How Krishna died and what happened to his wives?

Written by Sulaiman Razvi

As you may know Krishna was an avatar of Vishnu who took birth on earth in human form. So a human would have a limited life and would die someday. Krishna grew old and died too, But in an unnatural way. A hunter named Jara shot arrow on Krishna’s leg. And the story later may have been twisted to show that it was Krishna himself who wanted it. Krishna was actually cursed,

Vishnu Purana 5.37. Respecting the words of the Brahman, the imprecation of Durvásas, the illustrious Krishńa sat engaged in thought, resting his foot upon his knee. Then came there a hunter, named Jará, whose arrow was tipped with a blade made of the piece of iron of the club, which had not been reduced to powder; and beholding from a distance the foot of Krishńa, he mistook it for part of a deer, and shooting his arrow, lodged it in the sole. Approaching his mark, he saw the four-armed king, and, falling at his feet, repeatedly besought his forgiveness, exclaiming, “I have done this deed unwittingly, thinking I was aiming at a deer! Have pity upon me, who am consumed by my crime; for thou art able to consume me!” Bhagavat replied, “Fear not thou in the least. Go, hunter, through my favour, to heaven, the abode of the gods.” As soon as he had thus spoken, a celestial car appeared, and the hunter, ascending it, forthwith proceeded to heaven. Then the illustrious Krishńa, having united himself with his own pure, spiritual, inexhaustible, inconceivable, unborn, undecaying, imperishable, and universal spirit, which is one with Vásudeva, abandoned his mortal body and the condition of the threefold qualities.

As per Skanda Purana II.ii.12.118 The hunter shot arrow which pierced the heart of Krishna.

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.1.23-25 “The fish was caught in the ocean along with other fish in a fishermen’s net. The iron lump in the fish’s stomach was taken by the hunter Jarā, who fixed it as an arrowhead at the end of his shaft. Knowing fully the significance of all these events, the Supreme Lord, though capable of reversing the brāhmaṇas’ curse, did not wish to do so. Rather, in His form of time, He gladly sanctioned the events.” Tr. Swami Prabhupada

What happened to his wives, family and Balrama?

As per Devi Bhagavatam, Balrama died too, and his city Dvaraka drowned in ocean,

Devi Bhagavatam 2.28.1-23 “…The high-souled descendants of Yadu, intoxicated by drinking wine, fought against each other and were extirpated in the presence of Krisna and Balarâm. Balarâm then quitted his mortal coil; the lotus-eyed Bhagavân Krisna quitted his life, struck by the arrows of a hunter, to pay
respect to a Brâhmin’s curse
. Vasudeva heard of Hari’s quitting his mortal coil, and meditated the Goddess of the Universe within his heart and left his holy life. Arjuna became very sorry; he went to Prabhâsa and performed the funeral obsequies of all duly. Seeing the dead body of Hari, Arjuna collected fuel and burnt his body together with his eight principal wives; he burnt also Balarâm’s body with that of his wife Revatî. Arjuna, then, went to the Dvârakâ city and removed all the inhabitants of the city when the whole Dwârkâ city of Vâsudeva was drowned in the waters of the ocean. While Arjuna was taking all the persons with him after getting out of Dwârkâ, he felt himself very weak on the way; and therefore a band of robbers, known by the name of Âbhîras plundered all the wealth and all the wives of Krisna. Arjuna, of indomitable valour, after his arrival at Indraprastha made Vajra, Aniruddha’s son, the king of the place…” Tr. Swami Vijnananda

Eight wives of Krishna immolated themselves into Krishna’s pyre and other 16100 wives were abducted by bandits

Vishnu Purana 5.38 The 8 queens of Krishna, who have been named, with Rukmini at their head, embraced the body of Hari, and entered the funeral fire. Revati also embracing the corpse of Rama, entered the blazing pile, which was cool to her, happy in contact with her lord. Hearing these events, Ugrasena and Anakadundubhi, with Devaki and Rohini, committed themselves to the flames.

Linga Purana section 1.69.86-87 “Krsna abandoned the human form under the pretext of the arrow of the hunter Jaraka, and after blessing that hunter he returned to heaven. Due to the curse of Astavakra as also due to his own Maya (power) the wives of lord Krsna were abducted by thieves…” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri

Devi Bhagavatam 4.25.58-61 “The good-looking S’amkara saying these words remained silent; then S’rî Krisna bowed down at the feet of Girijâ, the wife of S’amkara. Then the Goddess Pârvatî addressed repeatedly to Vâsudeva and said:– O mighty armed! O Krisna! O best of human beings! You will be the typical exemplary householder; (all people will try to follow you). When one hundred years will pass away, your race will be extinct, due to the curse of the Brâhmana and Gândhâri. Your sons and the other Yâdavas will lose their senses on drinking liquor; they will kill each other in the battle field and thus will be extirpated. [63-64] You should know that there can be no remedy to what will inevitably come to pass; therefore no one is to grieve for them; this is all along my view. O Madhusûdana! After Your death, due to the curse of Astâvakra Muni, your wives will be forcibly stolen away by indomitable robbers. There is no doubt in this.” Tr. Swami Vijnananda

These verses says that due to the curse Krishna was shot dead by the hunter and his wives were abducted by robbers. It would’ve been acceptable if Krishna took the curse on himself and freed his wives from the curse. His inability to remove the curse is shown in these verses as Krishna respected the curse of the Brahmin and accepted it. But as per Padma Purana version, it was Krishna who cursed his wives after they were enamored of their step son Samba,

Padma Purana 1.23.74b-87a “The Lord said: O Brahman, born from the lotus, in the same city there will be sixteen thousand wives of Vasudeva. Krsna, the universal soul, having eyes like those of a deer, the dignified scion of Yadu family, who had put the garland of Malati flowers on his head, and being adorned with his praiseworthy wives, will enjoy with them in a garden rich with flowers, and situated on the bank of a lake, in the spring season abounding in cuckoos and swarms of bees. Samba, Jambavatl’s son, adorned with all (kinds of ornaments), going along with the path nearby, really of the form of Cupid, will be longingly seen by the ladies and passion will be aroused in the hearts of them who will be tormented by the arrows of Cupid. He, the lord of the world, the omniscient master, having perceived it with his eye of contemplation, will say to them: “The evil being will kidnap you, since you have thus entertained the passion of love (for Samba) in my presence.” Then the revered lord, the cause of beings, the holder of the bow made of horn, being propitiated (by the ladies) tormented with the curse, will say this: “(You will observe) the vow, beneficial in the future, which sage Dalbhya, emancipator of the fishermen living in the north and of an unlimited (generosity of) mind will tell you.” Saying so and leaving them, the lord vanished. Then after a (long) time when the burden (on the earth as a result of the great Bharatawar) will be lightened and when the fight with clubs (among the Yadavas) will be over, when Kesava will have come back to the heaven, when the entire Yadu-family will be no more, when even Arjuna will be defeated by the thieves, when Krsna’s wives will be kidnapped and will be enjoyed by the fishermen for a hundred million years and when they will be (thus) tormented, a devout soul, Dalbhya by name, with great penance (to his credit) will come there.”