15 Commandments of Moses & 16k wives of Krishna




Anyone reading Bhagavat Purana, with blind devotion, has no reason to suspect existence of 16k wives of Sri Krishna.

However picture gets murky, yet clear, as one goes backwards in time to Harivamasha, the khila parva of Mahabharata and then Mahabharata itself.

The ride takes us from 16k to 14k to many wives of Krishna.  However the ride won’t stop there.  It would take us back in further antiquity, even before the time of Krishna.

This loss in number in the wives of Krishna, is not unlike Moses losing five of the 15 commandments in Mel brook’s ‘History of the world’.

We have something similar occurring in the story of 16K wives of Krishna, except in a reverse order.

Bhagavat Purana

Bhagavat  Purana (~1650 BCE), late work of the 3 works of Bhagavat purana, Harivamsha (sometime after Mahabharata but before Bhagvat Purana) and Mahabharata (~5480 BCE), has at least 11 instances (by my count) where 16k wives of Krishna are mentioned.

I would encourage all readers to read corresponding narration from Srimad Bhagavat Purana, in the original, to comprehend extent of embellishments and exaggerations.

When I started reading Bhagavat Purana, sometime in 1988 CE, somehow 16k did not make sense to me, however I had nothing more to go by, other than rationalizing this as a typical embellishment of ancient literature, in this case referring to many wives of Krishna.

All the references to 16k wives of Krishna, at the beginning of this blog article, are from Bhagavat Purana.

Sometime in early 90’s I made a conjecture/prediction that  this reference of 16k is due to two reasons:

(1) ‘Sahastra’ as referring to ‘many’

(2) And ‘Shodash’ as referring to ‘young girls’ or ‘young women’

(3) And thus together, referring to ‘many young girls’, which in later times might have been distorted, due to transcription or other errors, and led to current myth of ’16k wives of Krishna’.

I was disappointed, however, to find no distinct evidence, within Bhagavat Purana, that would allude to ‘many’ and ‘young girls’.


Harivamsha is considered a Khila Parva (appendix) of Mahabharata, however, it is completely removed from Mahabharata, in the rigor and realistic emphasis of narration’.  Thus, Harivamsha is much closer to ‘Purana’ literature rather than closer to ‘Itihas’ literature such as Mahabharata or Ramayana.

Fortunately, amidst embellishments and exaggeration, Harivamsha preserves for us evidence of this ’embellishments and exaggeration’ in making (in situ)!

It tells us that while Narakasur did have many girls of Gandharvas and Devas in his possession, Narakasur had not tortured them in any way.  Rather these young girls were living in that beautiful place, in happiness.  They also lived with austerity.

Harivamsha, Vishnu Parva 65:24-27

Harivamsha 65 3

Harivamsha 65 4

Harivamsha 65 5

Harivamsha also refers to their number (although post Narakasur narration, and in the context of their participation at a festival near Dwarka) as 16k.

Harivamsha, Vishnu Parva 65:7

Harivamsha 65 2

However, another reference (in the context of Narakasur narration), Harivamsha refers to these maidens as equal to 14k.

The original verse is worth quoting…

Harivamsha,Vishnu Parva 63:13

Harivamsha Vishnu parva 63 2

Not only the original verse, but it’s ‘wrong’ translation (from GP edition, in Hindi) is also worth quoting …

The translator has translated 14k as 16k.  In reality, the number mentioned is 14121.

Harivamsha Vishnu parva 63

It is my speculation that originally these maidens were referred to as  ‘many (sahastra)’ ‘Young (14 or 16 year old)’ girls, not unlike Sanskrit verses referring to young girls as ‘Shodasha’.  In later times, someone modified and combined ‘young (14 or 16)’ with ‘many (sahastra)’ to turn them into 16000 or 14000!

Do note that  even the Harivamsha verse that refers to 14k is translated by GP translator as 16k.

This is another instance and evidence of how, once accepted, even an exaggeration or embellishment loses its original character and embellishment/exaggeration is treated as factual, to an extent, where obvious words are wrongly translated per newly established notion.


Mahabharata mentions two different instances where story of Narakasur is mentioned.

In this first instance, it confirms my conjecture that the story simply referred to ‘many’ girls or women kept in captivity by Narakasur.

(Version -1)

While Udyoga Parva (GP 130:43-44) mentions Krishna killing Narakasur, freeing up many girls and eventually marrying them……

Naraka MB Udyoga 130-43

Naraka MB Udyoga 130-44

(Version -2)

In this second instance, the narration removes any connection of Narakasur with Krishna.

Vana Parva (GP 142:12-28)) refers to Vishnu killing Narakasur and sage Lomash showing Pandavas the hill that was made up of bones of Narakasur.  Sage Lomash refers to incident of Vishnu killing Narkasur as an incident of the past/antiquity, with  respect to the time of Mahabharata and thus of Krishna.

Naraka MB Vana 1

Naraka MB Vana 2

This may mean that the story of Narakasur, with additional embellishments and exaggerations, were added in Harivamsha, after Krishna’s deification and when he was closely identified with Vishnu.  Bhagavat Purana, it appears, began with this seedling from Harivamsha, and expanded the story further with its own imagination by dropping original references to Vishnu and replacing them, ostensibly, with Krishna.

Added on 25 October 2017

Ami Ganatra brought to my attention, the error in my translation of Harivamsha reference.

She has asked, earlier…

“HIghly likely your theory is apt. One small point – rather query , the quote which says chaturdash shastrani , in Harivamsa – actually read – chaturdash sahstrani, ekvimshat – shatAni cha – isn’t that 14000 + 2100 – which actually ~16000?”

and she consulted ‘Sanskrit’ experts and came back with this…

“checked with a sanskrit expert friend – he said 2100. So per that harivamsa is consistent about the number. In any case, i wouldn’t be too hung up on it. Many girls is what I would take that to mean.  121 would be एकविंशत्यधिकशत or एकविंशत्युत्तरशत; and 1016 would be षोडशोत्तरसहस्रम्”

Not being too hung up about anything is a good thing.  She was gracious in her response, that allowed me a soft landing. And she did not miss the bigger point of ’16K vs. many’.

Still an error is what it is/was (on my part).  All the progress of humanity has come from recognition of errors (small and large, and especially those crucial ‘small’ errors.  If you are not convinced, please read of all revolutionary discoveries and history behind them.

I want to sincerely thank Ami Ganatra for her deep curiosity, attention to details and determination to follow it up.

It is possible for me to edit my errors in the original blog note above.  I prefer to not do it for various reasons. As such, this remains by practice, as much as possible.  It is important for future researchers to not only read about glorious successes of past researchers but also their failures or errors.  Only through the lethal combinations of these two experiences and awareness, great discoveries of future would occur.





5 thoughts on “15 Commandments of Moses & 16k wives of Krishna

  1. If the word used was षोडशा / षोडशी चतुर्दशा / चतुर्दशी then it could have been interpreted as young girl. Word as used means 16 and 14 only. One must respect Sanskrit Grammar but you show scant respect for it..

    • Your ‘literal’ criticism is right on the money and to that extent fair.

      On the other hand,what you may want to consider is that you fail to understand (or refuse to accept) the well known phenomenon of people interpreting words based on their a priori assumption/agenda. And this in turn make them change the original word into something that fits their assumption (thus for example from original षोडशा to numerical 16 and ‘Sahasra meaning ‘many’ to literally ‘thousands’.

      This a priori assumptions then lead to transliteration, transcription, transposition, translation, etc. errors. The new manuscripts takes its own force and modified words can become the norm, primarily, due to presence of popular a priori assumptions.

      Prof. Rajendra Gupta has demonstrated few examples of this phenomenon to me, in the past. In fact I encouraged him to write about this with multiple illustrations. I hope he considers my request seriously.

      Keeping aside my scant regard for sanskrit grammer, do you have any critical thoughts on my conjecture that ‘many young girls/women’ turned into 14k or 16K ladies, in later times? Because that is the crux of this specific blog.

      If you insist that ‘sanskrit grammer’ should be blindly followed, and thus Krishna (or was it Vishnu) indeed married 16K (or was it 14K) ladies, you have enough of company in that camp.

      For my part, I could see the embellishments in these descriptions and thus wanted to go few levels down to see if there was a plausibility of alternate explanations.

  2. ‘I’ am NOT saying that Krishna freed and then married 16K or 14 K girls. In fact, I always believed that what Krishna or Vishnu did was to free whatever women were held in bondage by Narakasura (if any such event happened). I have also read a recent marathi book which calls narakasura a woman trafficker and Krishna destroyed his set-up. I also have no quarrel with them being young women or girls. I only say that the word used in the Text means sixteen thousand and not ‘sixteen years old’. The person who wrote the text definitely meant sixteen thousand women and not ‘several 16 year old women’
    . Without assigning a different meaning to the word, one can always say that this is a gross exaggeration and what could have happened is that Narakasura was holding several women in bondage and Krishna freed them. If the text had said 6 thousand, would you say it meant 6 year old?

    • And I never said that the word used in the references I quoted in this blog article (either from Bhagavat Purana or Harivamsha) meant 16 or 14 years old.

      Rather, it is my conjecture that originally the person who wrote/documented it would have simply meant ‘Many young girls/ladies’ which later on turned into via embellishments (and/or translation/transcription/transliteration/transposition errors) into ‘literal’ ‘Sixteen thousand girls/ladies’.

      The fact that I found a reference in Harivamsha that stated ‘Fourteen thousand girls/ladies’ was evidence in support of my conjecture.

      If someone says that 14K or 16K, is simply a gross exaggeration, that is fine. In fact many (including myself and many I know) understood it that way.

      Not unlike a thief, no matter how careful, One tends to leave his/her footprints behind, and I was hoping that there was some evidence left somewhere to this twist by whoever made this alleged change from ‘many young girls/ladies’ to ‘Sixteen thousand girls/ladies’ of Krishna and I wanted to see if I could find it.

      By luck, I found such footprints in this description of Harivamsha where it stated ’14 thousand girls/ladies’.

      Therefore, I wanted to note this small discovery of mine for the benefit of future researchers and also for the benefit of Indian history enthusiasts and others.


      “What would I have said if the text had said 6 thousand?”

      I don’t know what I would have said. But don’t you think the question is redundant!

      To wit,

      What I would have said about AV observation, that I was frantically trying to test it empirically for more than 15 years and failed repeatedly, until 8 May 2009 CE, when I succeeded……if I had failed to validate it empirically?

      My answer is , “I don’t know”.

      However, one thing is for sure. I would not have taken the path of still dogmatically pushing some psychological or metaphysical explanation for AV observation.

      I would have certainly felt disappointed.

      Hope this helps.

      Interestingly, even many scientific minded researchers also asked similar (although redundant..as far as I am concerned) question in the context of discoveries of planet ‘Uranus’ and ‘Neptune’.

      The perturbations in the orbit/positions of Saturn (and I think, Jupiter) could not be explained by Newton’s laws of gravity and thus some speculated that there might be additional planets beyond Saturn.

      Based on Newton’s laws, researchers could even predict their positions, orbital period and mass(es). As we all know, these planets were eventually discovered.

      In this context (you may read about it more via books on Cosmology, google search, writings of Karl Popper and many others) few researchers (not familiar with process of scientific investigation) had wondered.. what would have happened if these planets were not discovered and/or were simply not there!

      The answer is: If that had indeed happened (i.e. these planets simply did not exist), then the problem of perturbation of Saturn/Jupiter would have remained unsolved and new courageous researchers would have suggested alternate testable theories to explain this perturbation.

      Their success or failure would have determined the future progress of cosmology.

      (This is not any different than the stalemate currently experienced in bringing QM and Cosmological theories together via various theories including ‘string theories’ and others.)

  3. In my view, the latter part of the story is far more important. After killing Narakasura and freeing the enslaved women, Krishna did the most noble thing, of taking over the responsibility of their livelihood. If he had not done that, where the women would have found shelter? Recently, in Nigeria, Boko Haram abducted 300 school girls. Nigerian Govt. were not able to free them at one go. If they had, where was a Krishna in Nigeria to take care of the unfortunate girls? One can also recollect the days of India-Pakistan partition. There has been no second Krishna anywhere in the world though there is no shortage of Narakasuras.

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