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16000 wives of Krishna, spiritual significance

Sri Krishna

Krishna had mainly eight wives , he was called Ashtabharya (ashta=eight, bharya=wife) because of that. Different  scriptures list their names differently. According to Bhagavata purana names of the eight wives in order were Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana.

Story of 16,100 wives

Narakasura=Naraka+asura; naraka was his name, naraka also means hell, he is considered the son of mother earth thus called Bhaumasura (son of bhumi, bhumi=earth). Asura means demon.

the demon king Naraka 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.

Naraka had stolen the ear-rings of Aditi (daughter of brahma, first nascent being), her sons demigods were unable to fight against Naraka. Upon their request krishna along with his wife Sathyabhama attacked Pragjyotisha on his vehicle Garuda (eagle) and fought a fierce battle against the demons, in that war many powerful demons were slayed by krishna. Most important of those were Mura and Naraka. 

(Narakasura had the curse of being killed by his own mother, Sathyabhama is considered the incarnation of Mother earth, thus she killed Narakasura)

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.

When Krishna asked them what they wanted to do, they all wanted Krishna to marry them.

Krishna married them all at the same auspicious time assuming that many bodies, so they could gain status of married women and live in the society with honor again. Krishna constructed them each a palace with huge gardens ful of colorful flowers, It was impossible to live with each of them so he created 16100 forms of himself so that he could treat them all in the same manner as his 8 wives. Scriptures say that each of them had 10 sons and 1 daughter.

Note: Some stories say that each of 16,100 women were rishis from the past who wanted to be part of Lord's incarnation on earth. Who wanted to live closer to him and witness his life. Upon their prayer to lord vishnu he granted them the boon to be his wives in his next incarnation on earth.

Note: Some stories say 16100 women were Gopis, who did not want to marry any one else but krishna, who thus remained unmarried throughout their lives.

Note: Another theory relates the Krishna, who plays the flute and the lover of music, and his 16,000 wives to the 16,000 ragas or musical modes or passions or affections of the mind in Indian classical music, and their wives - the raginis (female raga). The raginis selected one of these ragas to which to modulate her strains for affecting and securing the heart of Krishna, the amorous and harmonious deity. Krishna who was devoted to music received and enjoyed every variety of modulation, multiplied to the number of 16,000, fancifully personified in the form of the women derived from Bhauma (a name of Narakasura), a five-stringed musical instrument

Note: Mahabharata has the Narakasura version of the story

Note: Some symbolize the number 16,000 to represent 16 Qualities (or arts or vidyas) that krishna had, which is higher than the previous incarnations of vishnu Eg: Rama had 14

Note: Here is another very interesting symbolic meaning: "When a devotee realizes god, God appears to each as his own (krishna manifested 16108 forms to love them  individually), each devotee feels God in his heart as his own lover, he does not reject any one's love. He treats them all equally, loves them all equally (krishna build a palace each for his 16108 wives)"

Note: Srila Prabhupada writes in his book "Krishna Book" 
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna certainly has no business being any one's husband or son or father, because everything belongs to Him and everyone is under His control. He does not require any one's help for His satisfaction. He is atmarama, self-satisfied; He can derive all pleasure by Himself, without any one's help. When the Lord descends to play the part of a human being, He plays a role either as a husband, son, friend or enemy, in full perfection. As such, when He was playing as the perfect husband of the queens, especially of Rukminiji, He enjoyed conjugal love in complete perfection.

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. Lord Krishna is the world-teacher; therefore, even though He had no need for a wife, He expanded Himself into as many forms as He had wives, and He lived with them as an ideal householder, observing the regulative principles, rules and commitments in accordance with the Vedic injunctions and the social laws and customs of society. For each of His 16,108 wives, He simultaneously maintained different palaces, different establishments and different atmospheres. Thus the Lord, although one, exhibited Himself as 16,108 ideal householders

Note: The spiritual significance of each wife having exactly 10 sons and 1 daughter is not known. It probably means that the divine soul has so many off-springs (qualities), probably in that ratio of feminine and masculine qualities

Note: Each of 16108 wives of krishna had golden palaces with huge gardens full of colorful flowers. This is symbolic and means that he who weds the supreme soul (one who attains self-realization) will have all the gold (siddhis, psychic powers), palace, beauty (satisfactions) that he wishes for. It is of importance to know Shakyamuni Buddha symbolized enlightened mind to golden palace. He called liberation as pure land/ golden land. Lord Jesus also used the symbology of wedding when referring to Self-Realization (Parable of the Ten Virgins)

References

  • Mahabharata chapter 130, Udyogaparva has the brief account of krishna rescuing and marrying women from Narakasura's captivity
  • Srila Prabhupada's book 'Kṛiṣhṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead'
  • Wikipidia has a page about krishna's 16000 wives

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