This article offers a wealth of information about exploring Braj Darshan, the spiritual significance of Braj Mandal and its main pilgrimage sites.
Braj Mandal or Land of Krishna, is a large territory (3800 square km) comprised of many significant historical and cultural sites important to Krishna devotees and Hindus from around the world. The term Braj Darshan refers to the devotional activity of pilgrimage to honor and glorify the holy sites of Braj.
Every year millions of people visit the most important sites where Lord Krishna, his divine consort Srimati Radharani and their associates spent their youth over 5000 years ago.
In addition to the important sites mentioned in the articles, Places to Visit in Vrindavan and Places to Visit in Mathura, it is definitely worth the time and effort to visit some of the holy places in greater Braj Mandal.
#1 Braj Darshan sites in Braj Mandal: Braj Bhumi
Braj Bhumi refers to the land where Lord Krishna enjoyed his youthful pastimes. These events are described in detail in the sacred Hindu epics Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Vishnu Puranas among others.
According to these epics, Braj Bhumi is a pastoral land of farms, meadows, forests, lakes, rivers and hills. It is here that Krishna tended his beloved cows and entertained the residents of Braj with his mischievous antics, amorous adventures and heroic feats.
Today, you can visit the sites of Krishna’s pastimes in many small towns and villages where the various moods and sentiments surrounding the Lord’s activities are kept alive by the local inhabitants.
Braj Bhumi can be divided into two distinct territories. On the eastern side of the Yamuna River lie the towns of Gokul/Mahavan, Baldeo and Raman Reti. On the western side are the famous twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan and the picturesque towns of Govardhan, Barsana, Nandgaon.
#2 Braj Darshan sites: Gokul and Mahavan
The twin towns of Gokul and Mahavan (meaning: abode of cows and large forest) comprise one of the 12 major forests of Braj Bhumi.
Gokul is where Krishna’s foster parents, Yashoda and Nandana raised him among cowherd boys and cow maidens. The original abode of Krishna’s foster parents is still there in Mahavan.
Krishna also performed his heroic pastimes of killing demons Putana, Trinavarta and Shakatasura, sent by his wicked uncle Kamsa, in the forest of Mahavan.
There are many temples worth visiting such as the Gokulnath temple, Vithalnath temple, Dauji Temple, Madan Mohan temple, Dwarikanath temple, Balkrishna temple, Raj Thakur temple, Gopal lalji temple and Morwala temple.
In Mahavan the impressive Mathura Nathji temple and the Chaurashi khambha temple built in Buddhist architectural style are worth visiting along with other important shrines such as the Shyamlalji temple, Yogmaya temple, Tranairatri temple and the Mahamall Raiji’s palace.
#3 Braj Darshan sites: Baldeo
The town derives its name from the famous Dauji temple dedicated to Balaram, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. The main deity of the inner sanctum is that of Baldeo with his spouse Revati.
Nearby is Kshir Sagar or Balabhadra Kund, an 80 square meter sacred bathing site. Legend has it that the holy man Gosain Gokulnath was told by God in his dream about the deity of Lord Baldeo being concealed in the kund. Indeed a large beautiful deity about 7 feet high made of black stone was discovered there.
This deity of Balaram is believed to have been established by King Vajranabh about 5000 years ago. During the course of time the deity was lost and the Pratibhu Vigraha (replica) of the original deity is now worshipped in the Dauji temple.
Dauji is famous for its Holi celebrations known by the name of Huranga where devotees from all over the world come to play colours with Lord Dauji (Balaram).
#4 Braj Darshan sites: Raman Reti
This sacred pilgrimage site contains the sand (reti) in which baby Krishna played with his brother Balaram and his cowherd friends. It is also the secret meeting place of Lord Krishna and his consort Srimati Radharani.
Due to its divine heritage, many saints have performed their spiritual practices here, including Kashni Guru Samanandaji who built a beautiful ashram at this site.
The small shrine Rangbihari ji is also found here. It was established for worship by a pious saint Sri Gyandas Ji Maharaj who performed his severe austerities for the blessings of Lord Krishna while fasting at this sacred place of Raman reti.
#5 Braj Darshan sites: Govardhan parikrama
The sacred hill Govardhan is one of most revered pilgrimage destinations in Braj Mandal. The 8 km long narrow sandstone rock formation was lifted by Lord Krishna to shield the inhabitants of Braj from the torrential rains unleashed by Lord Indra.
During the month of Kartik (October/November) an elaborate festival Govardhan Puja is celebrated to commemorate the lifting of the the Govardhan Hill.
Thousands of devotees partake in the Govardhan Parikrama, 23 kilometer circumambulation of the hill. In the town of Govardhan the Danghati Temple and Ganga Manasa sacred bathing tank are worth visiting.
#6 Braj Darshan sites: Kusum Sarovar
The sacred bathing site, Kusuma Sarovara is located on the outskirts of Govardhan. The large ceramic pool is set against a backdrop of exotic palatial buildings carved from sandstone.
The splendid structures were built in the 18th century by Javahir Singh in memory of his father, the Jat king Suraj Mal. The exquisite central mausoleum contains a replica of Sri Krishna and Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet.
The ceilings are adorned with beautiful frescoes of Radha and Krishna’s pastimes as well as famous scenes from the history of the royal family. Lord Chaitanya, the divine incarnation of Radha and Krishna also bathed here in the 16th century.
It is believed that anyone who bathes here desiring to obtain pure love of Lord Krishna will attain prema bhakti (loving devotion to God) and witness the eightfold pastimes of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna.
#6 Braj Darshan sites: Barsana
This picturesque town with its beautiful temples scattered over verdant hills is one of the most popular destinations in Braj Bhumi.
While Mathura is birthplace of Lord Krishna, Barsana is the birthplace and childhood abode of Lord Krishna’s beloved consort Srimati Radharani. Her father King Vrshabhanu founded the holy town and built a beautiful palace called Vrshabhanugarh.
There are several other important temples and holy sites to visit here located on the peaks of the Brahma and Vishnu hills.
Radharani’s birthplace known as Ladliji Temple as well as Prem Sarovar bathing site. Radha and Krishna first met at this place, Both are must-see places.
Other attractions include Man Mandir, Mor Kutir Temple, Rup Sagar, Jal Mahal and Sankari-khar. Barsana is also famous for its uniquely colorful Lathmar Holi celebrations.
#6 Braj Darshan sites: Nandgaon
Nandgaon is named after Lord Krishna’s foster father, Nandanda. He established a permanent residence here with Mother Yashoda and baby Krishna after escaping from the disturbances caused by Krishna’s wicked Uncle Kamsa in Gokul.
The village of Nandagaon is located at the top of Nandisvar Hill named after Lord Shiva who is believed to reside in the hill. Being the topmost devotee of Lord Krishna, Shiva prayed to his Lord for the opportunity to eternally witness His endearing youthful pastimes in Nandgaon.
Pleased by Shiva’s prayers, Krishna granted his wishes by allowing Shiva to reside in the hill where he can observe the transcendental, boyhood pastimes of Lord Krishna. There are several temples and shrines to Lord Krishna that one can visit in Nandagaon.
The hilltop temple Nandai, shrines to Narashinga, Gopinath, Nritya Gopal, Giridhari and Nand Nandan are all within walking distance in this peaceful, rustic village.
Also not to be missed are Pan Sarovar lake where Krishna watered his cowherd, Yashoda Nandan temple and Kadamb Kunj gardens, holy sites dedicated to commemorating Krishna’s transcendental pastimes.
Conclusion about Braj Darshan
Visiting the holy sites scattered widely throughout Braj Mandal, is considered a spiritual activity or pilgrimage undertaken by Krishna devotees from around the world.
The numerous sacred places where Radha and Krishna performed their childhood pastimes are alive today with their divine spiritual energy.
If we are fortunate enough to visit some of the holy places in Braj Bhumi, we may develop a deep appreciation for the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Land of Krishna. This is truly a unique opportunity for spiritual advancement in one of India’s most sacred areas.