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Varindavan

Varindavan

Vrindavan, just 15 km from Mathura, is another major place of pilgrimage. It is noted for its numerous temples - both old and modern. The name Vrindavan evokes the playfulness and lovable characteristics of Shri Krishna. This is the wood where he frolicked with the gopis and tenderly wooed Radha
 
Mathura the birthplace of Lord Krishna is an important place of pilgrimage and thousands of devotees throng the city throughout the year. It lies at the heart of the Brajbhoomi, a land that is imbued with sanctity, for it was here that the young Krishna was nurtured. The little towns and hamlets in this area are still alive with the tales of his mischievous pranks, his extraordinary exploits still seem to echo with the sound of his flute .
 
The town stands on the original forest of Vrindavana where the Hindu deity Krishna spent his childhood, on the banks of the Yamuna river. Numerous events are documented to have occurred here: this is where Krishna did the divine dance with Gopis (Maharaas), spread the message of divine love with his lover Radha, stole the clothes of the bathing maidens (gopis) who prayed for attaining him, and destroyed an entire succession of demons. Consequently, it is a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus, and features by some counts as many as 5000 temples.
 
It is believed that the essence of Vrindavan was lost over time until the 16th century, when it was rediscovered by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In the year 1515, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Vrindavana, with purpose of locating the lost holy places associated with Lord Sri Krishna's transcendent pastimes. Lord Chaitanya wandered through the different sacred forests of Vrindavana in a spiritual trance of divine love. By His divine spiritual power, He was able locate all the important places of Lord Krishna's pastimes in and around Vrindavana.
 
According to Vaishnavites and particularly Krishna devotees, Vrindavan on Earth is a manifestation of the original Goloka Vrindavan Dham of Lord Krishna. Rather than visiting Vrindavana as any other tourist spot, this place is best enjoyed when visited with the thoughts of Sri Krishna alone and when remembering him at every foot length of land. It will not be too inaccurate to say that all the great Hindu saints have visited Vrindavana in their lifetime atleast once. Even now most localites here always chant the names of Radha and Krishna during their day to day activities. This place is still being visited by devotees from different parts of India who are very spiritual and attracted to Lord Krishna.
 
Vrindavan is also known as the Shelter City for Widows. By Hindu tradition, widows may not remarry but spend life towards spiritual liberation, and many of those abandon their families or having abandoned by their families on the death of their husband make their way here. In exchange for singing bhajan hymns for 7-8 hours in bhajanashrams, they are given a meal and a little money (around ₹10-₹20). This enables chanting of the Lord's name and also feeding of widows who have no other means of survival. Some of them also beg on the streets. However, some of the trusts that operate the ashrams are regularly accused of skimming off vast amounts from the donations. There are an estimated 20,000 widows, some of whom are very old having spent over 30 years there.
 
Main Temples
 
Madan Mohan Temple on the riverside is the oldest structure in Vrindavan. This famous temple was established by Srila Sanatana Gosvami and was the first Gosvami temple built in Vrindavan, which at that time was just a forest. The original Deity of Madana Mohana was discovered at the base of an old vat (banyan) tree by Advaita Acarya, when He visited Vrindavan. He entrusted the worship of Madana Mohana to His disciple, Purusottama Chaube, who then gave the Deity to Sanatana Gosvami. Sanatana Gosvami spend 43 years in Vrindavan. Worshiped along with Madana Mohana are Radharani and Lalita, who were sent to Vrindavan by Purusottama Jena, the son of Maharaja Prataparudra.
 
This 60 foot high temple was opened in 1580 on a 50 foot hill called Dvadasaditya Tila, next to the Yamuna. Ram Das Kapoor paid to build the temple. One day a ship he owned, loaded with merchandise, went aground in the Yamuna. He was advised by Sanatana Gosvami to pray to Madana Mohana for help. The ship came free and the owner of the ship made a big profit, which he used to built this temple.
 
The temple is associated with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who stayed here. Due to the fear of Muslim onslaughts on the temple the original murti was moved to Rajasthan (Karoli). A replica is now worshiped in the temple. The bhajan kutir and samadhi of Sanatana Gosvami, together with the puspa-samadhis of Candrasekhara Acarya and Tapana Misra are also here.
 
Govinda Dev Temple was a grand seven-story structure, with an altar of marble, silver and gold. Architecturally this temple is one of the finest in North India. A sculptured lotus flower weighing several tons decorates the main hall ceiling. It was built in 1590 by Raja Man Singh from Jaipur, a general in Akbar’s army, who was inspired to do it after meeting Rupa Gosvami. It was said to have cost ten million rupees and several thousand men were working for five full years to complete it. Akbar himself had donated the red sandstone for its construction. In 1670, during the rule of a later Mughal king, Aurangzeb, it was plundered and destroyed leaving only three stories of the original temple. During this attack, when few stories remained, all of a sudden the ground began to shake violently and Aurangzeb’s men were terrified and ran for their lives, never to return.
 
Temple is now empty and the replica of Govindaji is worshiped in the new Govindaji Mandir (located behind the original temple). The original Govindaji is worshiped in Jaipur.
 
The Deity of Gopinath worshiped in Radha-Gopinath Temple was discovered at Vamsivat by Paramananda Bhattacarya, who entrusted the Deity’s worship to Madhu Pandita. On the altar are Deities of Srimati Radharani and Her sister, Ananga Manjari. Madhu Pandita’s samadhi is next to the temple.
 
Gopinathji was originally installed in Vrindavan by Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krishna. When the Muslims raided Vrindavan, the original Gopinath Deity was taken to Jaipur. The Gopinath Deity in Jaipur and Lord Krishna are said to exactly resemble each other from Their shoulders down to the waist.
 
Jugal Kisore Temple (Kesi ghata temple) is one of the oldest temples of Vrindavan, completed in 1627. After Akbar’s visit to Vrindavan in the year 1570, he gave permission for four temples to be built by the Gaudiya 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.
 
Opposite from the Govinda Dev Temple is an imposing south-Indian temple called Sri Ranganatha (Rangaji) Temple. It is 30 meters high with three gopurams (gateways), a tall shikhara (crown) and gold-plated decorations. This South Indian style temple was built by the wealthy Seth family of Mathura in 1851 and is dedicated to Lord Sri Ranganatha or Rangaji, a form of Lord Vishnu lying down on the Sesa Naga (divine serpent). This temple has a traditional South Indian gopuram (gateway), a Rajput-styled (architectural style prevailing in the present Indian state of Rajasthan) entrance gate and an Italian-influenced colonnade. One of the enclosures within the precincts of this magnificent temple has a 15-meter-high pillar made of gold. It is one of Vrindavan’s largest temples and is surrounded by high walls. Once a year there is a grand car festival (Ratha Yatra) known as Brahmotsava during the month of Caitra (March-April). This festival lasts for 10 days. At the entrance, there is an electronic puppet show about stories of Krishna and a small museum.
 
One of the most popular in Vrindavan and famous all over India is the Banke Bihari Temple, built in 1864. There are curtains in front of the richly decorated murti. After the main prayers the curtains are drawn apart to give darsan (viewing) to a long line of devotees. The curtain before the Deities is not left open like at other temples but every few minutes it is pulled shut and then opened again. The Deities do not get up until 9 AM. The temple has mangala-arati only one day a year and only once a year can the lotus feet of the Deity be seen, on Akhyaya Tritiya. Many devotees come every day, especially in the month of Sravana, during Jhulan Yatra, the swing festival. The murti is said to have been discovered by the musician-saint Svami Hari Das in Nidhi Van, a kadamba grove where Banke Bihari was originally worshiped. A contemporary of the Six Gosvamis, Svami Haridasa, known for his bhajans, was the guru of the famous musician Tansen.
 
Radharamana Temple is the famous temple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Radharamana means “one who gives pleasure to Radha”. It is one of the many names of Lord Krishna. The seva puja of Radharamana was established in 1542, after the Deity self-manifested from a salagram-sila on the full moon day of Vaisakha (April/May). This event is celebrated every year by bathing the Deity with 100 liters of milk and other auspicious items. The remnants of this abhiseka (bathing) are like nectar. Gopal Bhatta Gosvami’s other shalagram-shilas are worshiped on the altar here. The appearance place of Sri Radharaman Deity is next to the temple. Radharamanji is one of the few original Deities of the Gosvamis still in Vrindavan. The standard of worship is very high.
 
Also kept in this temple is the wooden sitting place (hoki) and shawl (chaddar) or Lord Caitanya that He gave as a gift to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. There is no Deity of Radharani in this temple, but a crown is kept next to Krishna signifying Her presence. Gopal Bhatta’s samadhi is located here. The fires for cooking in the temple kitchen have been burning continuously since the Deity was installed over 460 years ago and the cooking still follows cookbooks from that time.
 
Radha Damodara Temple 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. Formerly this spot was in the middle of Seva-kunja and it was the bhajan place (where he performed his devotional activities) of Rupa Gosvami. Other Deities here are Vrindavan Candra worshiped by Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Radha-Madhava of Jayadeva Gosvami and Radha-Chalacikana of Bhugarbha Gosvami. When the original Deities are moved, the replacement Deity is called a pratibhu-murti and is considered as good as the original Deity. The samadhis of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraj Gosvami are here.
 
Srila Prabhupada spent here most of his six years (1959 to 1965) before coming to America. He translated the first three cantos of the Srimad-Bhagavatam here.
 
In Sri Radha Gokulananda Mandir are the the Radha-Vinoda Deities of Lokanath Gosvami, Radha-Gokulananda Deities of Visvanath Cakravarti, Caitanya Mahaprabhu Deity of Narottama Dasa Thakur, Vijaya Govinda Deities of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and the Govardhan-shila given to Raghunath Dasa Gosvami by Sri Caitanya. Also, the samadhis of Srila Lokanath Gosvami, Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura, and Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura are here. Visvanath Cakravarti arranged to have this temple built.
 
Radha Vallabha Temple is another very popular temple of Vrindavan which was founded by Harivamsa Gosvami, who started the Radha Vallabha sampradaya 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.
 
Radha-Syamasundara are the Deities of Syamananda Prabhu. Darsan is from 8.30 to 11 am and 5 to 8 pm. It is one of the seven major temples in Vrindavan. Syamananda’s samadhi is across the street and down from the entrance of the temple.
 
Sri Gopesvara Mahadeva Mandir is the oldest temple in Vrindavan. Gopesvara Mahadeva is Lord Siva, who came to Vrindavan to become a gopi of Krishna. Here Vrinda Devi blessed him and allowed him to enter the rasa dance of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna then offered Lord Siva the guardianship of the Rasa mandala and placed him at its entrance. Ever since, all Vaisnavas pray first for his mercy to become a servant of the servant of the gopis.
 
Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krishna, also installed the Siva-linga in this temple. Every morning from 4 am to noon, thousands of people pour Yamuna water over the linga. It is said that the big pipal tree here is a kalpavriksa tree and will fulfill all desires. This temple is in the Vamsivata area.
 
Jaipur Temple, one of Vrindavan’s most opulent temples, was built by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Madhav, in 1917 after 30 years of labor. 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 Vrindavan with Mathura, just for the purpose of hauling the huge pieces of sandstone used in the temple construction. The Deities worshiped here are Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, Ananda-bihari and Hansa-gopala.
 
Shahji Temple, another popular temple at Vrindavan, was designed and built in 1876 by a wealthy jeweler, 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
 
Krishna Balarama Mandir
 
Opened in 1975 by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Raman Reti, 3 km from the center of Vrindavan. The principal Deities of this temple are Krishna with His brother Balaram. Next to Them are Radha (Krishna’s consort) with Syamasundara and Gaura-Nitai. The samadhi (cenotaph) of ISKCON’s founder-acarya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in pure white marble is within the complex in front of the temple. His private chambers have been converted into a museum. The temple is built in the Bengal Renaissance style with bright frescoes on Krishna’s life. There is also a guesthouse, restaurant, gurukula and gosalla. Hare Krishna devotees from all around the world come here, bringing a truly international flavor to this ancient holy city.
 
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 multistoried edifice known as the Pagal Baba Mandir just down the road.