Balarama on a circa 100 BCE Indo-Scythian coin from the reign of King Maues


Indian artists were very serious about this how they chose to position Indian gods and goddesss in painting and sculpture.

Vajrayogini Statue Modern Warrior Pose Buddhism Goddess Fierce Bronze

The Vajrayogini

They went into states of meditation[i]  and saw familiar bodily patterns in their visions.  These are now stock “power posescalled pratimas in the tradition.[ii]

Many of these poses are also yoga asanas.

Because India’s cultural forms dialog with each other and draw on a common source of wisdom about the body’s capabilities and powers, it is interesting to point to recurring bodily positions–whether or not they carry meanings related to yoga’s technologies or its pose names.

What we now call Warrior Pose is a bodily position seen in many depictions of Hindu deities. It usually symbolizes aggressive activity or anger.

Stories of gods and goddesses are meant to guide our growth and transformation. 

Anger and aggressive activity symbolized in Warrior Pose (and other iconographical means) points to the interior ferocity needed to destroy our false understanding of the world.

This pose is first found on coins from 100 BCE and it is still used in sculpture, pottery and paintings even today.


Shiva Virabhadrasana

We see Krishna’s warrior brother, Balarama, in a semblance of the pose on the Indo-Scythian coin pictured at the top of the page.

By name, this god is the charming divinity of strength (Bala = strength, Rama = charming) and the embodiment of princely virtues (though, admittedly, not kingly ones). (Bhagavata Purana 1.3.6-25).

Though he was often depicted as a drunkard, Balarama was a warrior, too.  Krishna’s weakness was women, and Balarama’s weakness was wine. Known to have fought with Krishna, he’s just double-sided like his bro.
And, also like the better bro, he refused to fight in the battle of Kurukshetra that determined the outcome of the battle for the throne of great kingdom of Kuru.
But–just like Krishna–Balarama denied his denial when his anger coaxed him to descend on the warrior, Bhima (Mahabharata 9.61.3-12), in that ill-fated legendary war.
Krishna and Balarama Kill the Wrestlers with the Tusks of the Elephant Kuvalayapida

Krishna and Balarama Kill the Wrestlers with the Tusks of the Elephant Kuvalayapida

He killed the antigod Dhenuka (Bhagavata Purana 10.15) and taught the evil king, Duryodhana, the use of the mace–later compelling him to surrender Krishna’s son, Samba, by drawing the walls of Hastinapura towards him.

It would seem he had enough manly virtue and vice (enough fame!) to put him in Warrior Pose and win him embossment on an early Indian coin.


[i] Shearer, Alistair, 1993, The Hindu Vision, London:  Thames and Hudson, 17 – 29

[ii] Zimmer, Heinrich, 1984, Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 28 – 35