RkSAs : Jambavantha (jAmbavAn, jAmbavanta)

Jambavantha was a warrior hero who appears in stories of all three important heroes of the ancient times, Indra, Sri Rama and Sri Krishna.

Jambavan and Indra : Valmiki tells us that Jambavan was young and strong when he helped Indra fight his battles against the Asuras.

Jambavan and Sri Rama : Jambavan was already somewhat older when he helped Sri Rama fight against the Rakshasas of Sri Lanka.

Jambavan and Hanuman : In the Valmiki Ramayanam, Jambavan tells Hanuman that he may have enough stamina to cross the ocean from India to Sri Lanka, but he won’t be able to make it back, because he is not as young as he was when he fought alongside Indra. He reminds Hanuman of his own strength and divinity and asks Hanuman to take the leap. In another place he tells Vibhishana that as long as Hanuman is fine, victory is guaranteed, because he can revive everyone, but if Hanuman is gone, the war is as good as lost.

Jambavan and Sri Krishna : Jambavan was quite old by the time that he fought Sri Krishna for the Syamantaka gem. In the Bhagavatam, Jambavan picks up the wonderful Syamantaka Mani (gem) from a lion after killing it. Then he gives it to his daughter Jambavati to play with. The Syamantaka Mani was a gift from Surya Deva to Satrajit, a Yadava (one of Sri Krishna’s relatives).  It would give lots of gold, everyday, to whoever had it with them. Sri Krishna came to retrieve the Mani, to clear his own good name – Satrajit had accused Krishna of stealing it.

Jambavan and Sri Krishna had a great fight, some say for 3 weeks and some say for 4 weeks and Jambavan started getting tired because he was quite old by now. He recognised the same divine spirit in Krishna that he saw in Rama and delightedly gave him not only the Syamantaka Mani, but also his daughter Jambavati in marriage.

syamantaka maNi legend : A different variation : dEvi bhAgavata mAhatmya : skandha purANam

Sri Krishna and Jambavati had a naughty little son called Samba, who loved to play tricks on people. Once he dressed up as a pregnant girl and along with his cousins, tried to fool some rishis. This resulted in a curse that effected the destruction of many of  the Yadavas.


Jambavan as depicted in Yakshagana

Many illustrations of the Ramayana show Jambavan as a bear. Maybe Jambavan was as strong as a bear, but he did have daughter who married Krishna, and she had a son called Samba who married Duryodhana‘s daughter Lakshmanaa. So Jambavan was a human, by our scientific definition.

Jambu Purana and Dalits : Jambavan is also, the first ancestor and the Eternal God, of the Madigas (a Telugu caste among the Dalits, who were leather workers). As per the Jamba Purana, he was born 6 months before the Earth. He was the one floating on the waters after The Flood.

One group of the Madigas called Chindus, are Yakshagana Performers and they perform the Jambu Purana. They tell the story of how they, the descendants of Jambavan became leather workers and how much everyone else needs them. They also point out the irony of everyone using the their leather goods and  yet treating them like untouchables. If you are more interested in this part of the story you can go here.

So just like Indra, Rama and Krishna, Jambavan too, was both human (lived, aged, married, had children and grand children) and divine.

Location :

  1. Even more interesting is that India is called the Jambu Dwipa or the island of the Jambu fruit and Jambavan is the man who is of this Jambu Dwipa. Jambavan ranks right up there with one of the most ancient and heroic Indians.
  2. There is a tribe in Andhra called Jambuvulu which means The Jambus. The 2001 census tells us that there are 15800 of them. Of these some 400 live in the cities and the rest in the rural areas. I also received a comment long ago  that said that the original place of Jambavan was Visakhapatnam. Thrilling? Isn’t it. My mind strongly suggests thatThe Jambus or Jambuvulu must be direct descendants of Jambavantha. I hope I meet them some day and listen to any stories that they have handed down by word of mouth from then to now.
  3. There is a temple in a place called Mannarpoluru village, near Sullurupet, 105 km from Nellore. It is called Alghu Malluru Krishnaswamy temple. It marks the place  where Sri Krishna defeated Jambavantha in a duel and married his daughter Jambavati. Apart from the vigrahas of Satyabhama and Jambavati, the two consorts of Lord Krishna, there is a  vigraham of Jambavantha that creates the amazing illusion of shedding tears. (Source)
  4. Jambukeswara’s Temple
  5. In the Valmiki Ramayana, he is described as a Rksha – which people frequently translate as bear., but which was actually a region of India. (‘rk’ is the name of the first veda and ‘arka’ is one of the names of Surya, the sun.) Sugriva is the legal son of Rksha Raja the king of the Rkshas, and the genetic son of Surya Deva. In some places vanaras are also referred to as rkshas. While Jijith NR locates the Rksha mountains to the north of the Vindhyas, I think the Andhra location of Jambavantha is correct.

Jijith N R shows the location of the rksha mountains in this map

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