited. Radhe hardly finds any mention in most of the Puranas. Radhe-Krishna relationship is highly esoteric and has been immortalized by the great poet, Jaydev in Geet Govind. The idea of Radha and Krishna as lovers is popular after the Bhakti movement during the late medieval age. The poets and romantics have given this spiritual relation a physical form.
Epilogue: Radhe: “We never got married.” Krishna: “There are 2 distinct people required for a marriage. We are essentially one”
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