The ISKCON temple in Vrindavan is also known as Sri Krishna Balaram Mandir.The Krishna Balaram Mandir was personally established by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on Rama Navami in 1975. The temple is situated in Raman Reti, Vrindavan, U.P., where the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna displayed His transcendental pastimes 5,000 years ago. Sri Krishna and Balaram would herd Their cows at Raman Reti near the Yamuna River. The temple has three altars. On the first altar are Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, the most merciful incarnations of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu who appeared about 500 years ago at West Bengal. The divine brothers, Sri Krishna and Balaram, are worshiped on the central altar and on the third altar are Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundara along Their confidental gopis, Lalita and Vishakha.Since 1975, the Sri Krishna Balaram Temple Complex has expanded considerably to fulfil Srila Prabhupada’s vision for an international center in Vrindavan.
Upon his return to Vrindavan in 1977 Prabhupada entered into Samadhi Mandir (memorial) in his honour. It is located within the premises of the Krishna-Baldev Temple in Vrindavan. Beautiful paintings depicting the life of Lord Krishna adorn the galleries leading to the main temple. ISKCON devotees from various parts of the world can be spotted manning the library or ISKCON book stalls and partaking in temple rituals with gay abandon.
At Vrindavan the ISKCON society also runs a boarding school on the lines of a Gurukul with classes being run from I to VII. A Gurukul is a holistic kind of educational system whereby students and teachers live in the same complex so students may learn by observing the teacher. There are guest houses for devotees within the premises so they may take part in the day to day activities of the temple.
Places of Interest
Banke Bihari Temple –
Built in 1864, it is one of Vrindavana’s most popular temples and famous all over India. The Deity of Banke-bihari was discovered in Nidhuvana by Swami Haridasa. A contemporary of the six Gosvamis, Swami Haridasa known for his devotional bhajanas, was the guru of the famous musician Tansen.
Dwarkadish Temple –
Built in 1814 in the center of the town, it is the most visited temple in Mathura. This temple is managed by followers of Vallabhacharya. Located in the eastern part of Mathura, not far from the Yamuna River, it is architecturally interesting: the temple carving and paintings are major attractions. The temple is a hub of activity during the festive days of Holi, Janmashtami and Diwali.
Radha Madana Mohana Temple –
This famous temple was established by Srila Sanatana Gosvami and was the first temple to be built in Vrindavan, which at that time was just a forest. The original Deity of Madana-mohana was taken to Karauli in Rajasthan for safety during the attack on Vrindavan by the soldiers of the fanatical Muslim Emperor, Aurangzeb.
Seva Kunja –
The Seva Kunj is where Lord Krishna once performed the Raaslila with Radha-Rani decorating her hair with flowers and her lotus feet. Radha and Krishna would sometimes spend the night here, dancing with the gopis and enjoying transcendental pastimes. There is also a small temple dedicated to Radha and Krishna’s pastimes called Rang Mahal.
Radha Vallabha Temple –
Another very popular temple of Vrindavan which was founded by Harivamsa Gosvami, who started the Radha Vallabha sect emphasizing devotion to Radharani. In this temple, there is no deity of Radharani, but a crown has been placed next to Krishna to signify her presence. The original temple of Radha Vallabha was destroyed by the Muslims in 1670 and a new temple was built beside the old one.
Jaipur Temple –
One of Vrindavan’s most opulent temples, it was built by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Madhav, in 1917 after 30 years of labour. The fine hand-carved sandstone is of unparalleled workmanship, the huge pillars that hold up the roof are each carved from one solid rock, and the intricately fashioned marble on the altar is reminiscent of the Mughal period. The Maharaja financed the railway line that connects Vrindavana with Mathura, just for the purpose of hauling the huge pieces of sandstone used in the temple construction. The deities worshipped here are Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, Ananda-bihari and Hansa-gopala.
Radha Damodara Temple –
This is one of the most important temples in Vrindavan. The original deity was hand carved by Rupa Gosvami and given as a gift to his beloved disciple, Jiva Gosvami, who later built a temple here. Formerly this spot was in the middle of Seva-kunja and it was the bhajana ( where he sang devotional songs ) place of Rupa Gosvami.
Kesi Ghata – This is the place where Lord Krishna killed the Kesi demon who appeared in the form of a gigantic horse and then took His bath in this very same ghata. This is also very famous bathing place in Vrindavan. An arati (prayer with lamps) to Yamuna Devi is held here every evening.
Rangji Temple –
This South Indian style temple was built by the wealthy Seth family of Mathura in the year 1851, and is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha or Rangaji, a form of Lord Vishnu lying down on the Sesa Naga (celestial serpent). This temple has a traditional South Indian gateway and is surrounded by high walls. It is one of Vrindavan’s largest temples. Once a year a grand car festival (Ratha Yatra) is held known as Brahmotsava, during the month of Chait (March – April), a festival that lasts for 10 days.
Jugal Kisore Temple –
This is one of the oldest temple of Vrindavana and was completed in 1627. After Emperor Akbar’s visit to Vridavan in the year 1570, he gave permission for four temples to be built by the Gaudya Vaisnavas, which were Madana-mohana, Govindaji, Gopinatha and Jugal Kisore. It is sometimes called the Kesi ghata temple, as it is located next to this ghata.
Radharamana Temple –
This is the famous temple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Radharamana means “one who gives pleasure to Radha”, and is one of the many names of Lord Krishna. The wooden sitting place (hoki) and shawl (chaddar) or Lord Chaitanya, that He gave as a gift to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is kept in this temple.
Jain Tirth –
Nearly 30 cms. long, light – almond – colored, wooden sandals of Jambuswamaji. Tirth is at a distance of four kilometers from Mathura. This tirth (pilgrimage) belongs to the times of Bhagawan Suparshvanth.
Shahji Temple –
Another popular temple at Vrindavan, was designed and built in 1876 by a wealthy jeweller, Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. The deities at the temple are popularly known as the Chhote Radha Raman. Noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculpture, the temple has twelve spiral columns each 15 feet high. The `Basanti Kamra’ – the darbar hall is famed for its Belgian glass chandeliers and fine paintings.
New Temples –
Among the new temples springing up along the Mathura-Vrindavan road is the Gita Mandir which houses the Gita Stambh, a pillar with the entire Bhagavad Gita carved on its surface. The imposing temple, built by one of the country’s leading industrial families, the Birlas, is overshadowed by the outrageous multistoreyed, spaceship-like edifice known as the Pagal Baba Mandir just down the road.
Getting there and Around
By Air –
The nearest airport is Agra which is 66 km away and is well connected to Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi by regular flights by Indian Airlines and other private airline services.
By Rail –
Mathura Junction is well connected to Delhi by numerous trains including the Punjab Mail and Taj Express, to Mumbai by the August Kranti and Mumbai Rajdhani and to Kolkata by the Toofan Express. The Lucknow-Agra Express also finds Mathura in its route.
By Road –
Mathura and Vrindavan are well connected with Agra, Delhi, Bharatpur, Alwar and Lucknow by well maintained road.
Local Transport –
Buses run by the UPSRTDC taxis (can be hired from the taxi stand opposite the District Hospital), auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and tongas (rates negotiable), are the main means of transportation.
Vrindavan does not have high quality hotels. However, it has nearly 200 dharamsalas (simple accommodation for pilgrims) that are clean and affordable. ISKCON Guesthouse and MVT are the main and best accommodation places provided by ISKCON and there are appearing new accommodations of hotel type all over Vrindavan every year.
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