Who is Lord Balarama?
Lord Balarama was incarnations of Lord Krishna glorified in the Vedic Puranas and Itihasas. Krishna is the spiritually manifest Supreme Person, whose internal spiritual energy is the all-pervading Brahman. He is glorified as Narayana, Vasudeva, Mahavishnu, Hari, Vishnu, and many other names. Shiva and Brahma are said to be His qualitative expansions. He is the Supreme Lord, the Lord of all universes. Everything emanates from Him and dissolves back in Him. He is the cause of creation, maintenance, and dissolution of everything and every living entity. His chatur-vyuha
(four-handed) expansions are Vasudeva, Sankarsana; Pradyumna; and Aniruddha. The Bhagavatam (12.11.21) says,
vasudevah Sankarsanah pradyumnah purushah svayam aniruddha iti brahman murtir vyuho abhidhiyate
“O brahmana (saint) Shaunaka, the quadruple primary expansions of Pususha (Supreme Soul Narayana or Krshna) are Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha.”
The primary expansion of Krishna is said to Sankarsana, the infinite snake Ananta on which the Lord rests. Sankarsana beholds all universes and maintains everything united. The descended form of Sankarsana is Lord Balarama, who appeared as the elder brother of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna and Sankarsana are originally one, although they appear different to the external eye. Lord Balarama assists Lord Krishna in His glorious transcendental lilas. Lord Balarama appeared as the younger brother of Lord Ramachandra – as Sri Lakshmana- by the end of treta-yuga and He appeared as Nityananda Prabhu to distribute the mercy of Krishna to people with Caitanya Mahaprabhu five hundred years ago.
Once when the four Kumaras visited the bottom of the universe, they found Lord Sankarsana as a gigantic snake with numerous hoods. The Lord was seen in deep meditation beholding innumerable universes on His head. Since He holds everything together, He is called Sankarsana, the binder who unites all. Lord Shiva always meditates Lord Sankarsana as the Bhagavatam (5.17.16) tells,
murtim prakrtim-atmanah Sankarsana-samjnam- atma samadhi-rupena sannidhapyaitad-abhigrnan bhava upadhavati
“Lord Shiva, served by tens of billions of maid servants of Goddess Bhavani (in Ilavrta-varsha), deeply meditates, chants and worships one of the four expansions of the Supreme Lord known as Sankarsana in the predominant quality of ignorance.”
At the time of destruction, it is said that the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarsana would dissolve all the worldly manifestations at the end of the universe. Therefore, Sankarsana helps Lord Krshna and causes the union and destruction of all universal manifestations. That Sankarsana appeared as Balarama and any devotee who seeks Krishna should first seek His mercy to be blessed with proper bhakti (devotion) to Lord Krishna.