Haladhara and His Horn

By Swami B. V. Tripurari

Baladeva bears the plow, which symbolizes his agricultural leaning stemming from his mother’s side, who despite her royal marriage, for all intents and purposes lived as a vaisya throughout Rama’s formative years. It also symbolizes the importance of the guru’s need to till the field of the heart of his or her student before planting the seed of bhakti therein. This preparation is not any kind of puruscarya, or purification process, as much as it is the awakening of faith. The puruscarya for mantra diksa of the Gopala mantra can amount to nothing more than the guru’s grace. And no puruscarya is required for chanting Krishna nama, but sri guru will give us his or her blessing to do so if the requisite faith is awakened. To give this blessing where faith has not arisen is an offense to the divine name. Balarama’s other self in Gaura lila, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, gave the holy name liberally to those who paid the price of their faith alone. So we follow Nityananda Rama in this and make adjustments as needed in consideration of time and circumstance. Rama’s lead has also been followed by Sri Rupa Goswami, who explains that it is faith that grants one eligibility to tread the path of bhakti. Thus sri guru follows Baladeva, the original guru—Krishna in the form of his best servitor.

Sri Balarama also manifested his plow in Vraja during his yamunakarsana lila (dragging the Yamuna) at the time that he returned from Dvaraka to deliver a message to the Vrajavasis. He is also referred to as “he who bears the plow” (Haladhara) in the Vraja lila involving the slaying of Pralambasura. At that time, in spite of using this name to address Balarama—a name that reminds us of his power—Sukadeva depicts him in very human terms, momentarily frightened as Rama was by Pralamba’s astonishing transformation from a cowherd into an asura, tvisadbhutam haladhara isad atrasat. Rama was, that is, completely absorbed in his identity as a gopa, and Pralamba was in the guise of a cowherd. Suddenly Pralamba assumed his actual form, and it was Krishna who revived Rama’s sense of his Godhood, empowering him to deal effectively with the asura. Rama thus remembered how Krishna had killed the woman Putana and the calf Vatsasura, and thereby he came to his senses regarding Pralamba, who appeared as one of Krishna’s friends. Krishna’s remembrance empowered him, and despite his Godly prowess, Balarama leans eternally on the shoulder of his younger brother, Ramanuja, and derives his strength in life from him, his friend and master, for whom in lila he also assumes the role of Krishna’s guru with regard to decorum. This is Haladhara, the maryada purusa of Gopala Krishna.

Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami also mentions Rama with reference to his bearing the plow when he informs us that Nityananda Prabhu is directly Balarama, nityananda gosani saksat haladhara. And when Mahaprabhu accepted the ecstasy of Balarama he also assumed the form of Haladhara.

But for the most part Baladeva does not carry his plow in Vraja, but rather a buffalo horn. Every morning he blows this horn signaling the time for the young cowherds to assemble and awaken Kanai Krishna. Zillions of cowherds stampede to the courtyard of Nanda Baba at the sound of Rama’s horn. While Krishna sends his devotees into a trance with sound of his flute, Rama awakens those in vatsalya, sakhya, and dasya rasas to their nitya seva. Always in the forefront of seva, he is the root of the serving ego in all souls and the seva that underlies the entire lila, bhakta abhiman mula balarama. With his buffalo horn, he leads the world of divine service and with his plow he prepares the field of our heart where the seed of that seva is first planted.

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7 Responses to Haladhara and His Horn

  1. Bhakti-rasa dasi

    Thank you for this wonderful meditation

  2. Beautiful essay!! I’m curious about Haladhara’s mother, Rohini. How is she related to agriculture? And is there any description anywhere of Baladeva actually plowing a field… You sort of get that he went cowherding with the gopas.. Herding and farming are two distinct occupations.

    • The constellation Rohini presides over agriculture and is depicted as a red cow. Rohini devi lived in the Vraja and is for all intents and purposes a Vrajavasi, although a wife of Vasudeva and (according to some born) of Pradeep and Sunanda. Balarama is famous for using his plow to curb the pride of the Yamuna.

  3. I see that the other direct use of “Haladhara” in CC is in the context of the Ratha Yatra, where Jagannath and Haldadhara are said to have slowed their movement in order to watch Mahaprabhu dance. Nice touch.

  4. Haladar also famously uses his plough to curb the pride of the Kauravas after they had defeated Samba when Samba had stolen Duryodanas daughter. It is said he dragged Hastinipur towards the Ganges using only his plough.

  5. udyac-chubhrAMzu koTi dyuti nikara tiraskAra-kAryujjvala zrIr
    durvAroddAma dhAma prakara ripu ghaTonmAda vidhvaMsi gandhaH
    snehAd apyunnimeSaM nijam anujam ito’raNya-bhUmau sva-vItam
    tad viryajJo’pi yo na kSaNam upanayate staumi taM dhenukArim

    The splendour of Lord Balarama’s transcendental form eclipses many millions of glistening rising moons, and the slightest scent of His boundless strength is sufficient to destroy many armies of demons. Although He knows the supernatural power of his younger brother, Krsna, still, out of love for Him, He never leaves Him alone in the forest for even a moment. I offer my prayers to Lord Balarama, the enemy of Dhenukasura.

    Sri Vraja-vilasa-stava, text 12
    Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami

  6. Really nice to hear about and remember Nityananda-Balaram. Thank you so much, and please accept my grateful obeisances.

    In this material world, people accept the body as the self. Of course the body is only our vehicle. And in the developed nations people like to present themselves in terms of the car or truck that they drive. Where I live, Southwest new Mexico, it’s all about trucks and dogs. A self-respecting truck owner has to keep “the best friend” in the back of the truck where he can bark and growl at everyone, on the road or in the parking lot.

    And then there’s the horn. For people driving cars and trucks, the horn is an important way of saying, “Heads up, everyone! It’s me in my truck. Don’t slow me down. I’m a very important person, so get out of my way!”

    But Balaram’s horn has a different timbre. It’s more like, “Devotional service to Krishna is over here! Come and get it!” And that’s the horn of the Guru. The Guru is blowing Balaram’s horn. And he stands his ground. He’s got to be pretty heavy, ’cause there’s a lot of traffic going in the other direction.

    So we come by to check out what’s this horn all about. And that’s when he brings out his plough. Lots of weeds and stones, sand and dirt in this ol’ heart of mine. And knots too. Misconceptions tied in real good. “Sadhu” also means “to cut”, slice right through them old knots. Well, anything a knife can do, that old plough can do it just as well. Levels the playing field, so to speak, so we all know where we stand.

    So the guru is a farmer. And he is preparing the terrain of the heart, our hearts, so he can plant the seed of devotion, bhakti lata bhija, in our hearts. He’s the external manifestation of Lord Balaram.

    And we have all these demons inside us, Pralambasura, desires for adoration, distinction and profit. And Dhenukasura, blind attachment to form and the way things are packaged, while we overlook the content. So the guru has to wield that plough and drag it through our hearts. Then he says with a grin, “Doesn’t that feel better?”

    It’s a full time job, this guru vocation. That truck that we drive can’t get us to Krishna Loka. Even with the big horn and “the best friend” barking in the back. The jouney of a life time. But the guru is a heavy dude. That plough is no joke. If he could pull the Yamuna in his direction with it, and get Her to surrender, pulling us Home, back to Godhead – he can do that too. He’s always tooting on that horn to call us in. We just have to keep our ears open.

    All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!

    Hare Krishna! Ishan das

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