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Lord Krishna is said to have had 16108 wives. While he had eight principle wives, known as the Ashtabharayas, there were other sixteen thousand one hundred more who are believed to have been the queens of Dwarka. Well, it was the utter devotion, penance and worship that they had offered to Lord Krishna, which compelled him to have all of many as his wives.
While the love of Radha and Krishna inspires many, his having more than sixteen thousand wives also raises a question in the minds of his devotees. Let us explore the real story behind Krishna having so many wives.
The eight principle wives of Krishna were known as Ashtabharayas. They were Rukmani, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravrinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra, and Lakshana. These are the main consorts of Lord Krishna. Let us first know about these principle wives or Ashtabharyas.
Rukmani was the daughter of Bhishmaka. He wanted to get her married to Shishupal. However, Rukmani was in love with Krishna. When her father Bhishmaka forcefully tried to marry her to Shishupal, she prayed to Krishna to rescue and marry her. Lord Krishna, secretly eloped with her and married her in Dwarka, making her his first wife.
A story goes that Satyabhama, in her previous life, had earned a place in Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu, through her deep penance and meditation. She wanted to stay with him in all her lives. Lord Vishnu, impressed by her devotion, granted her the wish to become his wife when he came as Krishna on the earth.
Jambavati was the third wife of Lord Krishna. She was the daughter of Jambavan. Once the king Jambavan indulged in a battle with Lord Krishna due to a misunderstanding. He had no idea that this man was actually the incarnation of Lord Vishnu on earth. When he kept fighting with him for about a month, he realized that the man was a divine incarnation. Regretting for his mistake, he asked for pardon, and gifted Lord Krishna the famous Syamantka jewel. Along with that, he also asked him to marry his daughter, Jamabavati. Krishna agreed, married the girl and took her to Dwarka where his other wives lived.
Kalindi is believed to be the daughter of Lord Sun. Once when Lord Krishna, along with Arjuna, had gone to bathe in the river Yamuna, he came across this girl who lived alone, in that forest. Lord Krishna inquired about her and came to know that she is his deep devotee and wanted to marry him.
She lived in the forest alone, so that she could meditate where nobody would disturb her. Impressed by the pure devotion, he made her his queen by marrying her.
Mitravrinda was the sister of Avanti kings. These brothers wanted to marry her to the Kouravas, so that they could acquire the kingdom and become more powerful. However, the girl was in love with Sri Krishna. Lord Krishna, in order to fulfill the wish of this another devotee, abducted and married her too.
Nagnajiti was the daughter of Nagnajit, the king of Kouasla. He had taken a vow that he would marry his daughter to the man who could control his seven bulls. When no prince could do so, Krishna came to know this and reached Kousala. He tamed all the seven bulls who had almost mauled the other princes. This is how he married Nagnajit's daughter, Nagnajiti.
Bhadra was the daughter of Lord Surya and Chaya. Bhadra also was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and had wished him to be her husband. To fulfill her wish, Lord Krishna married her too, making her the seventh of the Asthabharayas.
There was an archery competition held between many masters of archery, including Arjuna and Duryodhana. Krishna defeated all of them and he was asked to accept Lakshana as his wife. Hence, he married her, accepting her as the eighth of the queens of Dwarka.
Apart from these five principle queens, Lord Krishna had 16100 more wives, as stated in the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana. The story that goes behind this is as follows.
There was a demon known as Narakasura. He was the king of Pragjyotisha and the son of Vishnu's Boar Avatar, Varaha with Bhumi Devi. He was so powerful, that he acquired all the three Lokas, the Prithvi, Aakash and the Patala Loka. On the earth, he captured the 16100 daughters of a king. He even stole the earrings of Lord Indra's mother, and in the underworld, he took away Lord Varuna's umbrella.
Seeing all this, Lord Indra approached Lord Krishna to save the earth. Lord Krishna, then along with his wife Satyabhama, flew to the mountain where the king lived and where the daughters too had been made captive. He defeated the demon king and rescued all the princesses.
Now the problem was that these girls were afraid of the curses that the society would afflict on them. As they had been under the captivity of a demon and it would be considered that they had become impure. Therefore, they asked Lord Krishna to marry them. Krishna agreed and gave them a life of dignity.
Some texts say that these were the daughters of famous kings, sages or even demons, and that they had worshiped Krishna in their previous births. He, therefore, blessed them to be his wives.
This is how Lord Krishna is, he blesses everyone who worships him with dedication. He treats all of his devotees equally and grants the wishes of all.