There is an interesting tale of how Lord Krishna got two wives, Jambavati and Satyabhama. This revolves around a single act, by which he got two wives, both of whom were part of his ashta-bharyas, i.e. his eight principal wives.
The main story is about the famous Syamantaka jewel (aka syamantaka-mani). According to this tale, once Lord Surya gave the Syamantaka to Satrajit, a Yadava governor. The jewel had the rare quality of creating a gold pellet eight times it own weight every day. Besides this, wherever the jewel was worshiped, that place would never experience natural calamities of any sort.
When Krishna learnt about the gift, he suggested to Satrajit that he give the gift to King Ugrasena, the King of Mathura for the well-being of the Yadavas at large, but Satrajit refused. Later Satrajit gave it to his brother Prasena, who wore it. Prasena was attacked by a lion, when he was out hunting, and the lion fled away with the jewel. When the lion took it inside the den of Jambavan, Jambavan attacked the lion and took the jewel. This Jambavan was none other than the bear-king who had assisted Lord Rama in the battle against Ravan. (Jambavan was blessed with eternal life and thus was alive during the next incarnation of Vishnu, in the form of Krishna). Jambavan took the jewel and gave it to his son to play with it.
In the meanwhile, Satrajit spread a rumour, that Krishna had killed Prasena and taken away the jewel, since he had not abided by the request of giving it to the King of Mathura. Krishna was angry at the false accusation and decided to absolve himself of the same. He followed the trail of Prasena and discovered his corpse and then followed the trail of the lion into the cave till he came across a child playing with the jewel. When he approached the child, he was challenged to a duel by Jambavan.
Krishna-Jambavan (Pic courtesy Amar Chitra Katha)
Jambavan and Krishna are said to have fought for 28 days, till Jambavan realised that his opponent was no ordinary individual. When he requested to know the true identity of Krishna, he came to know that the individual was none other than his Lord Rama in a different avatar. He fell to his feet and sought apologies, and Krishna too pardoned him. Jambavan then returned the jewel to Krishna and also offered his daughter, Jambavati in marriage to Krishna. Krishna accepted both and left for his kingdom.
In the meanwhile, when Krishna did not return for such a long time, people assumed that he might have died in the jungles, and were worried. But when Krishna entered the city with his new wife, people rejoiced. Krishna then called Satrajit at the court of the King, and told him the entire story. Satrajit was ashamed of his behavior and to atone for his crime, he offered both the jewel as well as his daughter, Satyabhama’s hand in marriage to Krishna. Krishna made it clear, that he only wanted his name to be cleared, and thus he would not accept the jewel, but accepted Satyabhama.
A rather simple story? Could this exist just for giving reasons for Krishna’s marriage to two women? Well this question, in a way intrigued Krishna himself and so he sought the help of Narada, the celestial sage, to clarify, the reasons behind the unnecessary trouble of having to get his name out of an unwanted controversy.
Narada smiled and said that Krishna was ‘punished’ due to a curse on mortals. According to this, once Lord Ganesha had had too many modaks (Steamed Rice-balls with a filling of jaggery and coconut) to eat, so much so, that on his way back to Mount Kailash, he toppled over! His stomach split and all the modaks rolled out. Not willing to let go of them, he collected all of them, put them back inside his tummy and started to go on his way. The Moon was so amused by the sight that it started laughing loudly. Ganesha felt spited, but went on his way. When he reached his parents, and tried to prostrate in front of them, he couldn’t do it properly, due to his pot-belly. Seeing this, once again the Moon laughed.
This time, mother Parvati was angry. She cursed the moon that whosoever looked at the moon would get into trouble. When Moon learnt about the curse, it felt sorry and apologised to Ganesha and Parvati and sought to lessen the curse. Parvati then said that her curse would come into effect only on the fourth day (chaturthi) of every bright fortnight. But the moon found even that too harsh and urged to reconsider the curse. Parvati then changed every chaturthi to Ganesh Chaturthi only, which was the birthday of Ganesh, i.e. the ill-effect would only take place if one saw the moon on the day of Ganesh chaturthi. However, if anybody observed a fast on the other chaturthi’s till moonrise, they would be absolved of all troubles, thus changing the curse to a blessing for others.
Krishna was still perplexed and was wondering just what he had to do with this tale. Narada went on to say, that on the day of Ganesh chaturthi, Krishna had a glimpse of the reflection of the moon in the milk that he took inside the house after milking the cows, and thus he is supposed to have got into trouble!
What is interesting is that Krishna then ordained that anybody who read this tale on the day of the Ganesh Chaturthi would be absolved of the effects of the curse.
An excellent example of a myth justifying a ritual. If Lord Krishna could not avoid such a curse, how could a mortal do so? If just a glimpse of a reflection could land someone into such trouble, what would witnessing the moon directly lead to? Since then, it is a practice to read the tale on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Next we will read about another member of Krishna’s family who had a malevolent effect on the entire community. Keep reading….