…..The brave teenager with dark complexion was beating a furious multi headed gigantic venomous serpent to its doom. His parents and neighbours were crying for help and God’s mercy on the banks of the Yamuna. The water and the air around the river were bitterly poisoned by the venom spitted by the evil serpent Kaliya. It was the dooms day for Kaliya and its evil deeds. The teenager was none other than Lord Krishna..Soon Kaalia would be defeated and the people of Vrindavan would rejoice freedom from another ghastly monster…
The Kaliya Daha
Well this was the vision we had in our eyes when we reached the Old Kaliya Temple, Vrindavan. But before we go ahead with our journey let me remind you – our rendezvous with Vrindavan, the holy Vrindavan – Lord Krishna’s “Janma Bhoomi” began the other day when we had our trip to Gokul, Govardhan, Barsana, Nandagaon.
The Kaliya Daha Temple
We had booked an auto rickshaw for our day’s trip in and around Vrindaavan and the autowala was at the doors of our guest house sharp at 9 in the morning.
The Old Kaliya Temple
The fabled Kaliya Daha Ghat
The old Kaliya Temple is a very simple looking temple built by the side of a pool resembling an river embankment or Ghat (Known as Kaliya Daha). The red-sandstone temple contains the idol of Lord Krishna in his avatar of the slayer of the serpent Kaliya alongwith his brother Lord Balarama.
The mano Kamana Siddh Kadam Tree
The temple complex also contains the famous “Mano Kamana Shiddh” Kadam tree, which is claimed to be more than 5000 years old. Legend says that on that auspicious day, the Lord climbed this Kadam tree and dived into the dark waters of the Yamuna to fight the evil serpent Kaliya. At present, the real river Yamuna had shifted its course several yards towards the North. Yet this beautiful temple bears symbol of the divine incident depicting the Lord’s victory over the evil.
The Madan Mohan Temple
After leaving the Old Kaliya Temple our auto rickshaw went ahead taking the Parikrama Marg and stopped in front of a small hillock known as Aditya Tila lying to our right – we had reached Vrindavan’s Madan Mohan Temple.
The Madan Mohan Temple, Vrindavan
Climbing the long steps was fun and the temple complex looked like a mini fort from the entrance beside the road. This famous temple was founded by Sanatana Goswami. The idol of Lord Madan Mohan (Sri Krishna) was discovered by the famous saint Advaita Acharya at the base of a Banyan Tree when he first visited Vrindavan.
Madan Mohan Temple, Vrindavan
After climbing the steps there was a surprise waiting for us! What we witnessed was a visual treat! The Lord’s temple was a giant 60ft tall terracotta temple having the same architecture and hallmarks what we had seen at the Madan Mohan Temple in Bishnupur, West Bengal.
Madan Mohan Temple, Vrindavan
At present the Madan Mohan temple is the oldest temples in Vrindavan. It is closely associated during the times when Sri Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Vrindavan. It is said that during the aggression of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the original deity of Lord Madan Mohana had to be taken away to Jaipur for safety. The present temple was reformed and rebuilt by Sri Nanda Kumar Bose of Bengal in the early nineteenth century.
The Madan Mohan Temple Complex
The temple complex also has a small ashram in the memory of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The ashram has the collection of a wide variety of well-maintained Tulsi plants and a beautiful flowering garden.
The Madan Mohan Temple Garden
The Bankey Bihari Temple
The Bankey Bihari Temple is one of the most important temples in Vrindavan. The typical name of the temple come from the word “Bankey” meaning “bent in three places” and “Bihari” meaning “the supreme enjoyer.” The idol of Lord Krishna assumes the typical “tribhanga” posture. It is said that the idol was first found in the year 1863 at Nidhivan and later in the year 1864 when the famous temple was erected under the pioneership of the Goswamis, it was taken from Nidhivan and worship started at the newly erected temple. Lord Krishna is popularly known as “Thakurji”. It is said that offering prayers in this temple is very auspicious as the Lord fulfils all the wishes and ensures the well being of his devotees.
The Bankey Bihari Temple
The temple itself is aesthetically a wonder in its architectural design and artistic prowess. Amazing panel works and arches mark the decoration of the main entrance giving it a palace like aura. The main gate leads to a large courtyard and the opposite end leads to the main temple housing the idol of Lord Krishna (Thakurji).
The Bankey Bihari Temple
Thousands of devotees from distant places flock to this temple to worship Lord Krishna and seek his divine blessings. The arti puja at Bankey Bihari temple is a worth watching saga. It is a treat of the lifetime for the Lords’ innumerable devotees.
The Bankey Bihari Temple Complex
The Bankey Bihari Market
It would be unfair, if we do not talk about the famous Bankey Bihari market. The market houses thousands of shops selling puja items, gift and memento shops (selling Lord Krishna’a idols etc).
A local artist painting the Lord’s Idol
We even found a beautiful workshop where the Lord’s idols were being made and painted for other shops and selling. It was a treat to watch an elderly local artist painting the Lord’s beautiful idol right in front of our eyes.
Kanha Ji’s Idol being painted
The amazing Havelis in and around the lanes of Bankey Bihari Market
The lanes and by-lanes of Bankey Bihari market of Vrindavan feature the sight of some amazing havelis (mansions) some of which were perhaps older than 300 years. The designs, colored walls, the arched galleries and verandahs would take you guys to an aura of the by-gone era…so typical in the streets of the then Vrindavan.
The amazing havelis of Vrindavan
The amazing havelis of Vrindavan
This is where Vrindavan is unique. This is where you can have the taste of the true ancient India. When these thoughts were rocking our thoughts we met a group of tourists from an unknown village of Rajasthan.
A devotee from Rajasthan
About 20 people including men, women and children had come together to have a darshan of the Lord led by their “Mukhiyaa.” We could not just stop ourselves from having a shot of this colourful person, who was so jolly all the time and was cheerfully guiding his group out of the temple premises.
Our next destination was the holy Imlitala temple. The Imlitala temple is immortalized by the memoirs of Sri Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the holy Imli Tree (tamarind tree). The temple is built around a fossilized “Imli” or tamarind tree which is claimed to be more than 5500 years old. Although another Imli tree can be seen very near to the fossilized remains of the legendary Imli tree, it is believed that the Imli tree is itself blessed by the Lord’s divine intervention to remain immortal since ages. To understand the story of the holy Imli tree and how it was linked with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we need to take you to the past.
It is said that almost 5500 years ago, when Sri Sri Radha Rani disappeared from Vrindavan during Rash Leela with Lord Sri Krishna. The lord meditated under the tree and chanted “Radha mantra”. The lord’s dark complexion changed into the golden complexion of Sri Radha Rani. And suddenly Radha Rani appeared in her divine form in front of Lord Krishna.
Another story tells us that one day Sri Sri Radha Rani was passing under the imli tree when suddenly a ripe tamarind was crushed under her divine feet. As a result of this her beautiful feet painting made of “Altaa” was blurred. Radha Rani got disturbed and cursed that no tamarind would ripen in the then Brajland (Vrindavan). Later on several years back in 1516 AD on a full moon day of Kartika month (according to the Indian Calendar) when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Vrindavan – he sat under this tree and chanted “Radha mantra” and visualized the pain of the parting of Lord Krishna and Sri Sri Radha Rani. From then onwards this famous place came to be known as Siddhapeeth Imlitala.
Sri Sri Radha Rani at Imlitala
The Fossilized remains of the Holy Imli Tree
The other version of the story tells that the branches of the Holy Imli tree were passing over the mansion of King Tikambar Raja. The king got angry and asked his men to cut the branches of the tree. The moment one of the braches were just touched with an axe – blood oozed out. The king rushed to the place and begged Lord Krishna to forgive his sin.
The fabled story of Imlitala
At present a monastery and a beautiful temple adores the temple complex around the Holy Imli tree. Thousands of devotees offer their prayers seeking Sri Sri Radha Rani’s bleesings under the Holy Imli Tree.
The Keshi Ghat
Once we got out of the Siddhapeeth Imlitala we came across the beautiful Keshi Ghat. Although many of you are familiar with the sight of the highly polluted Yamuna at Delhi – the river looks amazingly different and divine from the Yamuna Ghat.
View of the Yamuna River (Near the Keshi Ghat)
Local boatmen offer “Shikara” and “Boat-rides” for tourists at affordable rates. The Keshi Ghat is the principal bathing ghat at Vrindavan. The ghat features paved stairs leading to the holy waters of the river Yamuna with the backdrop of a magnificent palace at its backdrop .
The Gopinath Bhawan
The various places of importance in and around the Keshi Ghat includes a series of mansions, the holy Kadam tree and the famous Yamuna Temple.
The amazing Gopinath Bhawan
Sri Krishna, Sri Radha & Sri Balarama
One beautiful mansion we could not stop talking about – the Gopinath Bhawan. This majestic mansion is used as a monastery and guest house for devotees.
The Yamuna Devi Temple
At present the Yamuna Devi Temple is unfortunately in ruins due to neglect and lack of interest from the local authorities. River Yamuna is worshipped in the form of a deity and hundreds of devotees seek her divine blessings after taking holy bath in the river waters.
The Yamuna Devi Temple
The Holy Kadam Tree
People believe that Lord Krishna used to play pranks with the bathing “gopis” of Vrindavan and play his melodious flute tunes to mesmerize the known world.
The Yamuna Devi Temple & The Holy Kadam Tree
The Sewa Kunj
We asked our auto wala to take us to the holy Sewa Kunj which was almost a 3 minutes ride back from the side we had came to the Keshi Ghat.
The Sewa Kunj Temple Complex
The Sewa Kunj Sri Radha Krishna Temple
Sewa Kunj popularly also known as the Nikunj Van is a holy forest immortalized by the memoirs of the divine romance and leela of Lord Krishna and Sri Sri Radha Rani. The complex apart from the beautiful garden like forest containing hundreds of shrubs houses a beautiful temple at the centre known as the Shri Radha Krishna temple. People believe that Lord Krishna used to pay respect to Sri Radha by washing her divine feet. Even today people believe that every night the Lord Krishna returns to the mortal world to pay respect to Sri Radha. The nij temple is specially decorated for them and all necessary items are being placed on everyday basis.
The Nidhivan is believed to be one of the most holy places in the present India. The entire complex is surrounded by a tall wall protecting a sacred forest like garden (van) consisting of hundreds of shrubs known as “vana-tulsi” (a species of the holy tulsi tree).
The main entrance to Nidhivan
The sign board published by U.P. Govt. Tourism Department
The holy Nidhivan houses a central temple which is worshipped exclusively as the temple for Sri Radha-Krishna. Like Sewa Kunj, people, priests and devotees are of the opinion that by the end of the evening – every night Lord Krishna and Sri Radha return Nidhivan.
During the evening Aarti the priests arrange the holy bed with fruits, sweets, drinking water and all the necessary shringar (like jewels, clothes, vermilion etc) for the Divine Couple before locking the temple gates. Mysteriously every morning these items are found to be mysteriously disturbed as if someone had really disturbed them in the night.
The amazing vana-tulsi shrubs of Nidhivan
The Nidhivan complex also houses the temple of the famous saint Sri Haridas Maharaj, who was an erdent devotee of Lord Krishna. Sri Haridas had been the true inspiration and Guru of the legendary musical maestro Tansen. It is believed that Tansen and emperor Akbar had once visited this holy place to offer prayers to Lord Krishna and Haridas Maharaj.
The samadhi of Sri Haridas Maharaj
The Nidhivan complex also houses the fabled compound where Lord Krishna and Sri Radha used to celebrate Holi festival and Rash Leela with the Gopis of Vrindavan.
Rash Leela Sthal, Nidhivan
The complex is also famous for the small pond popularly known as Lalita Kund. It is said that one fine day after enjoying the Rash Leela, Sri Radha got exhausted and asked Lord Krishna to quench her thirst. The lord then used his divine flute to dig a sweet water pond for Sri Radha which was later came to be known as the Lalita Kund.
The Lalita Kund, Nidhivan
The ISKON Temple, Vrindavan
Vrindavan’s one of the greatest attactions was the ISKON’s Lord Krishna Temple situated at the heart of the town. We asked the autowala to drop us right in front of ISKON Temple.
The ISKON Temple of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan
The very sight of the all white marble temple was breathtaking. The main entrance led us to a shaded compound having memento shops, sweet counters and an atm. The temple complex was buzzing with a huge crowd of devotees. Even there were several foreigners – many of them were volunteering the smooth inflow of the crowd into the main temple complex.
Entrance to the ISKON’s main temple complex
The entrance to the main temple led us to a wide courtyard surrounded by beautiful galleries, containing wall paintings of Lord Krishna. Each of these paintings portrayed a different story starting from Lord Krishna’s childhood, his teenage days and his divine romance with Sri Sri Radha Rani.
A wall painting depicting Lord Krishna, Sri Radha Rani and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
The temple of Lord Krishna is adored by his divine idols – Sri Radha Krishna, Sri Krishna-Balaram- which is infact a treat for any earthly eye.
Idols of Sri Radha-Krishna and Sri Krishna-Balarama
Hundreds of devotees offer prayers to the Lord and immerse themselves in the prayer song “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna….Krishna Krishna Hare Hare..”
Devotees offering prayers at the ISKON Temple, Vrindavan
Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi & Temple, Mathura
It was going to be 12 noon and we decided to move to Mathura city, to have the darshan of Lord Sri Krishna’s Janmabhoomi & temple at Mathura. We booked an auto rickshaw and by 12.20pm we were right in front of the main entrance of the temple complex.
Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi Sthal & Temple Complex, Mathura
Main Entrance of Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi Sthal & Temple Complex, Mathura
The entire temple complex was under strict security supervision and we were not allowed to take any items inside the temple including our mobile phones, cameras, luggages, bags, purses etc. After deposting all our belongings in the adjoining cloakroom vault and going through tight security checks we entered the temple complex.
The main temple was built in the pattern of a tunnel like dungeon, which was probably once the prison of the evil king Kamsa. We had to literally grope in through the narrow dark walls into the holy prison chamber where the Lord was born to Sri Devaki and Lord Bashudev on an elevated stoned plinth.
The very sight of the plinth, itself created shivers in our spine by an out of the world aura. There was undoubtedly a feeling …something beyond this known world in that small chamber. We had felt it at the Sewa Kunj Temple and the mysterious shrubs of the Nidhivan. We could not see the Lord’s physical presence. But He was everywhere. We felt his omnipotent presence in that chamber.
Back to the main entrance
It took us another ten minutes to be back at the main entrance. We were entirely engulfed in a spell which is hard to describe in words. It took another ten minutes for us to decide what to do. We had our lunch in a nearby restaurant. We throughly enjoyed our desert with fresh Pedas and glassful of chilled lassis from the famous Brijwasi Mithaiwala.
Brijwasi Mithai Wala, Mathura
Putna Kund, Mathura
Another interesting place located very near to the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi Sthal & Temple Complex of Mathura is the Putna Kund. Putna Kund is a large pool paved by red sandstone. According to popular folklore, when the lady demon Putna was slain by Baby Lord Krishna at his residence in Gokul – the gigantic carcass of the demon was kicked by the lord into the air, which flew all the way from Gokul and fell with a huge thud in front of the palace of the evil king Kamsa creating a large crater which was later filled by water forming the huge pool.
Putna Kund, Mathura
Our trip to Vrindavan and Mathura was an amazing experience. It was much more than simply visiting the mythologically important places in and around Vrindavan and Mathura. We should rather say that the trip was a spiritual awakening….everytime reminding us of the existence of the Supreme Omnipotent …Lord Krishna. The lord had ruled the world with the magic of His Universal principles of Love and Devotion for the Humanity…and at the same time, we were also reminded of His uncompromising principles for justice, harmony and equality which had demolished the very existence of the evil from the face of the known world…..
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