Balarama: The Fourth Pillar of Duryodhana’s arrogance


Amidst the melodious sounds of Vedic chants and annoying vehicles, I walked towards the Tirumala bus stand from the exit of the world famous Srivari temple of Tirumala. The road formed a semi-circular arc and covered a portrayal on the wall depicting the ‘Dashavataras‘  or ten incarnations of Vishnu: the Preserver.

The first part of the portrayal looked all beautiful and perfect with Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana from left to right, as depicted in the below picture.

The second part begins with Parshurama from left followed by Rama. From the right, it was Kalki that followed Krishna. However, the third picture shocked me to the core! It was Balarama, Krishna’s elder brother, replacing the great Gautama Buddha.

Firstly, Balarama is believed to be an Incarnation of ‘Adi-Shesha’ the serpent on which Vishnu rests. One might argue that these are mere symbolism and the ten incarnations are 10 great beings. However, is Balarama great enough to replace Buddha, who changed the world for better? Let us analyze this from the standpoint of Mahabharata.

Abhimanyu’S wedding and war preparations

It was a celebration in the air all over Upaplavya for, Abhimanyu‘s knot was being tied to Uttara, the daughter of King Virata who was host to Pandavas during their Incognito. The happiness which had eluded the Pandavas for the past 13 years-had returned to them. Success in Virat War and Abhimanyu’s marriage had brought back some ray of sunshine in their lives which, otherwise had been obscured by dark clouds of pain, humiliation, suffering. However, all that was supposed to be short-lived since the darker clouds of impending war were reappearing. After the festivities were over, all the warriors from the Pandava side gathered for a discussion. Krishna rose to speak and proposed sending an emissary to Dhritarashtra’s court to claim for Yudhishthira’s rights.

At this Balarama rose  “I feel what Krishna suggests is just. Dharmaputra, with full knowledge of consequences, staked his kingdom and lost it, obstinately disregarding the reasoning of friends. Fully aware that he was no match for the adept Shakuni, he yet played against him. He cannot now complain but can only supplicate for his rights.”

Balarama’s position was that Yudhishthira consciously gambled away his kingdom and could not now claim it as of right.

At this Satyaki rose and said, “I must protest against Balarama’s stand, which fills me with disgust. Do we not see in the same tree, one branch bowed with fruit and another sticking out gaunt and useless? So, of these brothers, Krishna speaks words that breathe the spirit of dharma, while Balarama’s attitude is unworthy. Anyone who finds fault with Dharmaputra does so in cowardly fear of Duryodhana, not for any sound reason. O princes, forgive my harsh speech. Not of his own volition but because the Kauravas pressed and invited him to do so, did the novice and unwilling Dharmaputra plays with a dishonest gambler that game so fraught with disaster. Why should he bow and supplicate before Duryodhana, now that he has fulfilled his pledges?”

The heated discussion ended after some time. Few days passed on. Duryodhana and Arjuna went to Dwarka to seek help. Krishna gave them a choice of either having his unarmed self or his vast Narayani army. Arjuna happily chose Krishna, while Duryodhana was equally eager to have the army. After the choices were made, Duryodhana went to meet Balarama. In due course of discussion, Balrama said:

“Duryodhana, they must have told you all I said at the time of the marriage of Virata’s daughter. I pleaded your case and urged everything that could be said for you. Often have I told Krishna that we have equal ties with the Kauravas and the Pandavas. But my words failed to carry conviction to him. I am helpless. It is impossible for me to side with one whom Krishna opposes. I will not help Partha and I cannot support you against Krishna.”

Balarama and his misplaced sense of Dharma

Duryodhana’s arrogance had 4 pillars viz. Bhishma, Drona, Karna, BALARAMA.Isn’t the above discussion enough to gauge this? Balarama thought Duryodhana was righteous and was willing to support him. Agreed, Yudhishthira was foolish enough to stake his Kingdom and Wife. But did he ask Kauravas to disrobe her?

Balarama easily found fault with Yudhishthira, but not with Duryodhana for mistreating a woman. However, this is not the only incident to prove his misplaced sense of Dharma and love for Duryodhana.

It was Balarama who forced Subhadra to marry Duryodhana against her wishes. However, he was furious when Rukmi did the same to his sister Rukmini.

Also read – Rukmini Krishna: when they first met

It was Balarama who actively backed Samba, while he abducted Duryodhana’s daughter Lakshmana.

In fact, it was Balarama who passively ignored the fact that his ‘dear’ disciple Duryodhana tried to capture his great brother Krishna. 

It was Balarama who tried to kill Bheema since the latter broke Duryodhana’s thigh ‘unfairly’, even though he didn’t raise a voice against Duryodhana for any of his misdeeds. He was willing to support Duryodhana as it is clear in the conversation above, which gave Duryodhana a sense of Moral victory. Duryodhana’s state of mind would have been like ‘If Balarama stands for me, what I am doing is right! He is not partial to Pandavas like Bhishma and Drona.’

It’s questionable that whether he deserves a place with Krishna and Radha as clear in some Vaishnava traditions, or is it an outgrowth of the Image of Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana; let alone a place amongst the ten incarnations of Vishnu.


Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.

2 thoughts on “Balarama: The Fourth Pillar of Duryodhana’s arrogance

  1. Shashi

    I stand with Balarama as the Pandavas won the war with deceit with the help of Krishna. If they had respect for their wife Draupadi why would they gamble her away. There are several instances of cheating by Krishna which are all forgiven as we all consider him God. And everything is not fair in war

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