Satyabhama – The warrior wife of Lord Krishna
Diwali is celebrated as a Five day festival across major parts of India and each day has a different story behind it. One Diwali story in particular strikes out loud – Narakchaturdashi – the story of Krishna and his wife Satyabhama killing the demon Narakasura. This story not just celebrates the usual victory of good over evil but of mutual respect, understanding of the wife and husband shows how a victory and perfect partnership can be achieved in marriage when there is a gender equality in relationship. Let us revisit their relationship and learn more about the warrior wife of Lord Krishna, Satyabhama on this day as the world celebrates the Diwali.
Satyabhama is the only child of the Yadava chief Satrajit. Even though at the time it was more common to raise boys in martial arts and athletic pursuits Satybhama was trained to be a warrior by her father. Satyabhama is believed to be an Avatar or incarnation of Bhudevi.
Satrajit was the owner of the Shamantaka jewel. Satrajit, secured the jewel from Surya and therefore never wanted to part with it even once when Krishna, asked for it he said that the jewel would be safe with him. After some time, Prasena, the brother of Satrajit went out hunting wearing the jewel but was killed by a lion. Then Jambavan (Jamvanta,) killed the lion and gave the jewel to his son to play with it. When Prasena did not return, Satrajit wrongly blamed Krishna for killing Prasena for the sake of the jewel.
Krishna to prove himself innocent set out in search of the jewel and found it in Jambavan`s cave, with his child. Jambavan attacked Krishna thinking him to be a trespasser who had come to take away the jewel. Both of them fought for continuous twenty eight days. At last Jambavan`s whole body was horribly wounded from the thrashing of Krishna`s fists. Jambavan recognised Krishna as the Avatar of Lord Vishnu and surrenders. Jambavan was remorseful and gave Krishna the jewel.
Then Krishna returned the jewel to Satrajit, who also repented for his allegation. He offered Krishna the jewel and also wanted Krishna to marry his daughter Satyabhama . Krishna accepted Satyabhama`s hand but denied from accepting the jewel, Satyabhama became the third wife of Krishna.
Satyabhama was haughty and high-spirited and had very little interest in men until she met Krishna. Unlike his other wives who were satisfied to stay at home, Satyabhama demanded to accompany Krishna as a help mate in all fields, including warfare, for which her father had given her ample training. Krishna admired her enough as to never say ‘no’ to her.
The Story of Satyabhama and Narakasura
The story goes that it was Satyabhama who with her husband, Krishna, killed the demon king Narkasura with whom this day is associated with. He was the demon son of Vishnu’s boar avatar Varaha and the earth-goddess Bhudevi. As the unrivalled emperor of Pragjyotishpur, Narakrasura brought all the kingdoms on earth under his sway, capturing 16,000 princesses of defeated kingdoms, and imprisoning them at Audaka atop the mountain Maniparvata, guarded by Mura, the five-headed demon and his ten sons.
Narakasura was blessed by Lord Brahma that he would be unbeatable and would die only in the hands of his mother. Narakasura used this power of immortality and gradually became a dictator. He once stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and seized some of her territory. Aditi was a relative of Satyabhama. Satyabhama was believed to be an incarnation of Bhudevi and Bhudevi was Narakasura’s mother.
An indignant Satyabhama readily agreed and sought her husband as an ally. Krishna who was aware that Narakasura as per the boon by Brahma, could only be killed by his ‘mother’ Bhumidevi, and that his wife was an avatar of Bhudevi, decides to help Satyabhama as her charioteer in her battle against Narakasura. As promised to the Devas and Aditi, Krishna attacked the impregnable fortress at Pragjyotisha, riding his mount Garuda with wife Satyabhama.
A great war was fought where Narakasura attacked Krishna and rendered him unconscious. A livid Satyabhama retaliates and with all her fury, attacks and kills Narakasura. As an incarnation of Bhudevi and thus, Narakasura’s mother, she was able to rid the earth of his terrors, while honouring Brahma’s boon. As he lay dying, Narakasura begged his mother for a blessing: that the world remember him with joy, not hate. His mother, Bhudevi as Satyabhama agrees and announces that this day of his death be celebrated, never mourned, as a day of joy and celebration!
Satyabhama not just wins the war, but kills Narakasura, recovers the precious earrings and frees the 16,000 girls who later married Krishna in a gesture of retrieving lost honour and conquered territories.
But what this day celebrates is equality in marriage, the day when a man and woman come together to fight a battle and win a war. It is support which is celebrated, not subservience, the day commemorating love and trust in each other with the promise to assist one another.