“The Key to Happiness is the reduction or negation of Desires”- Lord Krishna
As per Hindu mythology, Krishna is the eighth avatar of the Lord Vishnu (second God in the Hindu triumvirate or Trimurti). This year, the month of September brought exuberance and auspiciousness of the festival of Janmashtami. Come, let us unravel the religious sanctity of the architectural marvels as well as not-so-popular gems associated with the birth, antics and gaiety of Lord Krishna. This post elaborates on my 3 days trip which I spent in discovering Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Govardhan and Barsana.
Krishna Trail in the Abode of the Lord
Gokulashtami, the occasion of the birthday of Bal Gopal (Lord Krishna) is a grand affair across India, with unparalleled and high–spirited celebrations at his birthplace, Mathura. The spiritual character of Braj Bhoomi (Mathura) and the towns of Vrindavan, Gokul, Govardhan and Barsana (situated in Mathura district) are defined by the belief that the Lord was born in this soil and has lived the important milestones of his life in here.
One day, I drove down from Delhi to Mathura to immerse myself in the voices that resound with the legends and liveliness of Lord Krishna. My first stop was the pious town of Vrindavan, the one which has temples at every few steps. Arguably, Banke Bihari and Shri Krishna Balaram Temple (ISKCON) are the two most popular temples for their deep rooted devotion to the Lord.
After this I walked down to the oldest temple of the neighborhood, Madan Mohan Temple. It is associated with the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who propagated highest level of devotion to Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and was also considered a reincarnation of Lord Krishna by his followers. In Vrindavan, one really can’t miss visiting Prachin Kaalia Temple and Nidhi Van. Kaalia temple is the one where young Krishna overpowered the venomous snake Kaalia while Nidhi van is a mysterious and mystical forest land which thrives on the believe that Lord Krishna visits it every night to dance and rejoice with Radhaji. Visitors are only allowed in the day.
Vrindavan is home to more than 5000 temples around the route called ‘Parikrama Marg’, thus you can never see enough of it.
Just 15 kilometers away from Mathura, this pious place took me into the childhood days of the Lord. To begin with, I descended at Raman Reti, the land of sacred sands. The soil here is considered to be the softest even today. The belief goes that Laddu Gopal (Baby Krishna) would roll, walk and play with his elder brother in these sands. To touch upon his childhood, I was keen to visit Ukhal Bandhan Ashram and Brahmaand Ghat. We all know that Lord Krishna would find ways to eat fresh butter from every pot in the village. One day, his mother Yashoda tied him to a pounder (Ukhal in Hindi) to punish him and Ukhal Bandhan Ashram is believed to be the place where she tied him. In another instance, when Yashodaji checked on him if he had eaten any mud, he opened his mouth and she was amused to see the whole universe (Bramhaand in Hindi) inside it. Today, there exists a bank (Ghaat) and small temple to commemorate the divine association.
On the next day, I visited the sacred hill or a very significant Hindu site, Mount Govardhana which is synonymous to the Govardhan municipality in Mathura district. As per the mythology, this hillock was lifted by teen Shri Krishna to save the people as strong rains had come flooding the land of Vrindavan. The circumambulation of Govardhana Hill is a ritual and goes on throughout the year.
Radha Kund and Shyam Kund are teemed to be the eyes of Govardhan. When I visited the temple as well as the Radha kund (pond), I was put face to face to the belief that it is located in the center of the whole of Universe, and hence as per many visiting saints and the caretakers of the temple, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in Brahma’s creation.
A stunning architectural group, an earthen pond and the stories of Radha ji (the favorite one of the Lord) coming to pick flowers (Kusum in Hindi) make Kusum Sarovar an attractive stop-over. It also falls on the sacred circular path (parikrama) of Govardhan Hill.
A few meters from Kusum Sarovar, I struck upon Narad kund and a temple dedicated to Narad Muni, a Vedi sage is worshipped as an ardent Krishna devotee.
Tourists usually miss out on Barsana but if you wish to discover some notable places associated with Radha ji’s life, there exists a grand Radha Rani temple where Radha ji grew up and played with her friends (Gopis). Since ages, Radha Krishna have been considered a combination of feminine and masculine energies and are revered together. In Barsana, I also devoted some time to visit Sudama Kutir and Prem Saagar lake. You must put them on your itinerary.
On the third day, my Krishna trail came to an end only after a visit to the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple Complex and Dwarkadheesh Temple, the shrines that are most importantly connected with the birth of the Lord. One gets to see the jail where his mother has delivered him. Also, if you are interested in museums, Mathura Museum is worth a visit.
This Janamastami, visit Braj Bhoomi, check out all these places and make the most of it. Don’t forget to gorge on the amazing local food.
Things to Know!
1. At Banke Bihari temple, one has to make special efforts to join a queue and see the idol of the Lord as a veil or a partition keeps coming down at regular intervals. The story goes that once Lord Krishna was so mesmerized by one of his devotee that he followed her home. It wasn’t easy to convince God to return to the temple.
2. Mansi Ganga is a sacred lake in the heart of Govardhan town. The most interesting things about it is that it was created by the mind of Krishna. Once, Lord Krishna killed a demon in the form of a calf. To make for his sin, he was urged to purify himself in the Ganges. Interestingly, he meditated and convinced Ganges to come to Govardhan.
3. In line with rich heritage and Krishna following in the city, World’s tallest temple, Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir is being constructed at Vrindavan. This is an ISKCON Bangalore initiative.
4. Vishram Ghat in Mathura is called so for this was the bank of Yamuna where Lord Krishna stopped to take rest after killing his maternal uncle Kansa who made uncountable attempts to kill him.
5. Sudama Kutir is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna’s best friend Sudama ji. The legends day that it was here where Sudama’s modest hut stood once.
If time does not permit you with 3 days, I have created a one day itinerary too. This was published in the in-flight magazine of Air India, ‘Shubh Yatra’ this month. You can click on the link below.