In the Ninth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Baladeva is described as the son of Rohiṇī, a wife of Vasudeva. Vasudeva, the father of Kṛṣṇa, had sixteen wives, and one of them was Rohiṇī, the mother of Baladeva. But Baladeva is also described as the son of Devakī, so how could He be the son of both Devakī and Rohiṇī? This was one of the questions put by Mahārāja Parīkṣit to Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and it will be answered in due course. Mahārāja Parīkṣit also asked Śukadeva Gosvāmī why Śrī Kṛṣṇa, just after His appearance as the son of Vasudeva, was immediately carried to the house of Nanda Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, Gokula. He also wanted to know what the activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa were while He was in Vṛndāvana and while He was in Mathurā. Besides that, he was especially inquisitive to know why Kṛṣṇa killed His maternal uncle, Kaṁsa. Kaṁsa, being the brother of His mother, was a very intimate superior to Kṛṣṇa, so how was it that He killed Kaṁsa? Also, Mahārāja Parīkṣit asked how many years Lord Kṛṣṇa remained in human society, how many years He reigned over the kingdom of Dvārakā, and how many wives He accepted there. A kṣatriya king is generally accustomed to accept more than one wife; therefore Mahārāja Parīkṣit also inquired about His number of wives. The subject matter of this book is Śukadeva Gosvāmī’s answering of these and other questions asked by Mahārāja Parīkṣit.
The position of Mahārāja Parīkṣit and Śukadeva Gosvāmī is unique. Mahārāja Parīkṣit is the right person to hear about the transcendental pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, and Śukadeva Gosvāmī is the right person to describe them. If such a fortunate combination is made possible, then kṛṣṇa-kathā immediately becomes revealed, and people may benefit to the highest possible degree from such a conversation.
This narration was presented by Śukadeva Gosvāmī when Mahārāja Parīkṣit was prepared to give up his body, fasting on the bank of the Ganges. In order to assure Śukadeva Gosvāmī that by hearing kṛṣṇa-kathā he would not feel tired, Mahārāja Parīkṣit expressed himself very frankly: “Hunger and thirst may give trouble to ordinary persons or to me, but the topics of Kṛṣṇa are so nice that one can continue to hear them without feeling tired because such hearing situates one in the transcendental position.” It is understood that one must be very fortunate to hear kṛṣṇa-kathā as seriously as Mahārāja Parīkṣit did. He was especially intent on the subject matter because he was expecting death at any moment. Every one of us should be conscious of death at every moment. This life is not at all assured; at any time one can die. It does not matter whether one is a young man or an old man. So before death takes place, we must be fully Kṛṣṇa conscious.
At the point of his death, King Parīkṣit was hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from Śukadeva Gosvāmī. When King Parīkṣit expressed his untiring desire to hear about Kṛṣṇa, Śukadeva Gosvāmī was very much pleased. Śukadeva was the greatest of all Bhāgavata reciters, and thus he began to speak about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, which destroy all inauspiciousness in this Age of Kali. Śukadeva Gosvāmī thanked the King for his eagerness to hear about Kṛṣṇa, and he encouraged him by saying, “My dear King, your intelligence is very keen because you are so eager to hear about the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa.” He informed Mahārāja Parīkṣit that hearing and chanting the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa are so auspicious that the processes purify the three varieties of men involved: he who recites the transcendental topics of Kṛṣṇa, he who hears such topics, and he who inquires about Him. These pastimes are just like the Ganges water, which flows from the toe of Lord Viṣṇu: they purify the three worlds, the upper, middle and lower planetary systems.