Many of us know Sri Krishna Janmastami, but not all of us know that just seven days before Janmastami comes the appearance day of Lord Balaram, the transcendental elder brother of Lord Krishna. It is the full moon day of the Shravana month. Lord Balaram’s appearance day, Balaram Purnima, also known as Balaram Jayanti, is celebrated in all Krishna and Vishnu temples, including in the temples of ISKCON, all over the world. This celebration is particularly important to the Dauji temple in Vrindavan, where Sri Balaram and Srimati Revati (the consort of Balarama) reside in Their nitya-lila, or eternal pastimes. Whenever Lord Krishna appears in any part of the universe, Lord Balaram also appears to assist Him.
Generally people have vague ideas about Lord Krishna and His incarnations. Lord Balaram is Lord Krishna’s very first expansion. It is important that we understand His transcendental position in the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the cosmic manifestation.
In the Sri Chaitanya charitamrita, Srila Prabhupada gives us the following information on Lord Balaram.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is the fountainhead of all incarnations. Lord Balaram is His second body.
“Lord Sri Krishna, the absolute Personality of Godhead, is the primeval Lord, the original form of Godhead, and His first expansion is Sri Balaram. The Personality of Godhead can expand Himself in innumerable forms. The forms that have unlimited potency are called svamsha, and forms that have limited potencies (the living entities) are called vibhinnamsha
“These two are one and the same identity. They differ only in form. Lord Balaram is the first bodily expansion of Krishna, and He assists in Lord Krishna’s transcendental pastimes.
“Balaram is a svamsha expansion of the Lord, and therefore there is no difference in potency between Krishna and Balaram. The only difference is in Their bodily structure. As the first expansion of Godhead, Balaram is the chief Deity among the first quadruple forms, and He is the foremost assistant of Sri Krishna in His transcendental activities.
“Lord Balaram is the original Sankashan. He assumes five other forms to serve Lord Krishna. He Himself helps in the pastimes of Lord Krishna, and He does the work of creation in four other forms. He executes the orders of Lord Krishna in the work of creation, and in the form of Lord Shesha He serves Krishna in various ways.
“According to expert opinion, Balaram, as the chief of the original quadruple forms, is also the original Sankarshan. Balaräma, the first expansion of Krishna, expands Himself in five forms: (1) Maha-Sankarshan, (2) Karanodakashayi Vishnu, (3) Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, (4) Ksirodakashayi Vishnu, and (5) Shesha. These five plenary portions are responsible for both the spiritual and material cosmic manifestations. In these five forms Lord Balaram assists Lord Krishna in His activities. The first four of these forms are responsible for the cosmic manifestations, whereas Lord Shesha is responsible for personal service to the Lord. Shesha is called Ananta, or unlimited, because He assists the Personality of Godhead in His unlimited expansions by performing an unlimited variety of services. Sri Balaram is the servitor Godhead who serves Lord Krishna in all affairs of existence and knowledge. Lord Nityananda Prabhu, who is the same servitor Godhead, Balaram, performs the same service to Lord Gauranga by constant association.
“That original Lord Krishna appeared in Navadvip as Lord Caitanya, and Balarama appeared with Him as Lord Nityänanda. In all the forms He tastes the transcendental bliss of serving Krishna. That same Balaram is Lord Nityananda, the companion of Lord Gaura sundara.””