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Sheela_Mata_Temple_Agroha.jpgBraj (Devanagari: ब्रज), also known as Brij or Brijbhoomi, is a region in Uttar Pradesh of India, around Mathura-Vrindavan. Brij, though never a clearly defined political region in India, is very well demarcated culturally. The area stretches from Mathura, Jalesar, Agra, Hathras and Aligarh right up to Etah, Auraiya and Farrukhabad districts. It is believed to be the land of Krishna and is derived from the Sanskrit word vraja. The main cities in the region are Mathura, Jalesar, Bharatpur, Agra, Hathras, Dholpur, Aligarh, Etawah, Auraiya, Mainpuri, Etah, Kasganj and Firozabad. The term "Braj" means "Pasture", and a settlement of herders and cattle breeders or Abode of Yadavs/Aheers or yaduvanshsthali. The residents or natives of Braj are called Brijwasi. Braj bhasha or Brij bhasha, closely related to spoken Hindi with a soft accent, is spoken throughout the region.

Брадж или Вра́джа (хинди ब्रज), также Бра́джбуми, Враджабху́ми — исторический регион в индийских штатах Уттар-Прадеш, Раджастхан и Харьяна. Является священным местом паломничества для вайшнавов, так как согласно Пуранам и другим текстам индуизма, в этом месте родился и провёл свою юность Кришна. Самые крупные города на территории Враджа — это Матхура, Агра, Алигарх и Майнпури. Географически и культурно Врадж расположен в самом центре доаба Ганги-Ямуны, который с древности являлся центром развития индийской культуры. Врадж занимает территорию в 3800 км² и располагается в "золотом треугольнике" Дели-Джайпур-Агра. Врадж можно разделить на два региона — восточную часть, в которой расположены такие места, как Гокула, Махаван, Балдео, Мат и Баджна; и западную часть, где находится округ Матхура с такими местами паломничества, как Вриндаван, Говардхан, Кусум-саровара, Варшана и Нандаграм. Врадж расположен на территории современных округов Матхура (Уттар-Прадеш), Бхаратпур (Раджастхан) и Палвал (Харьяна). Регион Враджа простирается от местечка Котбан в 95 км от Дели до Рунакты в районе Агры — места, получившего известность в связи с великим поэтом Сурдасом. Жителей региона называют "бриджбаси" или "враджабаси". Население Враджа разговаривает на диалекте хинди браджбхаша.

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6f4ec75c-1d17-45e0-9178-947cd5208ab5-1024x768.jpg“Lord Gopinath, who originated the transcendental mellow of the rasa dance stands on the shore near the damsels with the sound of His celebrated flute. May these gopis confer upon us their benediction.”(C.C.Adi 1.17)

Following the road towards the Yamuna, we now enter the grove of the Vamsivata tree. Vamsivata is highly venerated by the Brajavasis for it was beneath the branches of this tree that Shri Krishna used to call the gopis with the sweet sound of his flute. As stated in Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Vamsivata is a very special kalpaavriksha or wish-yielding tree, which can award the devotee all desirable objects. Once when the Vamsivata Tree was washed away by the Yamuna River in flood, Madhu Pandit Goswami took a branch and replanted the tree which flourishes here to this day. Beside the tree is the temple of Vamsivata Behari. It was here that the Deity of Lord Gopinath Ji was originally discovered before He was moved to His present location.

When one comes to such a spiritual place as this he must be very careful to desire that which is most valuable. He should pray as Lord Chaitanya did in the fifth verse of His Sikshastaka.

“O Son of Nanda Maharaja (Lord Krishna)

I am your eternal servant, yet somehow or

other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and

death please pick me up from this ocean of

death and place me as one of the atoms of Your lotus feet.”

5c7fd5a8-78d4-4b45-a450-5e03c7a8d000-768x1024.jpgWhen a devotee humbles himself before the Lord with such pure desires, Krishna is certain to listen to his prayers. Such a surrendered soul endowed with unflinching faith can eventually be blessed with pure devotional service. Bhagvad Gita (7.19) confirms this to be gift that is awarded very rarely. (Krishna, vol.1, pp.190-191)

 Around Vamsivata’s pradakshina there are two marble murtis built into the wall. The first is Lord Brahma acting out of pastime of stealing Krishna’s cows and the second is Lord Shiva as Gopishwara Mahadeva who, disguised as an innocent cowherd girl, has come to witness Krishna’s secret meeting with the gopis. Only a cobra around Shiva’s neck betrays that he us actually that vey same Lord of Kailash.

gopeshwar.jpgGOPESHWAR MAHADEV MANDIR

Nearby is the temple of Gopwshwara Mahadev, the most important of Lord Shiva took the form of a gopi to be privileged to see the rasa-lila of Krishna and the cowherd girls. At first Lord Shiva had been barred from the rasa dance,but after a bah in the Manasarovar Lake he took a gopi’s form. Shri Krishna personally told Shiva that thence forward he was to be known as Gopeshwara.

Lord Krishna’s wife Queen Rukmini explains in Shrimad Bhagavatam (10.5.43) that Lord Shiva desires to bathe in the dust of Krishna’s feet. Krishna das Kaviraja confirms that Shiva simply carries out the orders of Lord Krishna (Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 21.36). It is said vaishnavanam yatha visits a temple of Shiva he goes not to ask for material favour, but to offer respect to the most elevated devotee, Lord Mahadeva (Shiva).

Although the present temple structure is a product of comparatively recent times (it was built in the 19th century by the King of Gwalior ) the Shiva linga worshipped within reputedly dates back 5,000 years to the time of Vajranabha, the great-grandson of Krishna, who performed the installation.

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Splendid architecture of Shri Rangnath temple


Shri Vraja Dhama

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Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 31): Rang ji Mandir

The Rang ji Mandir with its eight stately yet delicate south-Indian style gopurams (grand entranceways) proudly commands the surrounding area. This opulent temple of the Shri Vaishnava sampradaya, a disciple succession which originates from the goddess of wealth Shri Devi or Lakshmi ji, was constructed in 1851. It was built at a cost of Rs 45 lakhs, a huge fortune in those days, by Seth Radha Krishna and Seth Govindadasa of Madras under the guidance of their guru Swami Rangacharya. According to F.S. Growse, the past Mathura Collector, these two Seths were converts from Jainism. This temple is modeled after the original Ranganatha Temple of Lord Vishnu in Trichy at Shri Rangam Kshetra (Tamil Nadu), the largest temple in India.

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Gopuram

The detailed sculptures on the gopurams, the brilliant golden-colored Garuda Stamba which stands over sixty feet in height, the opulent bathing kunda or pushkarini , the intoxicatingly melodic shehnai horns blown for the pleasure of the Lord, and the Deity’s lush bagh or garden all serve to inspire the pilgrim of Vaikuntha South Indian style. The area around the temple is huge, the outer wall measuring 773 feet by 440 feet. A touch of Vrindavan architecture has been displayed at the main gateways, possibly the only marriage of Vrindavan and South Indian style architecture in existence.

The utsava murti (festival Deity) of Lord Ranganath is brought out twice daily (morning and evening) from Chaitra Krishna 2 to 12 for observance of the Brahmotsava Festival. This splendid mela represents the desire of Rangji’s devotees to follow the perfect example of Lord Brahma, the leader of the devatas, in his worship of Lord Vishnu. A large hand carved chariot of red sandalwood; intricately painted once yearly, carries the utsava murti of Lord Ranganatha to His ‘bagh’ on the morning of Chaitra Krishna 8 Enlivened by the light of many torches the billowing smoke of incense, the soothing melodic strains of horns and sharp peats of drums, The jubilant crowd pulls the worship able form of the Lord to His garden. In the evening of the tenth day of Chaitra Krishna a spectacular display of fireworks delights the crowd.

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Pushkarini

Ranga ji has a wide variety of either silver or richly gilded vahanams or asanas (thrones) which are used to carry Him on days of Brahmotsava when the huge chariot is in storage. They include the thrones of Surya, the sun god; Chandra, the moon god; Garuda , the eagle mount or vahanam of Lord Vishnu; Hanuman, the powerful monkey devotee of Rama; a horse; an elephant; a lion; a swan; an eight-legged sarabha creature; and even a celestial tree. These thrones are fixed upon a smaller chariot which is also pulled by the crowd. English and Hindi leaflets are available from the Temple giving the corresponding calendar dates of Brahmotsava festival each year.

Another festival observed here is a dramatic presentation of the Gajendra moksha incident as narrated in the eighth canto of the Bhagvata. This is a classical performance of fight that took place between Gajendra, the elephant king and the Huhu, a Gandharva who was cursed by a sage to live as a crocodile. In the play Lord Vishnu at last saves Gajendra who has been praying for help for a long time. Vishnu kills the crocodile with His sudarshana discus and naturally, by the Lord’s grace, the crocodile becomes released from the curse resumes his beautiful celestial form of a Gandharva once gain. This play takes place in the temple’s bathing tank on the full Moon day of Ashadha.

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Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 30): Ashta Sakhi Mandir

Every day shringaar itself takes around three hours. Some of the exquisite dresses used for the deities are more than a century old.

2021-11-15 (Vrindavan Today News):  The Shri Radha Ras Bihari Ashta Sakhi Mandir, situated right opposite to Madanmohan Temple in Vrindavan is the only shrine dedicated to the ashta sakhis (eight friends) of Shri Radha. It was built in the year 1886 by the Maharaja of Hetampur (Bengal), Ramranjan Chakravarti and his wide Padmasundari.

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Entrance gate of Ashta Sakhi Mandir

It is one of the two places, the other being Nidhivan, where Shri Krishna indulges in the Ras Leela with Radha and Her sakhis. There are stories about people hearing the sounds of the anklets beating in tune to a divine melody here at night.

In the ‘garbha griha’ are the deities of Shri Krishna, Radha and the ashta sakhis – Lalita Sakhi, Champaklata Sakhi, Visakha Sakhi, Citra Sakhi, Tungvidya Sakhi, Indulekha Sakhi, Rangdevi Sakhi and Sudevi Sakhi. Of the eight, Lalita and Vishakha Sakhi are considered to be chief.

Worship at the temple is conducted in accordance with ancient traditions. Every day shringaar itself takes around three hours. Some of the exquisite dresses used for the deities are more than a century old.

Yet there was a time when the condition had worsened to an extent where it became difficult to maintain even the most basic of sevas such as bhog and shringaar, and eventually the temple had to be sold. A restoration effort using a combination of traditional craftsmanship, modern technology, and precious stones used in murals/inlays was carried out recently to give the shrine a more contemporary look.

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Inside view of the temple

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Vraj Anandi Bai’s Anand Vallabh


Shri Vraja Dhama

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Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 29): Shri Radha-Anand Vallabh

Even though Shri Radha-Anand Vallabh’s indulgent nature ensured that she was always in debt, Anandi Bai loved and longed to fulfil the whimsical demands of her son (Anand Vallabh) and daughter-in-law (Shri Radha).

2021-11-14 (Vrindavan Today News):  Situated within the enclosure of Radhavallabh Ghera is the over 100-year-old temple of Shri Radha Anand Vallabh, the beloved deities of Anandi Bai who was one of the exalted women saints of Vrindavan. She served the deities of Shri Radha-Anand Vallabh as her daughter-in-law and son in pure ‘vatsalya bhava’, or  mood of paternal affection.

Anand-Vallabh-deity.jpg← Shri Radha Anand Vallabh

Born to Kashmiri Brahmin parents in Amritsar in the Kartik Maas of 1855, Anandi Bai was attached to the worship of Shri Radha-Krishna since childhood. On growing up, the person she was supposed to marry died before the marriage could take place. Taking it as an indication from the divine, young Anandi Bai decided to dedicate herself to the service of Anand Vallabh for life. Although she took diksha from Acharya Vanshidharji Maharaj of the Ramanuja Sampradaya, she was always immersed in the mood of Vrindavan.

After her parents died, she eventually moved to Dham. In 1906 she bought a property in Radha Vallabh Ghera and established her Anand Vallabh in a temple there. Such was her love for the deities that They would come alive; talking to her, demanding attention, food, clothes and more.

In this regard, an incident about Shri Radha throwing tantrums for a costly sari is particularly well remembered. The demand was eventually fulfilled with the help of one Baba Kishoridas who bought the sari for Anandi Bai. Once Anand Vallabh, who wouldn’t eat a meal without His favourite ‘suji halwa’, reached Haridwar complaining about the pujari’s not serving Him the sweet for three consecutive days in Anandi Bai’s absence.

Despite the fact that Shri Radha-Anand Vallabh’s indulgent nature ensured that she was always in debt, Anandi Bai loved and longed to fulfil the whimsical demands of her son and daughter-in-law. Even today, sangeet sevas, phool banglas, nauka vihar, sanjhi and other festivals are regularly and grandly organised in the temple for the pleasure of her ‘spoilt’ deities.

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Rasik Bihari: The meeting point of Haritriveni


Shri Vraja Dhama

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Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 28): Haritriveni Rasik Bihari Temple

The place where the temple stands today at the confluence of Nidhivan, Sevakunj and Kishorvan, holds special significance in Vrindavan as the meeting point of the three rasik shiromanis, Swami Haridas, Mahaprabhu Hit Harivansh, and Shri Hariram Vyas. It is hence known as Hari Triveni.

2021-11-13 (Vrindavan Today News): Situated close to Bankhandi Mahadev Temple on the Atkhamba-Bankhandi road is the ancient temple of Rasik Bihari. He was the ‘aradhya’ of Haridasi Parampara’s sixth acharya, Shri Rasik Dev. The Deity’s appearance in Nidhivan dates back to the time of Swami Lalit Bhanudev.

haritrayi-768x576.jpg← Haritrayi

The place where the temple stands today at the confluence of Nidhivan, Sevakunj and Kishorvan, holds special significance in Vrindavan as the meeting point of the three rasik shiromanis, Swami Shri Haridas – the  incarnation of Lalita Sakhi, Shri Hit Harivansh Mahaprabhu –  incarnation of Lord Krishn’s flute and Shri Hariram Vyas – incarnation of Vishakha sakhi. It is hence known as Hari Triveni or Haritrayi Sthaan. 500 years ago, it was an entirely forested region (nikunj). Shri Rasik Dev served Rasik Bihari ji here nearly 300 years ago.

Rasik Bihari travelled to many places including Udaipur, Dwarka, Jungarh, Chittor and later settled temporarily in Dungarpur Rajasthan before returning to Vrindavan in 1755 AD. Thakur ji told Rasik Dev in a dream that He is in possession of his ancestors at Dungarpur from where He must be brought back to Dham immediately. Acharya ji at once sent his disciples Sudama Das and Nagri Das to Rajasthan to fulfil His wish. The king who was also apprised of the divine will by Rasik Bihari Himself in another dream set Him off for Vrindavan in a grand palanquin.

After coming here the deity rested at Kalideh until His abode near Bankhandi was ready. While digging for the temple, a vigraha of Kalimardan was found at the site. Rasik Dev wanted to establish it elsewhere, but when Kalimardan gave him a vision saying He wants to be consecrated next to Thakur ji, he complied.

The temple was built by Rasik Dev’s disciple Govardhandas. According to Vrindavandhamnuragawali a samaj was organised soon after the deity was placed in the shrine. It is also mentioned that together with Rasik Dev, Narhari Dev, Pitambar Dev, Hari Dev and Krishna Sharan also served Rasik Bihari.

Gorelal Thakur, served by Haridasi Sampradaya’s fifth acharya Narhari Dev, is also worshiped here. The temple follows the rules of apras seva. Rasik Bihari’s bhog is prepared on cow dung cakes or wood. 

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Rasik Bihari Ji Maharaj

 

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The Banyan Tree of Advaita Vat


Shri Vraja Dhama

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Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 27): Advaita Vat

The deity of ‘Madan Gopal’ who later came to be known as ‘Madan Mohan’ appeared to Shri Advaita Acharya at the Advaita Vat.

2021-11-12 (Vrindavan Today News): To the north of Madanmohan Temple in Vrindavan is the Advaita Vat, the place where Advaita Acharya stayed and worshipped the deity of Shri Madanmohan under the ‘vat vruksh’ (Banyan Tree) which stands here even today.  

advait-vat-2.jpg← Shri Advaita Acharya

Shri Advaita Acharya is considered the incarnation of Mahavishnu who came to the material world as the intimate, eternal associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He became a great scholar of the Vedas at a young age. Advaita Acharya met his guru Shri Madhavendra Puri in Gaya when he went there to perform his parents’ shradhha. Madhavendra Puri initiated him into the Madhva Sampradya. He also received instructions on Krishna’s Madhurya Lilas and the glories of Vrindavan from him.

After travelling to all pilgrimages around Bharat, Advaita Acharya came to Vrindavan at last as he had realized Pure Bhakti to be the culmination of all seeking. In Vrindavan, he travelled to all the 12 forests before coming to the Banyan tree at Advaita Vat. It was here that the deity of ‘Madan Gopal’ who later came to be known as ‘Madan Mohan’ appeared to him.

Before His departure for Navadwip Dham, Advaita Acharya entrusted the deity to a Brahmin Chaubhe in Mathura. Years later when Caitanya Mahaprabhu sent Sanatana Goswami to Vrindavan to discover the lost ‘lila-sthalis’ of Shri Krishna, the vigraha of Madan Gopal was also found and consecrated by him in the grand Madanmohan Temple. 

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also resided at Advaita Vat for some time during His visit to Vrindavan. There is a monument erected in remembrance of His stay here. There’s also a small temple where the beautiful deities of Shri Radha Madan Gopal are worshipped.

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The banyan tree of Advaita Vat

 

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Jaipur Mandir

The huge altar inside the main hall is divided into three chambers that are dedicated to the worship of Shri Radha-Madhava, Ananda-bihari and Hansa-Gopala. The deities were installed in the temple sometime during the year 1886.

Jaipur Mandir, the sprawling temple that stands out for its grand design and craftsmanship, is situated on Swami Vivekanand Marg in Raman Reti, Vrindavan.

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The impressive red sandstone structure was built by Maharaj Sawai Madho Singh II of Jaipur in the year 1881 on the inspiration of Shri Giridharisharan ji. It took nearly 35-40 years for the temple’s construction. 1917 is by when most accounts agree the final structure was complete. A railway connection, also funded by the Maharaja, was set up between Mathura and Vrindavan for transportation of large sandstones.

Built in Rajasthani style, the temple is etched with fine, intricate carvings on the exterior and interior. The huge altar inside the main hall is divided into three chambers that are dedicated to the worship of Shri Radha-Madhava, Ananda-bihari and Hansa-Gopala. The deities were installed in the temple sometime during the year 1886.

On the inspiration of Pujya Baba Shripad Maharaj many projects were undertaken by the management, notable among which are the ‘Shripad Baba Goshala’ and the ‘Braj Akademi’ – an effort towards the preservation and promotion of Braj culture and literature.  Both operate from within the premises.

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Shri Shri Radha Madhava

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350-400-year-old-deity-of-Gopalji-at-Nimbark-kot-800x445.jpg← 350-400 year old deity of Gopalji at Nimbark Kot

2021.11.10 (Vrindavan Today News): Near the mid-point of Chhipi Gali we found an attractive mandir painted powder blue. The door was locked but we could see a beautiful courtyard inside, with a gorgeous madhu-malati creeper. A shopkeeper nearby told us there was a doorbell and asked us to ring it. Soon a gentleman in an elegant white dhoti appeared to let us in.

The temple, we learned, is Vrindavan’s historic Nimbark Kot. On the temple’s altar reside the sweetly smiling deities of Shri Radharaman Lal and Radharani. Around the Divine Couple are many other beautiful murtis, including the four Kumars, Hans Bhagwan and Nimbarkacharya. But the oldest is a beautiful Deity of Bal Gopal (baby Krishna), who the caretaker says is about 350 or 400 years old.

The altar once held a deity of Narad Dev too, but unfortunately the murti was stolen by someone who had come for darshan. Perhaps that is why they keep the front door locked, I thought. Upon request our host Shri Anushuman Gopalji, son of Nimbark Kot’s mahant Shri Vrindavan Bihari Goswami, kindly spoke to us about the temple’s fascinating history. “We have been celebrating Shri Nimbarkacharya’s utsav for the past 174 years. This tradition was started by Shri Gopaldasji Maharaj. “Two centuries ago, Shri Gopaldasji Maharaj was a famous exponent of Shrimad Bhagwatam Katha. He used to travel up and down the Ganga River from Badrinath to Allahabad performing Katha.

Radharaman ji of Nimbark Kot →15002502_1128345973939005_7305247671401859686_o-edited.jpg

“Once when he was performing Katha in Haridwar, Shri Ganga Devi (the Goddess of the Holy River Ganges) appeared to him. She told him that the tradition of Shrimad Bhagwat Katha had all but disappeared in Vrindavan. After the Mughal invasion, the Katha tradition suffered a blow under Muslim supression, and many saints of the Gaudiya Sampraday who performed Katha went into hiding and did their spiritual practices in secret. “In order to help revive the tradition, Ganga Devi instructed Shri Gopaldasji to come to Vrindavan and perform Katha. He used to perform Katha at Purani Kunj near Bankhandi, and in other places as well. It became his sole mission, and wherever he found three or four people gathered together, Shri Gopaldasji would sit and perform Katha. ‘

The acharyas of Tatiya Sthan requested Shri Gopaldasji to arrange a celebration for Shri Nimbarkacharya Jayanti, which falls in the month of Kartik. As they are followers of Swami Haridas, the saints of Tatiya Sthan focus on the acharyas of their lineage who came after Swami Haridas. As Shri Gopaldasji Maharaj was also a Nimbarki, they thought it fitting that he should arrange for Shri Nimbarkacharya’s festival. “Shi Gopaldasji had the supernatural ability to create gold. He used his powers to make two golden coins and used that wealth to prepare for the celebration. In 1843 AD Shri Gopaldasji Maharaj performed Nimbarkacharya’s utsav for the first time.

Shri-Hansdasji-Maharajtemples-of-chhipi-gali.jpg ← Shri Hansdasji Maharaj

“Shri Gopaldasji Maharaj had a disciple named Baba Hansdasji Maharaj, who lived and performed bhajan (spiritual practice) at Vilasgarh in Barsana. Sri Gopaldasji asked Sri Hansdasji to learn his supernatural method of creating gold. However, Sri Hansdasji declined saying, ‘This is Kaliyug. People will take advantage; they may threaten to kill me and force me to make gold for them. I don’t want this occult knowledge. I will beg for alms instead, and use whatever I receive to arrange for the festival.’ And so he did. “Shri Hansdasji Maharaj left this world about 80 years ago. After him, his disciple Shri Vansidasji Maharaj carried on the tradition, with the help of my Dadaji (grandfather) and his elder brother, who were both his disciples. Shri Vansidasji Maharaj left this world two years ago. “This temple was built in 1926, and we still continue the festival of Shri Nimbarkacharya today.

This year marks the 174th utsav. On Kartik Purnima, Shri Nimbark Bhagwan’s abhishek is held in our temple, and the following day a shobha yatra (procession) goes out from the mandir. It is probably the oldest shobha yatra in Vrindavan, as I am not aware of any records that mention an older one. “Another special feature of this temple is that it houses a vial of Shri Tulsi Dasji’s charanamrit.”

Shri Ajab Manohar Lal Temple (Rajasthani Mandir)

A little further down the lane, walking towards Pratap Bazar, we found another Nimbarki temple which, according to the signage, is under the care of the Government of Rajasthan’s Devasthan Vibhag. Speaking to the caretaker we learned that the temple was founded 180 years ago by Shri Ajab Lalji, the Raja of Bikaner. The temple deity is named Shri Ajab Manohar Lalji Maharaj. The deities were fascinating to behold. A sandstone slab contained more information about the temple, but it was worn down and difficult to read. More research is certainly due. Some other places run in whole or in part by the Rajasthan Devasthan Vibhag in Braj include:

The four Kumars → the-four-kumars-temples-of-chhipi-gali-1024x683.jpg
 
 

1. Karauli Kunj, Vrindavan

2 Bheem Kunj Vrindavan: This temple was built by the rulers of Kota. Bheem Singh was the disciple of Shri Hit Jugal Dasji Maharaj. The Kunj is situated on the banks of the Yamuna, and the Deity’s name is Radhakanta.

9. Lakshman temple in Govardhan. Built by Bharatpur kings.

3.Kushal Bihari temple in Barsana. This is a major temple on the hill near the Shriji temple, built by the kings of Jaipur.

4.Madan Mohan. Built by Udaipur rulers. Swami Ghat. Mathura.

5.Chatur Shiromani temple. Built by rulers of the Jaipur Riyasat.

6.Radha-Gokulananda, the responsibility for which was given to the recently departed Sri Purushottam Goswami of Jai Singh Ghera.

7.Bharatpur temple. Badan Singh Ji. Keshi Ghat. Bihariji, Govardhan.

10. Bikaner temple, Ajab Manoharji. Vrindavan.

11. Jugal Kishor in Barsana.

12. Kishori Shyam temple (Bharatpur temple) in Radha Kund. Also built by Bharatpur rulers.

13. Kunj Parvati Ji. Vrindavan.

14. Rupa Kishor. Bankhandi

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Shri-Ajan-Manohar-Lalji-Maharaj-1024x683Shri Ajab Manohar Lalji Maharaj

 

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Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 24): Badi Surma Kunj

The Badi Surma Kunj in Vrindavan is the abode of Shri Radha-Govind, Shri Radhanayananand, and Narsingh Bhagwan.

Situated just behind Nidhivan in Pattharpura is the ‘Sadhana Sthali’ of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s disciples Raghunath Bhatta Goswami and Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami, known as Badi Surma Kunj. It was here that Shri Krishnadas Kaviraj  Goswami composed the Chaitanya Charitamrita in 1612. It is still preserved in the kunj’s ‘granth bhandar’ along with other rare manuscripts and hand-written texts.

The Badi Surma Kunj in Vrindavan is the abode of Shri Radha-Govind, Shri Radhanayananand, and Narsingh Bhagwan.

Shri-Prem-Das-Shastri-577x1024.jpg← Mahat Shri Premdas Shastri

Mahant Premdas Shastri who looks after the temple says that the kunj was once a sprawling, verdant grove. There used to be 365 branches of Surma Kunj all over India; 52 in Braj alone. Only about 4-5 of the latter are left now. Being the main seat, this one is called the ‘Badi’ Surma Kunj.

Thakur Radhanayananand ji was served by Shri Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s disciple Mukund Das. Born in 1583 in a rich family in Multan, Mukund Das came to Vrindavan at the age of 16 and immersed himself in sadhana-bhakti under Kaviraj Goswmi ji.

His longing for a darshan of Bihari-Biharini ju became so intense that giving up food and water, he vowed to subsist on Braj Raj alone until the ‘yugal’ manifested to him. Months went by; Mukund Das lost his eyesight crying day and night for a glimpse of Shyama-Shyam. One day as he lay limp uttering ‘Radha Radha’ at Radha Kund, Mukund Das was blessed with the fulfilment of his heart’s desire that was the only thing making him cling to life.

When Shri Radha Krishna appeared before him, realising Their presence Mukund Das at once regained his health and sat up to praise Them. Because he was still not able to see, the ocean of mercy Shri Radha applied a divine ‘surma’ (collyrium) in his eyes bringing them back to life. She also gave him the charming ‘yugal vigraha’ of Shri Radhanayananand before leaving. Mukund Das got the temple built in the year 1620. His Samadhi is also located here. 

Roop Kavishwar Goswami, a disciple of Shri Mukund Das, was a great scholar and saadhak. Pleased by his commitment to bhajan sadhana, the king of Jaipur declared him ‘sur purush’ and honoured him with the title of ‘surma’. During his reign, when the Islamic fanatic Aurangzeb terrorised the sadhus of Surma Kunj, Roop Kavishwar Goswami used his divine powers to stop the marauding army from desecrating the temple. There are many such incidents relating to Surma Kunj. The acharyas of this shakha sacrificed everything including their lives for protecting the culture of Braj.

 

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Along with Bansidhar Krishna, Shri Radha can also be seen playing the flute in tribhanga mudra here

The graceful ‘tribhanga’ form of Krishna has enticed countless minds and souls with the bewitching sounds of His ‘bansi’. However, there’s one such temple in Vrindavan where along with Him, Shrimati Radhika can also be seen playing the flute in the tribhanga mudra – the Shahjahanpur Temple.

This little known temple is unique not just for its flute-holding vigrahas of Shri Shri Radha-Govind, but also for its remarkable design and architecture which is sadly lost in the clamor of shops and electrical wiring.

Shahjahanpur Mandir belongs to the Lalit Sampradaya which reveres Lalita Sakhi as Guru. The seva is of ‘saat (seven) aarti, saat bhog’. Bhado Maas and Khichdi Mahotsav (observed during the winter months) are among the important festivals celebrated here.

Located in Pratap Bazaar area, the shrine was built by Lala Braj Kishore, a rich treasurer from Shahjahanpur, in 1873. The ornate entrance made in Jabalpuri style is flanked by carved figurines of young maidens that have earned the temple the title of ‘putliyon wala mandir’. The doorway leads to a spacious ‘jagmohan’.

On one hand in the ‘garbha griha’ is Bansidhar Krishna wearing an artificial braid (chutila), and on the other is Kishori ji sporting a crown (mukut) like Him.

The temple has a bagicha (garden) in Ramanreti where Gaudiya Sadhus live at present. There’s also a ‘kunj’ at Cheer Ghat and an affiliated goshala and aushadhalaya (dispensary)

During the days of zamindars (landlords) the shrine was well taken care of. Obscured by the ravages of time and modernity, today the caretakers have to rent out the shops to make ends meet.

About Shri Vamsi Ali ji and Lalit Sampradaya (by Shri Jagadananda Dasa)

Vamsi Ali was born in a well-to-do Vaishnava brahmin family in Vrindavan in 1708 (1764 Vikram), Ashwin Shukla Pratipat. He had a famous forefather named Mishra Narayan, who lived in the 16th century in Braj and earned his reputation by speaking on the Bhagavatam. Vamsi Ali was his ninth generation descendant. His birth name was Vamsidhar Mishra. His father, Pradyumna, was quite well known in the court of Bahadur Shah, Aurangzeb’s oldest son.

Vamsi Ali was something of a child prodigy and became quite a Bhagavata speaker in his own right. He even spoke at the Maharaja of Jaipur Savai Singh’s palace, answering his questions with such ease that the Maharaja was quite impressed and bestowed many gifts on him.

At fifteen, Vamsi Ali was married and he had his first child five years later. His main duty at home was to take care of the family deities, temple and temple-related property. He spent most of the money on the annual Radhashtami festival. He kept on speaking the Bhagavata, overwhelmed with prema. By the time he was 30, he left home. Four years later he began well known as a devotee in sakhi-bhava. He died at the age of 58, in 1764 at Lalita Kunj near Govinda Ghat in Vrindavan.

Vamsi Ali’s disciplic line belongs to the Vishnuswami sampradaya. So they have the nupur tilak that extends halfway down the nose, usually made out of gopi chandan. They place a bindu between the eyes, but they print the devanagari letter for Sri (श्री) higher up on the forehead between the upright lines. (Krishna-bhakti kavya men sakhi bhava, 691-2)

His understanding of Krishna is a little unusual. The following is a translation from the Hindi of Babulalji Goswami (p.83)

“Radha is full of compassion. She only grants her presence to devotees in their meditations. She is herself without form and pure light, but being under the sway of her devotees, she manifests a form for their sake. The purpose of her expanding her pastimes is to give pleasure to her devotees and to increase their attachment for her. She is always under the control of her devotees. For these reasons she is always fixed in her pastimes and especially with her supreme devotee Krishna, with whom she enjoys (ramana) in a state of oneness (samatā-bhāva).

nityaṁ bhakta-parādhīnā tena rādhā vihāriṇī

sāmyaṁ bhajati bhaktena rase kṛṣṇena līlayā

Radha, the enjoyer of pastimes, is always under the thrall of her devotees. In her pastimes she becomes one with her devotee Krishna in relishing rasa. (Rādhā-siddhānta, verse 21)

vṛṣabhānu-gṛhe janma kṛpayā sādhakān anu

līlāvirbhāvatas te vai nānā-bhāvādhikāriṇaḥ

Radharani takes birth in the home of Vrishabhanu Maharaj in order to give her blessings to her devotees. This is because her appearance gives so many persons the opportunity to develop the various different moods of devotional service, such as dāsya and vātsalya. (Rādhā-siddhānta, verse 28)

Those who worship Radha in the kunja, i.e. her most intimate and erotic pastimes, say that there are four elements that make this lila (also known as nitya-vihāra possible. (1) Radha and (2) Krishna’s absorption in their intimate pastimes, (3) their friends and sakhis, (4) Vrindavan, the place of their activities.

“In the previous discussion, Krishna’s name came up again and again, which has in great part made his position clear. Nevertheless, it is necessary to elaborate a little more on his identity (svarupa). According to the Lalita Sampradaya, Krishna has no standing at all in Vraja lila. [* Vamsi Ali divides the lila into Vraja, ] Even in the Maharasa, he is present in a hidden form and not directly. (pp. 88-89)

In Vamsi Ali’s conception, Radha is the “pati” of Lalita, Visakha and the other sakhis, who consider themselves her “brides” (suhagavati).

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