“Oh great hero, capable are you to maintain many thousand others in the forest, what to speak of me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, maintains all the universes with their millions of planets all through His various expansions. We all know that God is great, but the Vedas describe just how great He is.
In this material world we see that men have great difficulty in maintaining even one wife. Many times they are unable to hold on to their relationship and they give way to separation and divorce. As evidenced in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna was able to simultaneously maintain and please 16,108 wives during His time on earth some five thousand years ago. Narada Muni, the venerable saint of the three worlds, once came to visit Krishna in one of His palaces to see how He was faring with His primary wife Rukmini. Upon seeing the Lord happily engaged in day to day activities, Narada then went on to visit other palaces of the Lord. He was astonished to find Krishna in each and every one of them simultaneously engaged in various activities.
“In one palace Lord Krishna was found engaged in feeding brahmanas after performing ritualistic yajnas. In another palace, Narada found Krishna engaged in silently chanting the Gayatri mantra, and in a third he found Him practicing fighting with a sword and shield. In some palaces Lord Krishna was found riding on horses or elephants or chariots and wandering hither and thither. Elsewhere He was found lying down on His bedstead taking rest, and somewhere else He was found sitting in His chair, being praised by the prayers of His different devotees. In some of the palaces He was found consulting with ministers like Uddhava and others on important matters of business. In one palace He was found surrounded by many young society girls, enjoying in a swimming pool. In another palace He was found engaged in giving well-decorated cows in charity to the brahmanas, and in another palace He was found hearing the narrations of the Puranas or histories, such as the Mahabharata, which are supplementary literatures for disseminating Vedic knowledge to common people by narrating important instances in the history of the universe. Somewhere Lord Krishna was found enjoying the company of a particular wife by exchanging joking words with her. Somewhere else He was found engaged along with His wife in religious ritualistic functions. Since it is necessary for householders to increase their financial assets for various expenditures, Krishna was found somewhere engaged in matters of economic development. Somewhere else He was found enjoying family life according to the regulative principles of the shastras…Thus Narada saw one single Krishna living in sixteen thousand palaces by His plenary expansions. Due to His inconceivable energy, He was visible in each and every individual queen's palace. Lord Krishna has unlimited power, and Narada's astonishment was boundless upon observing again and again the demonstration of Lord Krishna's internal energy. Lord Krishna behaved by His personal example as if He were very much attached to the four principles of civilized life, namely religiousness, economic development, sense gratification and salvation. These four principles of material existence are necessary for the spiritual advancement of human society, and although Lord Krishna had no need to do so, He exhibited His household activities so that people might follow in His footsteps for their own interest. Lord Krishna satisfied the sage Narada in every way. Narada was very much pleased by seeing the Lord's activities in Dvaraka, and thus he departed.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Volume 2, Ch 2.14)
These facts seem outrageous to most non-devotees. The internet is full of discussions on the topic of Krishna and His wives. “How could Krishna have so many wives? That doesn’t make sense. It must be part of the mythology.” These are some of the common sentiments. However, the Vedas and the Puranas are historical records of actual events that have taken place on this planet and on other planets throughout the universe. Sometimes they even describe events that have yet to occur. Through our material senses, we may think that maintaining that many wives is impossible, but to devotees of the Lord, such a feat doesn’t nearly begin to describe God’s power. Krishna effortlessly created a monstrous astral body that provides heat and light to millions of species throughout the universe. This body is known as the sun and scientists have yet to begin understanding its nature. Unable to explain the phenomenon, scientists theorize that a random collision of atomic particles created the sun and the rest of creation. If such an event did occur, why are these same scientists unable to reproduce this miracle? If they harnessed all the electric power in the world and used it to turn on millions upon millions of lights, it still wouldn’t come close to the power generated by the sun. We know from the Vedas that Krishna created the sun, and if God is able to create something so amazing, then maintaining many wives, or lifting a giant hill are merely child’s play for Him.
When Krishna incarnated as the most pious prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama, He willingly accepted banishment to the forest for fourteen years by His father, King Dashrata. The Lord was married to His wife Sita at the time, so He tried His best to dissuade her from following Him. Sita Devi was the Goddess of Fortune, Lakshmi, so she was completely devoted to Rama. She put forth her own set of arguments in favor of her accompanying the Lord to the forest.
According to Vedic culture, a woman is to be provided protection at all stages of her life, and not ever to be given outright independence. As a child, a girl is given protection by her father, as an adult by her husband, and in old age by the eldest son. This was the traditional system and both Lord Rama and Sita Devi were abiding by it. The Lord wanted His wife to remain in the kingdom where she would be protected from the dangers of forest life. God is always kind to His devotees and never wants to see them in any sort of pain. Forest life is meant for the animals and for those in the renounced order of life, sannyasis. However, Sita Devi made it a point to remind Lord Rama that He indeed can provide protection to a limitless amount of people. She was basically saying, “You are God Himself. This entire universe is maintained by You. Millions upon millions of planets are floating in the air through Your energies. Taking care of me in the forest should be no problem for You.” Due to these and other arguments put forth by Sita, the Lord was unable to stop her from coming with Him. This illustrates the power of devotional service. God loves His devotees more than His devotees love Him. For those truly surrendered souls, the Lord willingly subordinates Himself to their wishes.