Question: What is the significance of worshiping Subhadra Devi with Lord Krishna & Balarama, as Jagannatha Baladeva and Subhadra in Puri.
Subhadra Devi is Lord Krishna’s internal shakti, yoga-maya. She is the facilitator of devotional service, and makes all arrangements for the devotees to serve Lord Krishna.
Sri Balarama is the predominator of sandhini-shakti (spiritual existence). This is explained by Srila Prabhupada in the Chaitanya-charitamrita as follows:
“The Personality of Godhead known as Shri Balarama in Krishnaloka is the original Sankarshana (attracting Deity), and from this Sankarshana expands another Sankarshana, called Maha-sankarshana, who resides in one of the Vaikuntha planets. By His internal potency, ***Maha-sankarshana maintains the transcendental existence of all the planets in the spiritual sky***, where all the living beings are eternally liberated souls.”
In summary, Lord Balarama is the maintainer of the spiritual realm, and Subhadra devi is the facilitator of devotional service.
Question: Does Subadra Devi act within the material realm, controlling the three modes of material nature?
The internal (spiritual) energy of Lord Krishna and the external (material) energy of Lord Krishna are ultimately the same divine potency acting in two different functions. Srila Prabhupada explains that just as electricty can power both a heater and refrigerator (which have oposite effective qualities), in the same way, the one divine energy of the Lord acts to either cover the living entities spiritual knowledge of the Lord, or reveal the presence of the Lord. When that energy acts as a curtain to cover the view of the Lord, it is termed as Mahamaya (material energy). When that same divine energy acts to open the curtain and reveal the Lord’s form, it is known as Yogamaya (spiritual energy). Subhadra Devi is the internal spiritual energy of the Lord, she is not connected with the three modes of material nature.
Durga devi is also known as Bhadra, which is her form for controlling the three modes of nature. When the divine energy acts on a higher spiritual platform, she is known as Subhadra. Subhadra is distinct from Bhadra, in that her only function is in facilitating devotional service to Lord Krishna. She is never in contact with the material energy.
The following commentary by Srila Prabhupada nicely explains the position of the Lord’s divine shaktis as they function in both the spiritual and material realm (from Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila 5.27-28):
“In the Ramanuja and Madhva sects of Vaisnavism there are extensive descriptions of the shri, bhu and nila energies. In Bengal the nila energy is sometimes called the lila energy. These three energies are employed in the service of four-handed Narayana in Vaikuntha. Relating how three of the Alwars, namely Bhuta-yogi, Sara-yogi and Bhranta-yogi, saw Narayana in person when they took shelter at the house of a brahmana in the village of Gehali, the Prapannamrta of the Shri-sampradaya describes Narayana as follows:
lakshmi-dharam vakshasi pankajaksham
vishnum dadrishur bhagavantam adyam
“‘They saw the lotus-eyed Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, mounted on Garuda and holding Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, to His chest. He resembled a bluish rain cloud with flashing lightning, and in two of His four hands He held a conchshell and disc. His arms stretched down to His knees, and all His beautiful limbs were smeared with sandalwood and decorated with glittering ornaments. He wore yellow clothes, and by either side stood His energies Bhumi and Nila.’
“There is the following reference to the shri, bhu and nila energies in the Sitopanishad: maha-lakshmir devesasya bhinnabhinna-rupa cetanacetanatmika. sa devi tri-vidha bhavati, shakty-atmana iccha-shaktih kriya-shaktih sakshac-chaktir iti. iccha-shaktis tri-vidha bhavati, shri-bhumi-nilatmika. “Maha-Lakshmi, the supreme energy of the Lord, is experienced in different ways. She is divided into material and spiritual potencies, and in both features she acts as the willing energy, creative energy and the internal energy. The willing energy is again divided into three, namely shri, bhu and nila.
“Quoting from the revealed scriptures in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita (4.6), Madhvacarya has stated that mother material nature, which is conceived of as the illusory energy, Durga, has three divisions, namely shri, bhu and nila. She is the illusory energy for those who are weak in spiritual strength because such energies are created energies of Lord Vishnu. Although each energy has no direct relationship with the unlimited, they are subordinate to the Lord because the Lord is the master of all energies.
“In his Bhagavat-sandarbha (Part 23, Texts 8-9), Srila Jiva Gosvami Prabhu states: “The Padma Purana refers to the eternally auspicious abode of Godhead, which is full in all opulences, including the energies shri, bhu and nila. The Maha-samhita, which discusses the transcendental name and form of Godhead, also mentions Durga as the potency of the Supersoul in relationship with the living entities. The internal potency acts in relation with His personal affairs, and the material potency manifests the three modes.” Quoting elsewhere from the revealed scriptures, he states that shri is the energy of Godhead that maintains the cosmic manifestation, bhu is the energy that creates the cosmic manifestation, and nila, Durga, is the energy that destroys the creation. All these energies act in relation with the living beings, and thus they are together called jiva-maya.”