Vrindavan

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Welcome to Vrindavan, the land of Shri Krishna. I was fortunate to go there during Janmashtami 2009. You see decoration and devotees in the revered and famous Banke Bihari Mandir (temple) on Janmashtami day.

The best way to get first hand experience of Vrindavan is to do Parikrama and visit key temples. The parikrama starts from ISKCON temple, takes 3-4 hours depending on your speed. You see ISKCON temple. Go for the Mangal aarti at 4am and 7pm aarti.

Enroute met these group of Sadhus who were looking for a place to stay. I requested them to pose for a picture and they obliged. At the beginning of the parikrama is a Krishna Balaram tree.

You see the Madana Mohana Temple enroute. Sanatana Goswami discovered the Deity of Madan Mohan. Ram Das Kapoor, a merchant, donated funds for this mandir in 1580. When Muslims attacked in 1670, the original deity was moved to Jaipur and later to Karoli.

Sadhus outside the temple. When I requested for a group picture they asked for dakshina in the form of Lassi. I happily ordered a glass each for them.

This is Chir Ghat. Till recently Yamuna waters flowed till the point where you see the steps but now it has become part of a road. This is the tree where the Gopis would hang their clothes while going to bath in the Yamuna. Lord Krishna would take the clothes from there. Today devotees tie cloth on the tree as you can see.

Went for a boat ride in the river Yamuna, do early morning or after 4ish. You see boatmen, simple guy, full of stories about Lord Krishna. Each person is a storehouse of knowledge by himself. Pay Rs 100/ for a 30 minute ride.

These are the main ghats. Left to right is Yashoda Ghat, then Aarti ghat and lastly Gopi ghat. Kesi ghat is the key ghat there, it is where Krishna killed Kesi demon.

Enroute parikrama you see a Sadhu chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna. Parikrama route start from ISKCON temple, Krishna Balaram tree, Gautama Rishi Ashram, Varaha ghat, Ishaan goshala, Madana Mohana temple, Kaliya Ghat,Imli Tala, Sringara Vata, Keshi Ghat, Tekani Rani temple, Jaganatha temple and Lord Chaitanya temple.

Spent the next one day seeing individual temples. You see entrance to one of the many temples. I did the trip bare foot and believe me it was a spiritually uplifting experience.

A close up of the temple entrance. Clicked this for you to see the fine work.

1st visit was to Bankey Bihari Temple. It is beautifully decorated on the occasion of Janmashtami. Established in 1864 by Swami Haridas, this temple is one of the most popular temples in Vrindavan, especially during Jhulan Yatra, the swing festival in the month of Shravan (July/August).

A side view inside the Bankey Bihari temple. It was full of devotees, the crowds were well managed.

Inside the Radha Ballabh temple. The lady that you see right in front is placing fire on a stone that is a symbol of Giriraj which was lifted on a small finger by Lord Krishna to save the entire Gokul from Lord Indra who organized heavy rains.

Met these snake charmers outside the Radha Ballabh temple entrance. Inspite of it not being Nag Panchami day their liveliness, energy and positive attitude convinced me to give them Rs 10/ each for milk for Nag Devata.

You see Sewa Kunj. Earlier Vrindavan was full of wild tulsi trees like you see. This is the sacred place of the Rasa dance and also where Lord Krishna would offer service to Radharani by decorating Her hair with flowers, and by massaging and painting Her lotus feet. According to people who stay close to the Kunj every night Raas or dance takes place here by Gopis. Monekys throng the place all day. If they spend the night they either die or become mad.

Inside the Sri Radha Damodar Mandir. You see devotees. Remember to do four parikramas of the temple. This temple includes the Deities of Radha Damodara, worshipped by Srila Jiva Goswami, the Deities of Radha Vrindavan Chandra of Krishna Dasa Kavirja Goswami, Radha Madhava of Jayadeva Goswami and Radha Chalcikana of Bhugarbha Goswami.

Radha Ramani Mandir. You see Abhishek being performed on Janmasthami day. Very powerful temple. Felt really nice after visiting this temple. The Deity of Radha Raman (one of the few original Deities still left in Vrindavan) was worshipped by Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami. The Deity self-manifested from one of the Goswami’s saligram silas in 1542.

Crowds inside the Radha Ramani Mandir. The whole temple was decorated with marigold flowers.

Entrance to the Nidhi Van. It has wild tulsi trees like Sewa Kunj and Swami Haridas ki samadhi. Here Krishna would decorate Radharani with different kinds of cosmetics before performing the Rasa dance. Sometimes Radha and Krishna would come here to rest after the Rasa dance. At the far end of the garden is a small temple call Rang Mahal, where a bed is still kept for the divine couple to rest.

A group of devotees were singing in a temple inside the Van. The two girls that you see in the picture decide to dance extempore.

You see Brahma Kund ie maintained by the Braj Foundation. Wish all the kunds were as well laid out and maintained. It is very close to the Raghunathji Mandir.

A close up view of Lord Brahma.

The restoration of the Kund was supported by a well known industrialist whose photo you see.

Entrance to Raghunathji Temple. Entrance one is in Rajasthani style while there is a Gopuram behind it made in South Indian style.

A front view of the entrance of Raghunathji made in Rajasthani style. The temple was made by a Jain businessman from Mathura. At the age of 60 he had no children desired a son. During a yatra to Badrinath in the 1860''s he met a learned sage from South India after which he was blessed with twin boys.

Raas Lila show just as u enter Raghunathji mandir. The businessman dedicated two temples to them one Raghunathji Mandir and the second is Dwarkadish Mandir in Mathura.

Since Raghunathji was made at the instance of a South India sage the style is typically South Indian. Like Tamilian temples it has a large pond as you can see in this picture. First there is a fort type wall, Rajasthani style entrance, then Gopuram, then temple wall and inside that temple. Similar to the way Brihadesvara Temple in Thanjavaur is made.

Vrindavan is full of monekys. You see a moneky eating with her young child clinging on to her.

Temple mein gopuram when u enter from the eastern side.

A multi columnar hall with the gopuram and temple in front.

The pandits (mostly South Indian) took out a procession of Lord Krishna on Janmasthami day inside the temple premises.

Another view of the procession.

You see Govind Dev temple built by Raja Mansingh 1590. It originally had 7 storeys, four of which were destroyed by Aurangzeb. On the 7th storey was a diya (lamp) whose light was large enough for it to be seen from Delhi.

A side view of the temple. When Aurangzeb attacked the temple its caretakers smuggled out the icon of Govind Devji, discovered by Srila Rupa Goswami, to Jaipur where it continues to be till this day.

Entrance to Jaipur Mandir, u see the garden.

This tells you who made the temple and when.

Entrance to temple. Note the intricate carvings. Most Vrindavan temples are shut between 12 and 4pm. Keep in mind while planning your schedule.

A close up of the carvings, columns at entrance to temple.

A close up of the carvings, columns at entrance to temple.

Actual temple structure. What you saw earlier was the outer building.

A close up of the carvings, columns at entrance to temple.

A side view of the temple entrance.

Tulsi tree inside the temple complex. Never seen anything like this before so well carved.

View of Katyani Devi Mandir. According to tradition Sati''s hair fell at this place. Pic narrations wrt temples borrowed mostly from ISKCON site.

Overview of ancient Balaram temple at Dauji, about an hours drive from Vrindavan. There is an icon of Balaram''s wife Revathi in the same temple. Devotees who come with a wish to Dauji bring a flag which is then hoisted at the temple top.

Marble writings at temple entrance. Dauji is where the in laws of Balaram stayed.

I was fortunate to be present there during the morning aarti. You see the icon of Balaram.