Vrindavan, around 15 km from Mathura, is a major place of pilgrimage, on the banks of Yamuna . Attracting about 5 lakhs pilgrims every year, it is noted for its numerous temples- both old and modern. Vrindavan is synonymous with the innocent mirth and child like playfulness of Shri Krishna. Vrindavan, the dusty little town known for the temples, big and small, famous and remote strewn all over the place.
Vrindavana is 135 km south of Delhi and 55 km north of Agra, just off the Delhi-Agra Road. It is 12 km or a 25-minute auto-rickshaw ride from Mathura. It has a small-town type atmosphere with narrow streets and not much motor traffic. There are said to be over 5000 temples in Vrindavana. Vrindavan is situated in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh around 151 km south of Delhi. It extends latitude 27°33¢ in the North to longitude 77°44¢ in the East. The place is just 10 km off Mathura, the place where Lord Krishna is said to have spent his childhood. Vrindavan is situated on the New Delhi-Chennai and New Delhi-Mumbai main railway line. A meter-gauge line connects Vrindavan to Mathura. There are quite a good number of passenger trains plying between these two places
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.
Banke Bihari Temple: This temple was established by Haridas Swami, a contemporary of the six Goswami’s. He discovered the Banke Bihari Deity at Nidhivana, where Banke Bihari was originally worshiped. Banke Bihari was moved here when this temple was constructed in 1864. This is the most popular temple in Vrindavana, especially in the month of Sravana, during Jhulan Yatra. The curtain before the Deities is not left open like at other temples. Every few minutes the curtain is pulled shut and then opened again. The Dieties do not get up until 9 am. The temple has mangala-arati only one day a year. Only one day a year can the lotus feet of the Deity be seen, on Akhyaya Tritiya.
ISKCON Temple: HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA, this name is probably amongst the first things that spring to a westerner’s mind when one thinks of India or the spirituality connected to it. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (also known as Srila Prabhupada) established the movement officially known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in 1966. The society has since developed into a worldwide confederation of 6,000 temple devotees and 190,000 congregational devotees. It comprises of more than 350 centers, 60 rural communities, 50 schools and 60 restaurants spread all across the globe. The aim of the society is to “promote the well being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to the Bhagavad-Gita and other ancient Vedic scriptures of India.”
Braja Mandala Parikrama: Every year in Kartika (Oct/Nov) ISKCON puts on a Braja Mandala parikrama. It is a one-month walking tour that goes to all 12 forests in Vrindavana. The parikarma visits most of major place in the Braja area including Mathura, Radha Kund, Varsana, Nandagrama, Gokula, Vrindavana, and Govardhana Hill. It is traditional to do this walk in bare feet, although shoes are permitted.
Krishna Balarama Mandir: This beautiful temple has Deities of Gaura-Nitai (left altar), Krishna Balarama (middle altar), and Radha-Shyama-sundara (Radha-Krishna on right altar). In front of the temple is the Samadhi Mandir of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). This is where his body was laid to rest after he left this world and returned to the spiritual world.
Yamuna River: This is the most sacred river in Indian. The main reason it is so sacred is because it flows through Vrindavana and Mathura, and was thus intimately connected to Lord Krishna’s pastimes. One who bathes in the Yamuna can be purified of all sinful reactions and attain love of Godhead.
Kesari Ghat: Lord Krishna killed the Kesi demon here. Kesi Ghat is on the bank of the Yamuna. If you bath here you get the benediction of bathing in all off the holy places. There is an arati performed here every day at sunset.
Govindaji Temple: This temple was built in 1590 and took several thousand men five full years to build. The original Govindaji Deity was found about 450 years ago by Rupa Goswami. Govindaji was removed from this temple when the Muslim emperor Aurangzeb tried to destroy it. The original Deity is now in Jaipur, in a temple right outside the King of Jaipur’s palace. This temple was originally seven stories high, with an altar of marble, silver and gold. A sculptured lotus flower weighing several tons decorates the main hall. On meeting Rupa Goswami, Man Singh from Jaipur, a general in Emperor Akbar’s army, built this magnificent temple. Aurangzeb and his army later destroyed part of the temple. 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. The Deities on the altar in this temple are Govindaji in the middle, to His left is Lord Caitanya, and to His right is Lord Nityananda. Below are small Radha and Krishna Deities. Below Them are Lord Jagannath and a Govardhana-shila.
Madana Mohana Temple: The original Deity of Madana Mohana was discovered at the base of an old vat tree by Adaita Acarya, when visited Vrindavana. He entrusted thje worship of Madana Mohana to His disciple, Purusottama Chaube, who then gave the Deity to Sanatana Goswami. Sanatana Goswami spend 43 years in Vrindavana. Worshiped along with Madana Mohana are Radharani and Lalita, who were sent to Vrindavana by Purusottama Jena, the son of Maharaja Prataparudra. This 60 foot high temple was opened in 1580 on a 50 foot hill called Aditya 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 Goswami 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.
Radha-Damodara Temple: This temple was founded by Jiva Goswami. The main Deities here are Sri Radha-Damodara. Other Deities worshiped here are the Radha-Vrindavana Candra Deities of Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami, the Radha-Madhava Deities of Jayadeva Goswami, and the Radha-Chalacikana Deities of Bhugarbha Goswami. The original Deities were all moved to Jaipur. When the original Deities are moved, the replacement Deity is called a pratibhu-murti and is considered as good as the original Deity.
Radha-Gokulananda Temple: In this temple you can see the Radha-Vinod Deities of Lokanath Goswami, Radha-Gokulananda Deities of Viswanath Cakravarti, Caitanya Mahaprabhu Deity of Narottama Dasa Thakur, Vijaya Govinda Deities of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, and the Govardhana-shila given by Lord Caitanya to Raghunath Dasa Goswami. The samadhis of Lokanath Goswami, Narottama Dasa, and Viswanath Cakravarti are in front of the temple. Viswanath Cakravarti arranged to have this temple built.
Radha-Gopinath Temple: The Deity of Gopinath 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 Vrindavana by Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krishna. When the Muslims raided Vrindavana, 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.
Radha- Raman Temple: Gopal Bhatta Goswami established this temple. The Deity of Sri Radha-Raman was manifested from one of Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s shalagram-shilas on the full moon day of Vaisakha (April/ May) in 1542. This event is celebrated every year (May) by bathing the Deity with 100 litres of milk and other auspicious items. The remnants of this abhiseka (bathing) are like nectar. Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s other shalagram-shilas are worshiped on the altar here. The appearance place of the Sri Radha-Raman Deity is next to the temple. Radha-Ramanji is one of the few original Deities of the Goswami’s still in Vrindavana. The standard of worship in this temple is very high.
Radha-Syamasundara Temple: These are the Deities of Syamananda Prabhu. Darshan is from 8.30 to 11 am and 5 to 8 pm. It is one of the seven major temples in Vrindavana. Syamananda’s samadhi is across the street and down from the entrance of the temple.
Seva Kunja (Nikunjavan) : Krishna would massage Radharan’s feet and decorate Her hair with flowers here. Once Krishna pushed His flute into the ground here and created a small kund, called Lalita Kund, to satisfy Lalita Sakhi’s thirst. No one is allowed within the enclosure at night. The numerous monkeys that are there during the day also leave at night.
Sona Gauranga Temple: These Deities were worshiped by Jagannath Dasa Babaji. They are located in a person’s house next to Prema Talkies cinema in the lane opposite the Radha Gopinath Temple.
Gopiswara Mahadeva Temple: The Siva-linga in this temple was installed by Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krishna. 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 kalpavriksya tree and will fulfil all desires. This temple is in the Vamsivata area.
Chir Ghat: Krishna rested here after killing the Kesi demon. Lord Caitanya also rested here. Some people say that the Gopis’ clothes were stolen here by Krishna and other say that this pastime happened 14 km up the river.
Imli Tala: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would come daily to Imli Tala to chant japa, when He was living in Vrindavana. Imli Tala means the shade of the tamarind tree. Imli means ‘tamarind’ and tala mean ‘tree’. There is a small temple here with Gaura-Nitai and Radha-Krishna Deities.
Vrindavana Parikrama: It is customary for devotees to walk around the town of Vrindhavana. There is a parikrama path that goes around the town. This path is one street over from the ISKCON temple. It takes two or three hours to go around the town.