One of the most oustanding landmarks out of 5000 holy places of Vrindavan, Keshi Ghat is a picturesque holy site on the bank of the holy Yamuna River. Due to its importance Keshi Ghat is mentioned both in places to visit Vrindavan and Vrindvan temple list as well.
This lovely place is commemorating the glorious victory of Lord Krishna over the terrifying Keshi demon.
Unfortunately, the neglected state of this must-see place along with the deporable condition of the holy Yamuna reminds us of the dire need for a broad conceptual transformation of Vrindavan to preserve its cultural and historical heritage as one India’s greatest spiritual centers.
You might be interested which projects are going on to protect Yamuna river than go on reading our article on Save Yamuna river.
History of Keshi Ghat
The building complex at Keshi Ghat, including the ancient Jugal Kishor temple were built in the 17th century after the Mughal ruler Akbar made his historic pilgrimage to Vrindavan.
Contructed of red sandstone with inlaid palaces, this architectual masterpiece, reflected in the holy Yamuna river, is a spectacular sight to behold while cruising on a river boat. Please go on reading for more details on Vrindavan history.
Krishna at Keshi Ghat
Kesi Ghat is named after the famous pastime of the young boy Krishna, in which he annihilated the demonic horse-monster Keshi. Legend has it that Krishna’s evil Uncle Kamsa sent the gigantic horse to trample young Krishna to death.
After easily dispatching the demon by grabbing his legs and hurling him away, Krishna was attacked again by Keshi rushing towards him with open mouth intent on devouring the small child.
Krishna deftly thrust his fist into the demon’s mouth suffocating him and causing him to explode.
To wash off the filfth of the Keshi demon from his pure body, Krishna went into the Yamuna River to bathe.
The Importance of Holy Rivers in India
As you travel throughout India, one of the most frequent and moving sights is the image of sadhus (holy men) men, women and children bathing at the ghats (bathing sites) of her holy rivers.
For millenia, Indians have had a special relationship with their sacred rivers, such as the Ganges, Sarasvati, Kauveri, Narmada, Godavari and Yamuna.
More than just a place to bathe the body, quench the thirst or seek refreshment from the oppressive heat, the river also serves as a spiritual source for purification of the soul, by washing away sinful activities. Rather than interring the deceased in the earth, Indians cremate their loved ones and deposit their ashes in the sacred rivers to liberate them from worldly bondage.
Many westerners are alarmed to see people bathing in waters that are visibly polluted with raw sewage, industrial waste and plastic litter. Fortunately efforts have begun to clean up India’s holy rivers and sacred ghats.
Conclusion about Keshi Ghat
From a distance, on a boat floating down the Yamuna, Keshi Ghat offers a stunning panoramic view of immense beauty and grandeur.
Conversely, if you visit by foot you may be drawn to tears to witness the dilapidated structures suffering from years of neglect not to mention the deporably polluted state of the sacred Yamuna river.
In an attempt to clean up the holy rivers and restore dignity to Mother Earth who sustains all of her living beings with fresh water, efforts are being undertaken to stop the pollution of rivers like the Yamuna.
VrindavanActNow! is one such organization that eagerly seeks your help in this worthy pursuit to clean up the Yamuna and the beautiful Keshi Ghat.
We need you to save Yamuna river. The importance of rivers in the development of human civilization cannot be overstated. Hear the cry of the Yamuna river! Please make everything possible to save Yamuna!
Many eco-systems cannot support life without the existence of a healthy watershed maintained by a vibrant river. However, beyond the material benefits that a healthy river provides to humans and other species, there is also a spiritual element associated with rivers, never more prominently exhibited than in the holy rivers of India.
The Yamuna is considered by Hindus to be one of the holiest rivers in the world. The goddess of the river, Yami, is the sister of the Yama, the Lord of death and the daughter of the Sun god Surya.
Many of the supreme Lord Krishna’s earthly pastimes are connected with this holy river, which is the main tributary of the legendary Mother Ganges. Unfortunately, today the holy Yamuna is horribly polluted with raw sewage, industrial chemical contamination, agricultural waste and tons of plastic garbage.
If ever there was a river that cried out for our help, the Yamuna’s desperate plea for compassion would be heard throughout the universe. Help us to Save Yamuna river!
Save Yamuna: Spiritual Significance of the Yamuna
Once you hear the cry of Yamuna river you will surely do anything possible to Save Yamuna.
To understand the significance of the Yamuna river we have to go back 5000 years in history. The birth of the most important personality in Hindu theology, Lord Krishna took place 5000 years ago around the Yamuna River. If you are interested in history you can find more details here on Vrindavan history.
In the Vedic scriptures, particularly the Vishnu Puranas, there are many accounts of Lord Krishna sporting with his cowherd playmates on the banks of the Yamuna in Vrindavan where as a young boy, Krishna annihilated several horrific demons such as the venomous serpent Kaliya and the horse monster Keshi.
The magnificent Keshi Ghat on the bank of the Yamuna in Vrindavan stands as a monument to the latter achievement. It was on the banks of the Yamuna that Krishna, his divine consort Radharani and the gopis, (cowherd maidens) relished in the supremely sweet pastimes of the Rasa dance 5000 years ago.
For several branches of Vaishnavism, meditation on these pastimes is one the most important spiritual practices of their faith. Imagine what a disgrace and humiliation it is for devotees of Krishna to see their most sacred site of worship desecrated by the most horrible pollution imaginable.
To remember Krishna’s different pastimes the saints have built 5000 temples in Vrindavan. Here you can find the description of the most important temples of Vrindavan: Vrindavan temple list.
Ecological Degradation of the Yamuna: please save Yamuna!
As the largest tributary in the world’s biggest river basin (Ganges River Basin), the Yamuna River supports life to a half-billion people living in northern India.
Besides being the main source of fresh natural water for human consumption, it provides nutrient-rich farming soil in its floodplains, and it provides an essential habitat to many fish, birds and turtles among countless aquatic species living in and around its waters.
Based on several alarming international studies, the Indian government has concluded that this vital river system which has had religious, political and ecological significance for thousands of years is nearly dead. Up to this point one can clearly understand that we have to join our efforts to save Yamuna river.
According to a recent report by National Public Radio of the USA,
“Delhi is about a third of the way down the 855-mile Yamuna River. Its source is the Yamunotri glacier, crystal-clear water from the Himalayas. But by the time it moves down the eastern edge of India’s capital, it exits as the dirtiest river in the country.”
Assuming that the Indian government will seriously take charge in restoring the Yamuna’s ecological integrity is not a very encouraging prospect.
India’s Skymet internet weather service made it clear 4 years ago:
“Cleaning the river Yamuna is the responsibility of the Government, which is legally bound by law to provide safe drinking water to its citizens. The courts have passed several judgments on the issue of providing clean drinking waters in towns/cities situated on the banks of River Yamuna but all this has proven to be a futile exercise as a dirty Yamuna is becoming dirtier with each passing day.“
Help to Save Yamuna River
Rather than expecting the government to solve this severe crisis alone, it is the moral, spiritual and civic responsibility of every individual to contribute efforts towards saving the sacred Yamuna from a horrible death.
There are several organizations that are working to raise awareness about this issue.
Of course if you visit Vrindavan, you can join our efforts of Vrindavan Act Now to save Yamuna. Why not engage in hands-on service to physically clean plastic and other garbage from holy sites on the river?
In performing this meaningful service, you will certainly experience personal gratification as well as spiritual benediction from sadhus (saintly persons) and divine mercy from Radha, Krishna and Mother Ganges.
Full Vrindavan temple list would be quite long. Imagine a town with 5000 temples because Vrindavan is historical holy place for Vaishnavas. We wrote about Vrindavan history that you might love to read. In this present article we will mention some of the most important temples in Vrindavan.
Vrindavana is an ancient hindu sacred place where holy men, women and children as well as cows frequent sacred sites everyday with offerings of flowers and sweets to some of the most beautiful deities of Radha and Krishna, the divine couple, found in the world.
You are most welcome to join the festive mood of Vrindavan, visiting its glorious temples and holy places. However, there is a warning! You may end up losing your heart and mind in the ecstatic mood of serving Radha Krishna and never want to leave this magical place. You may like our article on Places to visit in Vrindavan as well.
Vrindavan’s Spiritual Energy
It is said that just being present in Vrindavan, seeing the holy sites, breathing the air, smelling the smells, eating the food and touching the cows, one’s heart becomes transformed by the spiritual energy of the place.
After all, the Supreme Lord Krishna and his beloved Radharani enjoyed their amorous pastimes here 5000 years ago. Since that time, many temples have been built to commemorate their divine presence and these ancient holy sites are available to all for receiving the divine blessings and mercy of Radha and Krishna.
Seven temples of Vrindavan
You might have heard pilgrims refering to seven main temples of Vrindavan. In that case people refer to the following seven temples in Vrindavan:
Best solution for that issue is to visit as many temples you can During your stay in Vrindavan. In addition to our Vrindavan temple list, one of the most important activities for pilgrims or anyone desiring to acquire divine benediction is to go on a parikram or a circumambulation of the holy city among the temples in Vrindavan. This should be done barefoot as a meditation on the bi-weekly fasting day called ekadsasi.
During the course of the 10 kilometer walk, you will pass by many important Vrindavan temples and holy sites along the Yamuna River.
Vrindavan temple list
With so many temples to visit in Vrindavan, it is definitely helpful to know about the most important temples, especially if you are only in town for a short stay.
So here is a list of the must-visit temples in Vrindavan with a brief description of each. Keep in mind that most temples are open for deity darshan (viewing of the deities) in the early morning and evening. Here we go: Vrindavan temple list by Vraj Vrindavan Act Now!
Vrindavan temple list: Govind dev Temple
This ancient historical temple which is considered an architectural masterpiece, is one of four temples allowed to be built under the reign of Mughal ruler Akbar.
Govinda temple in Vrindavan was built in 1590 by a general in Akbar’s army to its original height of 7 stories. Here you can have darshan of Radha Govinda deities in a separate temple adjacent to the original temple which was desecrated by Mughal (Moslem) soldiers in the early 17th century.
Vrindavan temple list: Madan Mohan Mandir
This is a very tall and majestic temple, considered to be one of the oldest temples in Vrindavan. This was the first of four temples built during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
It was later attacked in the 17th century by soldiers of Aurangzeb, successor to Akbar. So the original Madan Mohan deities were moved to Rajasthan. Replica deities can be seen in the newer temple at the bottom of the hill.
Vrindvan temple list: Shri Gopinath Temple
In 1632 at this site the first Gopinath temple was built, and here was installed the original deity of Shri Gopinath created 5000 years ago by Krishna’s grandson Vajranabha.
After the original Gopinath Temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb soldiers later in the 17th century, a new temple was constructed in 1819.
Vrindavan temple list: Jugal Kishor Temple
This is also known as the Keshi Ghat Temple since it is part of the building complex located by the Yamuna River at Keshi Ghat.
Jugal Kishor is one of four temples allowed to be built at the end of the 16th century under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is the only one of the original four not to be attacked by Aurangzeb’s soldiers.
Vrindavan temple list: Banke Bihari Temple
Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan is one of the most famous and well-attended Krishna temples in the world. The ancient deity of Krishna, Banke Bihari, meaning “Supreme Enjoyer” is believed to bestow profound spiritual blessings on anyone who is fortunate enough to have his darshan.
Please allow yourself plenty of time to visit this special holy site, as large crowds tend to gather here.
Like many of the important temples of Vrindavan, this one was built by followers of Lord Krishna Chaitanya, the 15th century Bengali incarnation of Radha and Krishna.
Here several beautiful deities belonging to Lord Chaitanya’s illustrious contemporaries, namely Viswanath Chakravarti, Narottama Dasa and Raghunath dasa are worshipped daily.
Vrindavan temple list: Radha Damodhar Temple
This ancient historical temple was built in the 16th century by Maharaj Man Singh of Jaipur by the inspiration of Jiva Goswami, one of the six goswamis of Vrindavan who are responsible for the spiritual and cultural renaissance of Vrindavan.
Here sits the famous Govardhan Sila deity of Jiva’s uncle Sanatan Goswami, who personally received this image of Krishna in the stone from the Lord Himself 500 years ago.
This spectacular Hare Krishna temple was built by the founder of ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness), Srila B.V. Prabhupada in 1975.
Here you can have darshan of three magnificently decorated deities of Krishna Balaram, Radha Krishna with gopis, and Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda. There is also a very opulent white marble samadhi (mausoleum) of Swami Prabhupada.
Vrindavana temple list: Radha Raman Temple
Gopala Bhatta Goswami, one of the six goswamis of Vrindavan, established this temple in the mid-16th century to worship the divine self-manifestation of Krishna in the stone form (salagram sila) of Sri Radha Raman (beloved of Radha).
This amazing deity stands only about 35 centimeters tall, but His divine energy is so powerful that pilgrims from all over the world are attracted to receive His darshan every day.
Vrindavan Temple list: Sri Rangaji Temple
This magnificent temple of Sri Ranganath, of traditional South Indian Dravidian style, was built from 1845-1851. It is very impressive in stature and replete with colorful, ornate carvings and statues. It is one of a kind in Vrindavan because the main deities and their traditional worship rituals belong to the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya, a form of Vishnu worship common in the Tamil Nadu region of South India.
Here elaborate deity worship is performed daily by South Indian priests, and there is a fabulous 10-day festival during the month of Chaitra in March/April.
Vrindavan temple list: Gopeshwar Mahadev Temple
Considered to be one of the oldest temples in Vrindavan, Gopeshwar Mahadev Temple is home to Lord Shiva, the guardian of the Maharasa Lila, the dancing pastime of Radha, Krishna and the Gopis of Vrindavan. It is said that Krishna’s own great-grandson, Vajranabha installed the
Shiva lingam here some 5000 years ago. This is traditionally the first temple that pilgrims visit in Vrindavan to receive the blessings of Lord Shiva before going for darshan of the divine couple at the various Radha and Krishna temples.
Conclusion about Temples in Vrindavan
Of the 5000 temples in Vrindavan, you now have a list of nearly a dozen must-see sites that will leave you with unforgettable impressions of this holy city.
It is best to inquire ahead of time about each temple’s schedule for deity darshan so that you gain the most valuable cultural and spiritual benefit of visiting these sacred placesn which you can find in our Vrindavan temple list.
It is also recommended to learn about proper temple etiquette and attire, and to make appropriate offerings or donations to help support these important temples.
The Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan is undoubtedly one of the most famous and well-attended Krishna temples in India. Thousands of devotees, pilgrims, tourists and lofcal inhabitants visit this historic temple daily to receive darshan of the Supreme Lord in his tribhanga deity form. Any trip to Vrindavan is not complete without a visit to this amazing, holy site. Definitely Bankey Bihari temple is on the list of “must-see” places to visit in Vrindavan.
Vrindavan’s Banke Bihari
The main attraction in the Banke Bihari Temple is naturally the deity of Lord Krishna in his transcendental form as Banke Bihari, which means the Supreme Enjoyer (bihari), bent in three places (banke=tribhanga): at the neck, hips and knees.
With black complexion, dressed ornately, and adorned with jewels and fragrant flowers, this deity of Sri Krishna is adored by all.
Legend has it that a beautiful deity of Radha and Krishna appeared mystically before a pure devotee of the Lord, Swami Haridas nearly 500 years ago in Vrindavan. Upon Swamji’s intense desire to save others from the debilitating effects of witnessing the overwhelming beauty of Radha and Krishna, the divine couple merged themselves into a single form, the enchanting Banke Bihari deity that you see in the temple today.
Banke Bihari Temple History
Vrindavan history is amazing. Just like history of Banke Bihari is. The The deity first appeared to Swami Haridas in his secluded meditation spot in the dense forest of Nidhivan, a sacred grove where Radha and Krishna would spend the night together.
The Banke Bihari deity was later installed in its original temple at Nidhivan where it remained for several hundred years, until a glorious temple befitting the deity’s splendor was contructed in 1862. Built in contemporary Rajastani style of the 19th century, the Banke Bihari temple is an architectural masterpiece.
Darshan of Banke Bihari
To have darshan of the deity means to appear before the Lord and receive the divine mercy and blessings emanating from the deity itself. Taking darshan is a major part of devotees’ spiritual practice which they may perform several times a day before various deities in different temples.
To reciprocate to the Lord with feelings of loving devotion, it is customary to offer some sweets or flowers to the deity when going to a temple for darshan. There are numerous vendors waiting outside the Banke Bihari temple to sell you flower garlands and sweets to offer the Lord. After the pujaris (priests) have offered your items to the Lord, they will give you some of the remnants for a small donation.
Conclusion on Visiting Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan
Much more than a tourist destination, the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan is a holy site of inestimable spiritual significance. A visit to this temple will definitely provide you with a great opportunity to experience the real mood of Vrindavan.
If you are patient enough to gain entrance to this beautiful temple and appear in person before the transcendental form of the Lord, the sacred darshan of Banke Bihari may indeed prove to be the highlight of your visit to holy India. To get an idea of why this is a must-see place, here is a video.
On Video: Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan – famous of its holi festival.
Whether you are on a pilgrimage, a volunteer program or just on a tourist stop, you may have some trouble deciding which places to visit in Vrindavan. We have made a list of main Vrindavan attractions and must-see places in Vrindavan.You might be interested to know Vrindavan temple list and Places to Visit in Mathura as well.
There are so many important temples, historical sacred sites, ashrams, marketplaces and shops in this mystical medieval town. It is a good idea to refer to the following “must-see places in Vrindavan” guide in order to have an unforgettable experience in Vrindavan. If you want to read more about the history of Vrindavan, look at our article on History of Vrindavan.
After all, Mathura and Vrindavan are respectively the birthplace and childhood abode of Lord Krishna, the most famous and beloved supreme personality of Hindu tradition. In this town, bustling with pilgrims, sadhus, merchants and sacred cows, you are sure to lose a piece of your heart, mind and soul.
This happens because of the so many spiritually-charged encounters with divinity in so many diverse and distinctive forms.
This passage by Mark Twain certainly evokes the allure of Vrindavan,
“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand- mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
Temples to visit in Vrindavan
Meandering through the narrow winding streets and alleyways of Vrindavan, you will soon understand why this place is known as the city of 5000 temples.
Some of the most ancient places to visit in Vrindavan is the Sri Gopeshwar Mahadev temple, honoring Lord Shiva as the topmost devotee of Lord Krishna, were built around sites where Lord Krishna performed his pastimes 5000 years ago when He was incarnate on this planet.
One of the most famous and well -attended Krishna temples in the world, Banke Bihari Mandir is a must-see, if you don’t mind getting up close and personal with the locals, as you jostle your way among the huge crowd vying to get a glimpse of the altar. Make sure that this temple remains on your list of places to see in Vrindavan.
Another temple of great historical and spiritual significance that you should not miss is the nearly 500 year-old Govinda Dev Temple, home to the 5000 year-old deity Govinda ji.
Of course there are many other beautiful temples worth visiting on a whim whose, beauty, majesty and spiritual energy will leave you awestruck.
Vrindavan Krishna versus Mathura Krishna
In the course of visiting the sacred sites and temples in the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, we soon become familiarized with the ancient and legendary history of Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world and his subsequent childhood pastimes.
The birth story of Krishna in Mathura evokes within the devotee a deep reverence and adulation for the all-powerful, impervious nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who evades the wrathful designs of his demonic Uncle Kamsa.
This mood of awe and reverence is in contrast with the tender and loving feelings we harbor when hearing about the young mischievous cowherd boy who steals the hearts of all the inhabitants of Vrindavan with his playful acts of affection and intimacy.
The supremely sweet, flute-playing Krishna, who is protector of the cows and enchanter of the milk maidens is attractive to everyone, but especially to his dearly beloved sweetheart, Srimati Radharani. The intimate pastimes of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna in the pleasure groves of Vrindavan are the source of unparalleled ecstasy in both the material and spiritual worlds.
Vrindavan attractions: Radhey Radhey!
One of the sweetest of all Vrindavan attractions is the ubiquitous greeting “Radhe Radhe!” Those echoes throughout the entire town of Vrindavan day and night reminds the visitor of the significance of Krishna’s beloved Srimati Radharani.
Known as Sri Radha, the vocative form Radhe (pronounced Rad-hey) is used to call out to her as Krishna does in His ecstatic loving mood. So when we greet people with “Radhe Radhe” we are reminding them and ourselves that the highest, most desirable love we can express is found in the divine love of Radha and Krishna.
Tourist Attractions in Vrindavan
If you go to Vrindavan looking for typical tourist attractions like shopping plazas, beaches, bars or nightclubs, you will be terribly disappointed. Better off staying in Delhi, Mumbai or perhaps New York if you wish to enjoy the worldly delights of consumerism, entertainment and fashion.
Vrindavan is a truly a spiritual center where one seeks to transcend attachments to material existence by connecting with the mystical divine energy eternally emanating from Radha and Krishna.
The tourist attractions in Vrindavan are the ancient temples inhabited by the most famous celebrities of the universe, such as Govinda ji, Radha Raman, Damodhar, Radha Madan Mohan and countless other deity forms of the divine couple. Of course the sacred Yamuna River majestically adorned on her banks by the Keshi Ghat is a must-see place as well. Here you can read more on our efforts to save Yamuna river.
But before you venture to this famous landmark, you had better heed the warning of one of Vrindavan’s holiest persons, the 16th century Bengali Vaishnava Saint Srila Rupa Goswami who half- jokingly forbids worldly men from visiting Kesi Ghat,
“If you have even a slight desire to enjoy life with your wife, sons, relatives and friends, then listen to my advice. Never go to Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan, even by mistake. There, Shri Govindaji is standing in His charming threefold-bending form, smiling. A person who even once beholds this deity of Govinda never returns to his home, and his household life is ruined.”
In other words, just being in the presence of Govindaji at Keshi Ghat, one is freed from all material attachments and becomes mad after Him like all the residents of Vraja.
Visiting Places in Mathura
Once in Vrindavan, one need not travel far to visit the birthplace of Krishna, the sacred city of Mathura, which is considered one the holiest places in India, and home to many ancient temples and truly spiritual sites.
Must-see places in Mathura include Sri Krishna Janmabhumi Temple, built on the actual birthsite of Lord Krishna; the very popular Dwarkadhish Temple, located in the center of town; the very opulent Gita Mandir, as its name implies, containing the entire text of the ancient Indian scripture Bhagavad Gita inscribed in its premises.
You should not miss the Vishram Ghat situated on the Yamuna River where you can partake in the special evening aarti (ritual of offerings) during which thousands of small ghee lamps are launched onto the water, creating a dazzling spectacle of glistening lights reflecting on the gently flowing river.
Like Vrindavan, nearly everything in Mathura has to do with Radha and Krishna, so if you have developed a fondness for boy Krishna and his consort you may want to visit one of the many shopping streets to collect some images, statues or other religious items pertaining to the Lord.
Conclusion about Places to visit in Vrindavan
After hearing about the all the wonderful places to visit in Vrindavan and Mathura, if you are not yet convinced that this is one of the most alluring spiritual centers in the world, then here are some more good reasons to visit Vrindavan.
The colorful and enthusiastic Brajavasis, residents of Vrindavan, eagerly await you in their sacred temples and shrines to share their culture and spiritual traditions with you. After all, it is the loving spirit of the people that makes wonderful places great to visit.
And finally, it is important to understand one of the most important conclusions of Vaishnava (branch of Hinduism pertaining to Vishnu) philosophy: the divine love displayed by Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan is the original source of all the love that exists in the universe. So if you believe that love makes the world go round, then why not come to the center, the source and drink from the eternal nectar of divine love: please visit Vrindavan!
Want to know everything about the compelling history of Vrindavan?
Vrindavan is perhaps best known today as one of the most exciting places to celebrate the Spring festival of Holi. Every year, photos of the crowded streets, color-drenched celebrants and vibrant clouds of colored powders fill the newspapers and the Internet.
Written by Katie Walter
Some know Vrindavan as a place to visit famous temples, such as Prem Mandir, a 54-acre temple complex over 12 years by at least 1000 highly skilled artisans; Krishna Balaram or ISKCON temple, where temple decorations and foods offered to the deities are known far and wide for their quality and beauty; or Banke Bihari temple, where the Krishna deity is known to have brought about innumerable miracles.
Others still have learned in school that Vrindavan was an important place connected to political and religious developments in medieval India. However, none of these delightful aspects of Vrindavan would exist were it not for Divine events and related traditions that have taken place over Vrindavan’s long history.
Why It Is Important To Know About Vrindavan’s History
Why is it important to know more about Vrindavan? Because Vrindavan is a singularly unique a place with a power to help us experience, access and even become completely immersed in the divine. Such a place of experiential crossing over between physical worldly realms and dimensions to divine ones is called a tirtha. Vrindavan’s status as a tirtha has made it the center or a number of practices and traditions that make the place important in ways that, while devotional in nature, affect important aspects of life for everyone, regardless of his or her faith.
Why and how is Vrindavan a tirtha? About 5000 years ago, Lord Krishna came to live in Vrindavan expressly for the purpose of reveling in His own creation – and He did not come alone. Every single divine being took form as something or another in Vrindavan so they could witness Krishna’s divine play (lila).
Today, everything in Vrindavan is still infused with and inhabited by this divinity and thus it facilitates experience of the spiritual for those who seek it. This amazing characteristic of Vrindavan has been the catalyst for countless forms of art and cultural expression as well as religious devotion. Knowing more about Vrindavan, one will likely find new ways of looking at and appreciating everyday aspects of life and culture in India and beyond which are in fact connected to Vrindavan tirtha.
The Etymology Of Vrindavan
Before we talk about the history of vrindavan it would be very beneficial to know the meaning of word “Vrindavan”.
One of the divinities joining Lord Krishna in his Vrindavan lilas was Vrinda Devi. Considered a form of goddess Lakshmi, Vrinda Devi appears as the tulsi (sacred basil) plant, which covered Vrindavan as an expansive forest. Vrinda Devi helps seekers attain Krishna as She is always close to Him; in fact, it is said that Krishna does not like taking food or flower offerings which are not accompanied by Tulsi. It is for this vast forest of Tulsi that Vrindavan is named: Vrinda means Tulsi, or holy basil, and van is the word for a forest.
Vrindavan And India’s Sacred Texts
The great poet Tulsidas, who made the Ramayana accessible for the general reading public by translating it into a dialect of Hindi, took part in a miraculous event at Vrindavan which resulted in a temple there being dedicated to him. Today one can visit this Tulsidas temple at Gyan Gudri, Vrindavan.
The story goes as follows: Tulsidas visited Vrindavan and noticed all of the Krishna devotees, he decided to visit a temple to see Radha and Krishna. The priest of the temple told Tulsidasji as he was bowing to Krishna that he should only bow to his ishta devta or personal God. This God for Tulsidasji was Lord Ram. Tulsidasji reacted by speaking directly to Lord Krishna, saying:
“O Lord, how shall I describe today’s splendour, for you appear auspicious. Tulsidas will bow down his head when you take the bow and the arrow in your hands.”
In response, Lord Krishna immediately fulfilled Tulsidasji’s request, putting down His flute and taking up the bow and arrow of Lord Ram.
India’s great epic the Mahabharata mentions Vrindavan, as Krishna is a central character in the story. mentions Krishna’s early life in a village of cow herders. The Mahabharat of course contains the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s most popular and oft-cited texts. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna consults his friend Arjun on living a life of purpose based on a knowledge of the higher Self, guided by righteous principle and made possible through persistent (and eventually constant) devotion to the divine.
The Puranas are also linked to Vrindavan in various ways, either directly or through mention of Lord Krishna. The foremost of these is the Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, the most popular of all of the eighteen major Hindu puranas. The Srimad Bhagavatam recounts the life of Lord Krishna, including his many lilas in Vrindavan and the surrounding areas, in its tenth canto. The Srimad Bhagavatam also presents bhakti, or loving devotion, as a means for achieving union with the divine (Lord Krishna). Krishna’s life in Vrindavan is also a divine subject in Vishnu Purana as well as in the Sanskrit text Harivamsa, which is considered a Puarnic text by some. In the Varaha Purana, Varaha says that He will take form as Krishna and that Vrindavan will be the holiest place to witness His divine play.
The History of Ancient Vrindavan
It was about 5,000 years ago that Krishna loved and played in Vrindavan, with a host of divine beings that manifested as the cows to which He tended; his cowherd friends; the lovely milkmaids with whom he enjoyed long and lovely evenings in the forest, and all of the many other plants and creatures such as peacocks, parrots, monkeys, trees, creepers, and even blades of grass. The river goddess Yamuna features prominently in Krishna’s divine retinue; she serves an important role helping those seeking Krishna to attain the moods and modes of being necessary to do so.
Many years after Lord Krishna’s passing, His great-grandson, Vajranabh, was asked by the devotees to go to Vrindavan and restore the lila sthals (places of Lord Krishna’s lilas). These sites, where Krishna’s life events – full of miraculous feats, playful joy, childhood mischief, and divine romance – had been long forgotten. After praying to Sri Radha and Sri Krishna, Vajranabh was filled with their divine presence and Vrindavan’s long-forgotten lila sthals – forests, water tanks, hills, trees and more- were revealed to him. Vajranabh established temples and installed deities at a number of these lila sthals.
History of Vrindavan: In The Time Of Lord Krishna
When Sri Krishna lived in Vrindavan, it was just a small village of cow herding people. Vrindavan, along with the other places where Krishna performed his lilas, make up the greater area of Braj, which is spread over 3,800 square kilometers. Pilgrims regularly come to the area to perform the 84 kos Braj yatra, a walking circuit of about 300 kilometers encompassing some of Krishna’s most well-known lila sthals.
In Krishna’s time, Braj was made up of twelve beautiful and sacred forests and all of these are included in the popular Braj yatra pilgrimage: Bhadravana; Bilvavana (Belvan); Lohavana (Lauhavana); Bhandiravana; Mahavana; Madhuvana; Talavana; Kumudavana; Bahulavana; Kamyavana, Khadiravana, and Vrindavana.
The city of Mathura, where Lord Krishna was born, was the capital of Braj and was much larger than the small villages surrounding it. Mathura is famous in its own right as one of India’s Sapta Puris, or places where great saints and divine avatars have been born or taken form. The Buddha visited Mathura, which was a great Buddhist center up until the 9th century C.E.
History of Vrindavan: The Medieval Era
As centuries passed, the sites identified by Vajranabh, along with their deities and temples, again faded from the awareness of the world. The twelve forests of Braj again became overgrown and forgotten. Amazingly, yet another instance of rediscovery and renewed devotion and worship took place! This happened in the medieval era, when the northern portion of the Indian subcontinent was brought under Mughal rule.
During this time, a number of great saints and seers came to Vrindavan and again rediscovered and excavated the places of Lord Krishna’s divine play as well as deities that had been hidden for centuries. Some of these deities were swayambhu, or self-manifestations of Krishna which were never made by human hands!
The devotion of the saints of this era can still be felt in Vrindavan today and the deities that manifested in their presence or were re-discovered or newly installed are still there, attracting devotees from around the world to visit and have darshan. These deities include Radharaman-ji, Radha Shyamsundar-ji, Banke Bihari-ji and others.
The great saints who, through their devotion (bhakti) and divine visions re-discovered Krishna’s eternal presence in Vrindavan established or became part of a number of different devotional lineages. Some of the most well-known of these are the Radhavallabh sampradaya (associated with Hit Harivansh Mahaprabhu), the Nimbark and Haridasi lineages (associated with Swami Haridas ji), and the Vallabhite or Pushtimarg lineage (associated with Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya).
However, the saint with perhaps the most profound influence over Vrindavan’s re-emergence was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, founder of the Gaudiya Vaishnav sampradaya and considered by followers as an avatar Lord Krishna himself.
He, along with his associate Nityananda Mahaprabhu and the men who came to be known as the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan – Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Jiva Goswami, Gopalla Bhatta Goswami and Raghunatha Dasa Goswami – established temples and practices throughout Vrindavan that remain deeply influential over and connected to local culture.
Temples established by the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan are still referred to as the seven main temples of Vrindavan. They are: Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana Temple; Sri Sri Radha Damodara Temple; Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara Temple; Sri Sri Radha Ramana Temple, Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda Temple and Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Temple.
The devotional practices and miracles of Vrindavan’s saints and their deities drew attention from all over the world, bringing visitors such as the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who experienced divine visions of Vrindavan after his encounter with Swami Haridas. Emperor Akbar even granted land and donated red sandstone for the construction of the Govind Dev (Sri Sri Radha Govinda) temple.
Centuries later, another great emperor would be drawn to visit Vrindavan. In 1891, Nicholas II of Russia (then Crown Prince) was brought there and admired the beautiful small town, saying that it reminded him of Venice.
Vrindavan Bhakti As A Global Movement
As previously mentioned, practices of Krshna bhakti (devotion) and sites and temples associated with Krishna and his lilas have had enduring influence throughout India since their revitalization in the medieval period. In the 20th century, this influence became global in its reach. In 1965, at the behest of his guru, a 69 year-old, Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada) came to the United States of America. What happened between then and Srila Prabhupada’s death in Vrindavan in 1977 is nothing short of a miracle: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) came into being and was popularized all over the world!
The new Krishna devotees joining Srila Prabhupada from all corners of the world – including celebrities such as George Harrison – came to know of the special divinity that pervades Vrindavan and its surrounding areas. Many forign devotees even came to settle in Vrindavan to absorb themselves in the divine experience and perhaps ultimate achieve liberation. Devotees from western countries and their passion for devotional service to the deities of Vrindavan brought even more attention to Vrindavan’s sacred places and spaces.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada established Krishna Balaram temple in Vrindavan in 1975. Its standards of service to the dieties – flowers, food offerings, and devotional music – have made perhaps it the most popular temple in all of Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi is also here and the temple remains a primary center of the worldwide ISKCON movement.
History of Vrindavan: Cultural Heritage
Vrindavan has an incredibly rich cultural heritage, largely due to its sacred geography and spiritual practices, which have inspired a wide array of fine and performing arts, architecture and more. Several people have already moved to make Vrindavan a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Vrindavan’s most well-known performing arts are the Raslila, traditional performances of Lord Krishna’s play and heroic feats as well as Ram Lila, traditional performance of the Ramayana (which features on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage).
Local foods are also art of the cultural heritage and the former cowherd Vrindavan is especially famous for its dairy products. People all over India will very excitedly tell you about the delicious lassis one can get in Vrindavan, served in small clay pots with a thick layer of curd on top! Temple kitchens prepare delectable milk sweets for Lord Krishna and then distribute them as Prasad. Other local dishes include kachoris and samosas and of course several delicious vegetarian dishes cooked with pure ghee (clarified butter). Of course, many who live in Vrindavan’s ashrams practice simple living and high thinking, taking only very basic foods. But in Vrindavan, nearly all food is offered to the Lord and perhaps this is why even the simplest foods such as kichadi and chapatti are very delicious.
Vrindavan, which today is a town of around 63,000 people, is a place in peril. It continues to attract ever more people from around India and around the world, with some estimates putting the annual number of visitors at over 32 million!
However, most of these visitors leave their waste behind them. Large feasts are taken on thermacore (Styrofoam) plates that are left behind in large non-biodegradable heaps. Municipal waste management and NGOs that support them cannot keep up with the garbage coming into the city.
Due to destruction of forest lands of Vrindavan and the surrounding forests of Braj, monkey populations have been forced into the city, where they spread disease and injure and otherwise harass people. Vrindavan, which itself was a vast forest, only has two small vans – or forests – left. Nidhivan and Seva Kunj. Seva Kunj is almost completely encased in metal fencing to avoid its destruction by the displaced monkeys.
The Yamuna river, considered by devotees a Goddess who grants closeness to Krishna, is extremely polluted in Vrindavan. Upstream dams and farm and industrial pollution have placed the river in a horrible state before it even reaches Vrindavan, where untreated sewage still goes into the river. Squatters build on the Yamuna floodplain necessary for the maintenance of underground water tables and even government agencies are building illegally without considering their environmental impact. Meanwhile, Vrindavan’s medieval town remains a place of open sewers where people are extremely vulnerable to water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, etc.
Fortunately many efforts are beeing made to Save Yamuna river.
Vrindavan remains a place filled with religious and cultural beauty, but it is steadily being degraded by numerous destructive forces of greed and consumerism. Nowadays, it is the devotees only who see the beauty of this place, with casual visitors seeing only the garbage, the crowded traffic and the beggars.
Vrindavan’s future remains uncertain. There are several different religious societies and NGOs trying to counter the problems Vrindavan is currently facing. Local individuals have brought court cases against destructive government constructions. Others have built beautiful sanctuaries hidden in some small place or just outside of town. Government leaders have been thinking about how to use tourism as a means of bringing more economic growth to the area and have come up with different ideas for improving Vrindavan’s infrastructure and capacity to handle the traffic and waste for its giant influx of visitors.
However, more needs to be done if Vrindavan is to retain its culture for which it is known all over the world and if the people who live there can live with access to clean water and without fear of disease. Everyone should join in the effort in whatever way he or she can to save Vrindavan from the forces that are currently destroying it. This way, the beauty of Vrindavan, offering its visions of the enduring presence of Lord Krishna, will continue not only in isolated temples and caged-in gardens, but across all of Braj for the benefit and enjoyment of generations to come.
NEW DELHI: Introduction of a new river and sewage separation system will fulfill the needs of over a million citizens of the country who lack the availability of drinking water, says renowned water conservationist Rajendra Singh.
“We urgently need a river and sewage separation system in India. Right now we are mixing the rain water in the sewage water. If you are mixing clean water with dirty water, you can’t fulfill the needs of the large numbers of people in this country,” says Mr Singh.
“If we can get the good water from rains and recharge it, that is like reserve water in the bank. We can use the reserve, which is ‘A’ class water as drinking water,” says the environmentalist.
Popularly dubbed as the ‘Waterman of India’, Mr Singh was here recently to preside a jury-meet to nominate films for the upcoming 8th CMS Vatavaran Film Festival, 2015.
The 55-year-old Mr Singh, recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize in March this year, an award known as “the Nobel Prize for water” says that ‘Johads’, which he had successfully introduced in villages of Rajastan can be initiated in the other parts of the country including Delhi.
A Johad is a rainwater storage tank.
The capital city Delhi, says Mr Singh has all possibilities to create an effective rain water harvesting system.
“All water bodies of Delhi need a rejuvenation. These water bodies are either encroached upon or have been converted into a park or some other institution. The water bodies can be rejuvenated if they really flow into the Yamuna,” he says.
“We need to catch the water which comes through Aravalli region of the hilly region. The whole water will reach Yamuna finally and that water can be used. When the water level rises the flow in the Yamuna increases and by continuous recharge in the acquifer, Delhiites can get drinking water,” says Mr Singh.
There is also a need for identification, demarcation and notification of mapping of all water bodies in Delhi.
Criticising the setting up of hydropower projects in different parts of the country, he says it is essential to have a small level or community level decentralised water management in India.
“We need small water bodies similar to little dams. If you create a small dam, you can fulfill the needs of a community.
So we need the community driven decentralised water level management in India,” says the water conservationist.
Commenting on a report by NASA that showed large-scale irrigation caused groundwater loss in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi between 2002 and 2008, Mr Singh says the report is correct and it shows the serious problems of climate change and global warming.
“The climate change and global warming is the real threat to the earth. A fever is coming to the earth and it changes the monsoon in our country and the only way to overcome this is by planting more trees and plants,” says the 2001 Ramon Magsaysay Award-winner.
Mr Singh says in Rajasthan around 8,600 sq km area, plants and trees were planted and greenery and water conservation was attained and thus helped to overcome the threats caused by climate change.
“It was very successful and it is not late for others to do it,” he says.
Mr Singh also points out various other problems related to water which include exploitation of acquifer, pollution and encroachment of waterbodies.
Coming back to Delhi, Mr Singh says different types of rain water harvesting is possible here, which include roof water harvesting due to the numerous buildings, including shopping malls and hospitals, dotting the city.
“They are not making any difference between the clean water and sewage water. The rain water harvesting should be effective in the malls and buildings. If it is not being harvested and conserved, it is just being used,” Mr Singh says.
Old wells can also be used to conserve water, he adds.
Mr Singh is now heading towards the UK to attend the ‘Global Water Peace March to be held in August 21.
“Due to the climate change in UK, floods hit the Thames river and the British experts called me to work with them to solve the issue. After my visit there in November last year, they have now again invited me to attend in the march in August.
“It is as important to me because, I have been working all my life for water conservation. The march will be head towards western Europe and will finaly reach India,” says Mr Singh.
A slew of projects, including widening of roads, were on Wednesday promised for the twin towns of Mathura and Vrindavan – also known as Braj or Sri Krishna land – to convert the area into a developmental hub.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan, at the end of his two-day visit to Mathura, also directed the Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority to deal firmly with the land mafia that had encroached on the the Yamuna flood plains.
The chief secretary assured of speedy action on improving the road network in the district and also announced that the holy town of Goverdhan would be a new tehsil of Mathura district.
For the coming Mudiya Poonau (full moon), the annual fair that attracts more than 10 million pilgrims, a sum of more than Rs.2 crore has been released to upgrade civic amenities, he said.
The state government is keen on transforming the Mathura-Vrindavan hub with a dozen infrastructural projects that include four-laning of major approach roads from the Yamuna Expressway, a new bypass, among others.
“The increased road connectivity will help speed up growth and development,” officials said after a review meeting.
“Mathura and Vrindavan will emerge from the back waters to showcase the work of the Akhilesh Yadav government in the state. Some of the projects are already in pipeline while a few need to be given finishing touches before launch,” Mohan Yadav, a Samajwadi Party worker, said.
In March the chief minister had announced major programmes to upgrade the Vrindavan Shodh Sansthan, arrangements for pilgrims staying overnight in Goverdhan, Barsana and Gokul, formation of special squads of tourist police, uninterrupted power supply to Goverdhan parikrama marg, a barrage in Vrindavan on Yamuna and a link canal to divert water to the Agra Canal.
The government after the success of Sonkh Water ATM has announced five more such facilities. A plan to beautify the parikrama marg with ornamental plants and shady trees plus pucca footpaths is in the pipeline.
NEW DELHI: In a bid to contribute to saving river Yamuna, a group of seven students studing in class XI has launched the “Dying River campaign”, aimed at spreading awareness about the river and the urgency of saving it.
The Dying River campaign is an effort to sensitise people to the current situation. As a part of the initiative, the group has also invited articles on Yamuna river. Online petitions may be filed and a documentary is also being thought of as a part of the campaign.
The group is in the process of filing an RTI in order to get access to government documents related to the river, industries and existing laws associated with it. “The next step is to write a letter to the Chief Ministerof Delhi and subsequently, the Prime Minister, for saving the Yamuna is not responsibility of just Delhi but a collective effort of the entire northern region of India,” the group says.
Based on the information that it will receive about the existing laws, the group may file a PIL to amend certain laws and try to make the implementation of these laws stricter.
“After working on the political aspect of the campaign, we will shift the focus onto the social aspect. We will spread awareness among the people through street plays, community talks and are in the process of composing our own song. We need to make communities living around the Yamuna aware of the situation and the public of Delhi about the drastic effects of their actions,” the group’s website states.
According to the Dying River campaign’s website, the idea of starting such a campaign after a Yamuna Yatra, a twelve day journey organised by Swechha India, tracing the course of the Yamuna from its source to the plains.
VRINDAVAN: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on Wednesday, asked the state government and Mathura administration to give details of work that has been done in identifying landfill sites for solid waste management within three weeks. The move comes after NGT had issued notices to the state government, the Mathura Vrindavan Development authority and other concerned bodies in April, asking for explanation as to why landfill sites have not been provided in the town till date.
Expressing its strong displeasure over dumping of municipal waste in the Yamuna flood plains, the tribunal also directed the executive officer of Vrindavan municipality, Ram Ashre, to be present during the next hearing of the case.
Petitioner Madhumangal Shukla told TOI that so far no land has been earmarked as a landfill site as a result of which illegal and unregulated waste disposal have been taking place close to the river bed.
The current practice of dumping municipal solid waste in front of Tatia Sthan on the Yamuna flood plain has reached such an alarming state that in many places the river has been pushed as far as 300-400 meters away from the ghats. Garbage disposed in the drains have led to clogging and stagnation, becoming a breeding ground for a host of respiratory diseases.