Vrindavan – Land of Lord Krishna
Located at a distance of 15 km from Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Vrindavan is another major place of pilgrimage among the Hindus. Also known as Vrindaban, Brindavan, or Brindavana, or Brindaban, this holy place is the site of the original forest or forested region, in which Lord Krishna spent his childhood. It is believed that Lord Krishna was raised there in the cow-herding village of Gokula by His foster parents. Vrindavan is today famous for its numerous temples-both old and new. Considered to be the abode of Lord Krishna, it is one of India’s most holiest cities with more than 5000 temples dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The name ‘Vrindavan’ is derived from ‘Vrinda’, another name for the sacred tulsi (basil) plant. A legend has it that the entire place was a tulsi grove at one time. According to another tradition, it was named after Vrinda Devi, one of Krishna’s playmates. The earliest known shrine in Vrindavan is said to have been built by the local gosains in a large garden called Nidhiban, later named Seva Kunj. According to tradition, Emperor Akbar was taken blindfolded inside the grove where he had some kind of a spiritual experience. As a result, he acknowledged the spot as being holy ground.
The four temples that were built in honour of his visit are Govind Deva, Madan Mohan, Gopinath, and Jugal Kishore. The first is an impressive edifice built in red sandstone. Architecturally this temple is one of the finest in North India.
However, apart from its history, what keeps Vrindavan alive in the popular imagination of the people is its rich legend and mythology. Vrindavan is considered the place where Lord Krishna spent his early childhood. It was here that Krishna indulged in adolescent pranks with the gopis (milkmaids) in the forests and stealing their clothes while they bathed in the river.
Places of Interest
Banke-Bihari Temple – Built in 1864, the Banke-Bihari Temple is the most popular shrine at Vrindavan. The image of Banke-Bihari was discovered in Nidhi Vana by Swami Haridas, the great Krishna devotee, belonging to the Nimbarka sect.
Vishram Ghat – It is the most important bathing ghat in Mathura. Lord Krishna is said to have rested here after killing Kamsa, the tyrant king of Mathura. The ‘Aarti’ being offered in the morning and evening at the riverside is a visual treat to the eyes. It is believed that bathing in the Yamuna on the second day of Kartik is very meritorious which is known as Yama Dwitiya.
Radha Govindaji Temple – Built in 1590, this ancient temple of Vrindavan has a number of fascinating stories to tell. The original Govindaji Deity was removed from this temple and kept in Jaipur when Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb tried to destroy it. This magnificent temple houses a spectacular marble altar adorned with gold and silver and hold the idols of Govindaji in the middle, Lord Chaitanya to His left and Lord Nityananda to His right. A sculptured lotus flower weighing several tons decorates the main hall of the temple and demands a careful look from your side.
Madan Mohan Temple – The Madan Mohan Temple located near the Kali Ghat, built by Kapur Ram Das of Multan. This is the oldest existing temple in Vrindavan today. The temple is closely associated with the saint Chaitanya. The original idol of Lord Madan Gopal was shifted from the shrine to Karauli in Rajasthan for safe keeping, during Aurangzeb’s rule. Today, a replica of the image is worshipped at the temple.
Sri Radha Raman Mandir – The Deity of Sri Radha-Raman (one of the few original Deities still left in Vrindavana) was installed here by Srila Gopal Bhatta Dasa Goswami. The Deity manifested from one of the Goswami’s shaligram-shilas in 1542. Gopal Bhatta also brought Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s kaupina (cloth) and asana (seat ) back from Puri. These can be seen three to four times a year. Gopal Batta’s Samadhi is located here. The fires for cooking in the temple kitchen have been burning continuously since the Deity was installed over 435 years ago.
ISKCON Temple – Located within the Krishna-Baldev Temple premises, the temple wall is adorned with exquisite paintings and carvings depicting the life of Lord Krishna. Beautiful architecture, carved arches and immense spirituality make the place a divine destination in Vrindavan. Be prepared to listen to ‘Hare Krishna’ as everybody you will meet inside the temple premise will greet you with these two words.
Yamuna River – The Yamuna river flows through Vrindavan and Mathura. It is the most sacred river in India as it is so intimately connected with Krishna’s pastimes. Situated on the bank of the Yamuna is the Keshi Ghat, where Krishna killed the Keshi demon and saved his friends. One who bathes here gets the benediction of bathing in all of the holy places.
Getting there and Around
By Air – The nearest airport is Agra which is 57 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.
Vrindavan does not have high quality hotels. However, it has nearly 200 dharamshalas (religious hostels) that offer clean, affordable accommodation.
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