Pilgrimage to Braj Bhumi – Part 2 – Vrindavan/Gokul/Barsana/Nandgaon

Day 2 – Vrindavan

  • Radha Vrindavan Chandra Temple – Managed by ISKCON Bangalore, the temple is a small complex with divine murthis of Radha and Krishna. Of course, by April of 2023, ISKCON would have shifted the murthis to the mega 700 feet new temple , Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir that will house not just the shrine, but a mega museum, dining hall, food distribution outlets and other related attractions. The 700-crore project will also have a plaza, lake for boating attractions, bio-diversity park, cultural education center, and groves with tableaus mimicking the Leelas by the Lord and His Gopis.
  • Akshaya Patra Center – Right next to the current Radha Vrindavan Chandra temple is the Akshaya Patra Center, Vrindavan. We were lucky enough to get a detailed tour of the complex. No words can describe the sheer magnitude of the anna dhanam they do on a daily basis with fully automated machines. While Akshaya Patra centers serve nearly 20 lakh school children everyday, this particular center serves vegetarian meals to nearly 1.1 lakh school children in and around Vrindavan every day.
  • Shri Banke Bihari Mandir – Considered one of the holiest and most popular temples of Lord Krishna, the Banke Bihari Mandir houses the very murthi that the Lord and his Sakhi, Radha presented to Swami Haridas when they appeared before him, in Nidhivan. The murthi was moved from Nidhivan to its current location in 1862. Swami Haridas’s family trace their lineage to Gargacharya, the family guru of Nand Raj who came in secret for the Lord’s Naamakaranam ceremony.
  • Kaaliya Ghat – This area still encloses the very tree from which the Lord jumped into the Yamuna river and displayed his Kaaliya Narthana leela.
  • ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan – Established in 1975 by Srila Prabhupada, founder-acharya of ISKCON, the majestic Sri Sri Krishna Balaram Mandir is designed to pay homage to the very ground on which Lord Krishna and Lord Balaram played nearly 5000 years ago. This complex also houses Srila Prabhupad’s house, a museum celebrating his life, and his samadhi.
  • Mayapur Vrindavan Trust (MVT) – Just at walking distance from the ISKCON temple is the Mayapur Vrindavan Trust, another landmark established by Srila Prabhupada himself. The MVT houses beautiful accommodation for devotees, and a world-class vegetarian restaurant serving prasad.
  • Radha Gopinath Temple – Another temple supposedly constructed by Lord Krishna’s great grandson Vajranabha, this small temple houses five murtis – Gopinathji, Radha and her sister, and her two close friends, Lalitha and Vishaka.
  • Nidhivan Temple – A MUST-SEE area right in the middle of the residential complexes is Nidhivan, a small thicket of tulsi shrubs entwined in pairs, supposed to represent the gopis dancing in pairs. Even today, the priests lay the bed, and arrange ornaments and food for the Lord and His Consort, Shri Radha Rani so that they can perfom the Ras Leela dance at night. Even today, when the priests open the temple in the morning, they see the bedsheets ruffled, bangles strewn around, and some of the food eaten.
  • Shri Radha Madan Mohan Temple – The murthi in this temple is sure to take anyone’s breath away. Jet black with eyes that mesmerize, Lord Krishna is accompanied by Radha and Lalitha.
  • Shri Radha Shyam Sundar Temple – A sacred temple for all Vaishnavas, the Lord’s murthi (Lala ji) was supposed to be gifted by Radha Rani herself to Sri Shyamananda Prabhu. Her murthi (self-manifested) was found by the King of Bharatpur in his treasury and is worshipped as Lali ji.
  • Keshi ghat – Keshi Ghat marks the place where Lord Krishna took a bath in the river Yamuna after killing the horse-demon called Keshi. The lights from the evening arati reflected on the river is a must-experience event.
  • Sri Sri Radha Damodar Mandir – Established in 1542, the divine murthis in the temple were manifested by Sri Rupa Goswami and handed over to his nephew Sri Jiva Goswami for worship. Both these illustrious Vaishnavites’ samadhis are located inside this temple, alongside the samadhi of the founder acharya of the Gaudiya Maths all over India, Srila Bhakti Siddhant Saraswati Thakur. Founder-acharya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupad’s bhajan kutir is also inside this temple. The parikrama of this temple is supposed to earn the same blessings as Mount Govardhan’s parikrama itself!

Day 3 – Barsana/Nandgaon/Gokul

This day was bliss indeed, as we visited both Radharani and Lord Krishna’s childhood homes.

  • Maan Mandir – We started the day visiting Radharani’s childhood places in Barsana. One of the most important Leelas was performed at this mandir, situated on top of Brahmagiri parvat (mountain) located in Gahvar Van. Radharani was waiting for her Beloved and became angry (maan in Hindi means anger) when She heard that Lord Krishna was talking to her friends. She hides in a crevice in the mountain, waiting for the Lord to come and comfort her.
  • Morkuti mandir– To appease Radharani, the Lord dresses as a peacock and dances in front of her. Appeased, she comes out of her hiding.
  • Sringaar Kund – You can approach these two temples via road or by climbing the steps. At the bottom of the hill is the beautiful Sringaar Kund where Shri Radharani used to adorn herself before appearing before the Lord.
  • Shri Radha Rani Temple or Ladli Mahal – On top of the Brahmagiri mountain is the most important temple for Radharani, also lovingly called as Ladli (charming, small girl). The views from the courtyard of this temple is breathtaking.
  • Nand Yashoda Bhavan, Gokul – This is a goosebump moment as the guide points out the streets approaching the home of Nand Baba in Gokul, on which Vasudev came to Nand Baba’s house (called Vasudev Chor Rasta), carrying baby Krishna to safety on his head as soon as the Lord was born.
  • Nanda Bhavan, Nandgaon – Fearing King Kamsa and his demons, the citizens of Gokul flee to Nandgaon where Krishna grows up. Again, the house is situated on top of a mountain so Nanda could protect his son. The priest pointed out key points of interest from the top including the road that Akrur took to request the Lord to accompany him back to Mathura to see His uncle, and the road Uddhava took to bring the message of the Lord to the gopis.
  • Govardhan Temple – Due to time constraints we could not do the Govardhan Parikrama, so just visited the small temple located at the entrance to the Parikrama marg. I hope to go back soon for that.
  • Radha Kund and Shyam Kund – While Braj Bhumi is full of kunds (lakes/ponds/wells/water bodies) that speak of the various Leelas of the Lord, Radha Rani and the gopis, these two kunds are of very special importance as both Radharani and the Lord have taken bath in each other’s ponds, declaring that doing so will guarantee prem bhakti (intense love).

Read Part 3 – Kurukshetra

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