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 5.37.61-69 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.” Tr. H.H. Wilson
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 5.38.1-8 “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.” Tr. H.H. Wilson
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.”
Padma Purana 1.23.91-121 “O revered sir, all of us have been perforce enjoyed by the evil beings; we have slipped from (i.e. erred in) our duty. You are our refuge. O brahmana, you have been formerly instructed by the intelligent Kesava. Why have we become prostitutes after having come in contact with the lord? O you, whose wealth is penance, explain to us the duties of the prostitutes.” I shall tell you what Dalbhya Caikitayana said to them. Dalbhya said: Formerly Narada approached you, who were proud, while (you were) sporting in the water of the Manasa lake. All of you were daughters of Agni and were the nymphs in olden days. Not saluting Narada through haughtiness you asked the sage conversant with deep and abstract meditation: “Advise us as to how Narayana will be our husband.” From him, this boon and this curse came forth (i.e. Narada gave this boon to and pronounced this curse on the ladies) in ancient days: “By giving a couple of beds with articles of gold (to a brahmana) on the twelfth day of the bright fortnight of Caitra and Vaisakha, Narayana will certainly be your husband (i.e. you will obtain Narayana as your husband); (and) since, you asked me (a question) without saluting me, due to your selfish addiction to your beauty and good fortune, you will be kidnapped by thieves and will become prostitutes.” Thus, due to the curse of Narada and also that of Kesava, all of you, deluded by passion, have become prostitutes. O you excellent ladies, listen, even now, to what I shall say. The lord of lords, the best speaker, formerly said to the hundreds and thousands of thousands of the wives of the demons, the Asuras (the evil spirits—enemies of gods), the sons of Diti and the goblins, when these (ladies) were married and enjoyed by force (by the gods), after hundreds of the Asuras and demons were killed by the gods in the war between gods and Asuras (that took place) in ancient days: “O you devout and beautiful ladies, now live as prostitutes in king’s residences and in temples of gods; you will obtain your livelihood from the king and the master; and all of you will have good fortune as per your capacity. He, who enters your house with the fee should be served by you with attitude of love void of deceit… At that time, he, having the five arrows as his soul (i.e. Cupid), will go (i.e. remain) near Hari. She should worship the lotus-eyed (god i.e. Visnu), followed by eulogies of Cupid. She should worship the feet (of the image of the deity saying:) ‘My salutation to Kama’; (she should worship) the shanks (saying:) ‘My salutation to Vaimohakarin’; (she should worship) the generative organ (of the image of the deity saying:) ‘My salutation to Kandarpanidhi…Having thus worshipped Govinda, the lord of the form of Ananga, the lady having made an offering with sandal, flowers and incense, and then having invited a Brahmana knowing customary observances, who has mastered the Vedas and who is without any deformity, and then having honoured him with adoration of sandal, flowers etc. she should give the brahmana rice of the measure of a prastha along with a pot of ghee, (saying:) ‘May Madhava be pleased’. She should bear in mind that the best Brahmana, who has eaten well according to his sweet will, is Kamadeva meant for Rati. The lady should do whatever the best Brahmana desires.”
Padma Purana 1.23.130b-142 “Then having circumambulated and allowed the best Brahmana to go, she should take all (the articles) like the bed, the seat, to the Brahmana’s house. Since then whosoever comes to her house for sexual enjoyment should be similarly honoured on a Sunday and should always be adored. Thus till the thirteenth month arrives, she should gratify a Brahmana and then send him to his house; with his permission (she may entertain) a handsome (person) till he arrives (to her residence). When she has a difficulty as a result of impurity due to child-birth or abortion or from the king or a difficulty due to divine or human (forces) or due to an eclipse, then she should offer herself according to her capacity, for fifty-eight times. This (vow) I have especially narrated to you, since this is the duty that should be always performed by the prostitutes in this world…”