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  1. By Shri Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Dasa Babaji ← Thakur Shri Cheer Bihari at Cheer Ghat, Vrindavan In this month (November-December), Shri Krishna stole the clothes of the Vraja kumaris and adopted the mood of their husband to fulfill the purpose of their month long Katyayani Vrata. Of the twelve months in a year, this month represents Bhagavan Shri Krishna as Krishna says in Gita (10.35), “Among all months, I am the month of November-December, mrgashirsha aham.” The story of the gopis complete surrender to Bhagavan, and Shri Krishna’s playful loving reciprocation is narrated in Tenth Canto chapter 22 (Gopi Vastra Harana) of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. For your divine pleasure and meditation during japa, we offer you the following description of this pastime taken from Ananda Vrindavana Campu (ch. 12) by Kavi Karnapura: One day in Vrindavana, the intense hope of Dhanya-sakhi and the other attractive Vraja kumaris to attain Krishna as their husband blossomed like a flower on the desire tree of their hearts. To fulfill their desires, the unmarried damsels decided to worship Katyayani Devi, a form of Yogamaya who connects devotees with Shri Krishna. With great enthusiasm they collected all the articles to execute the Katyayani vrata. The transcendental bodies of the gopis displayed a distinct type of beauty while they underwent the hardship of the vrata. The Vrajavasis, astonished at the intensity of the gopis penance and emaciated conditions, all felt pity for them. Every day before sunrise, the young ladies would meet together, lovingly embrace each other, exchange cordial words and proceed to the Yamuna while loudly singing about the qualities of Hari. Their melodious voices, rich in rhythm and precise intonations, blended harmoniously with the soft notes of their vinas. A sweet smell emanated from their mouths as the gopis engaged in kirtana. Upon arriving at the Yamuna, the impatient Vraja kumaris immediately threw off their woolen shawls. The blissful bodies of the gopis, covered by thin white cotton bathing outfits, looked more beautiful than a stream of falling snow. The gopis shivered and softly sighed due to the chilly morning air. The quivering of their leaf bud-like lips revealed the splendor of their pearly white teeth. Reacting to the biting cold, the gopis made a comic scene by slapping their arms and crossing their legs in various novel postures. The gopis smiled gently and giggled upon noticing their friends feeling the same way. The Vraja kumaris climbed down the bank, and slowly entered the Yamuna while ignoring the cold. After completing their baths, the gopis joyfully ran back up the riverbank. They felt elated over courageously tolerating the painful cold winter waters of Yamunaji. After bathing and drying their creeper-like bodies, the gopis looked even more beautiful as they filled their lotus mouths with the sweet names of Krishna. Then the kumarikas made a murti of goddess Katyayani and together performed the puja. They offered handfuls of flowers, padyam, arghyam, acamana, madhuparka, aromatic massage oils, camphor scented water, a costly sari, ointments of aguru and musk, incense made from Krishna aguru, khus and guggul, ghee lamps, naivedyam of milk, butter, rock candy, bananas, coconut, mung dal, malpoa, sweet rice, cooked grains, and little tasty cakes topped with powered rock candy. While offering the various items to Katyayani, the gopis prayed, “O Devi, please help us meet our beloved Krishna! Please arrange for us to bathe in the nectar of Krishna’s association.” They also chanted the following mantra with clear pronunciation and full feelings: katyayani maha-maye, maha-yogin yadhishvari, nanda-gopa-sutam devi, patim me kuru te namah “O goddess Katyayani! O Mahamaya (i.e. Yogamaya)! O greatest of mystic yoginis and mighty controller of all! Please make the son of Nanda Maharaja our husband. We offer our obeisance unto you.” Each gopi chanted the mantra while mentally expressing their individual desires i.e. “O Mahesvari! Please shower your mercy upon us; You are called Yogamaya, the internal spiritual potency of Maha-Visnu, who possesses all energies. So you have the power to do the impossible; O Devi! You are the pinnacle of all auspiciousness. Your orders and glories are sitting like a swan on the heads of all the devatas. You are expert in worshiping Krishna and you are the supreme Vaishnavi; You perfectly understand the minds of all living entities. So please fulfill our desire to achieve Krishna as our husband.” Throughout the days and nights of the entire month of Margashirsha, the Vraja kumarikas performed their Katyayani Vrata with unswerving zeal. Their throats always sung about Krishna’s qualities. As the days passed, the gopis offered more items and increased the standard of worship. Katyayani-devi was pleased with their immaculate offerings and regular worship. The all-auspicious Katyayani Maa fulfills desires, and bestows mercy and happiness upon those qualified with a pure heart. Reciprocating with the young damsels of Vrajabhumi, Devi appeared within their minds saying, “O auspicious girls! You are the embodiments of Krishna’s conjugal attraction. Your sincere prayers ornament your heart and indicate your sincere longing for Krishna. Very soon you will attain the association of Krishna according to your individual tastes.” After communicating this, Katyayani disappeared from their hearts. Cheer Ghat area of Rural Braj Anticipating the forthcoming success of their austerities, the gopis succumbed to a playful mood and stood up excitedly. Then following the local customs, they bathed naked in the Yamuna. Elated and enthused, the gopis joyfully pushed and squeezed each other. The prema of the young gopis reached perfection because it had the desire to give bliss to Krishna as its only goal. Knowing this, Govinda left the happiness of herding the cows and playing with His intimate friends. Taking a few toddlers with Him, Krishna went to perform pastimes with the gopis in order make the bud of their heart’s prema blossom into a flower. Shri Krishna is an unfathomable reservoir of steadiness and all other good qualities, yet He often displays a unique type of fickleness. Crouching down and casting a few furtive glances and a mischievous smile, Krishna adopted the mood of a thief and arrogantly snatched the gopis’ garments from the bank of the Yamuna. After hushing up His little friends, Krishna slung the gopis’ clothes over His shoulder and quickly climbed to the top of a kadamba tree. Sitting on a branch, Krishna glanced toward the gopis and listened to their chatter. Upon coming out of the Yamuna and not seeing their clothes, the gopis exclaimed with surprise, “Who stole our clothes?” While arguing over the various possibilities, they looked fearfully here and there with their wide blue eyes that resembled the petals of a blue lotus. Seeing their plight, Vrajendrakumara assumed a splendid aura of beauty as He sat on the kadamba tree. Then Vidagdha Krishna joked with the gopis in a sweet, clear voice soaked in a nectar unknown even to celestials. “I have stolen your sparkling pure garments just to enchant your minds and relish some pleasurable pastimes. Now you can come here one by one or all together to collect your clothes.” The Vraja kanyas, with gleaming teeth and bashful faces, stood silently without yielding to Krishna’s demand. They were thinking that Krishna might not keep His promise to return their clothes. So they deliberately refused to answer for a long time, or even look toward the kadamba tree. Finally giving up their shyness, they gopis spoke in such a way to show their disgust with Krishna’s naughty behavior. ← Clothes hanging on the Kadamba tree At that time, the sweet dancing of their lotus eyes and the darting movements of their eyebrows captivated all directions. Through their affectionate solicitations and entreaties, that appeared both witty and respectful at the same time, the innocent gopis showed their shyness with their smiling faces sending waves of sweetness in all directions. Mustering her courage, one gopi said, “O Krishna! Are You not the respectable son of the great king of Vrindavana who instructs everyone in proper behavior? Are You not the all-attractive ocean of good qualities full of waves of compassion? Are You not the personified bliss of Vrindavana, illuminating the eyes of everyone with Your effulgent limbs? Are You not learned in all sastras and weapons? Therefore, why are suddenly performing such an unjust and abominable act?” Another gopi spoke up, “Why did You steal our splendid garments? Is this Your idea of fun? It will not bring You any good; but rather it will make You infamous. Now just follow the path of honor, play fair and return our clothes.” Shri Krishna, touched by their humble entreaties, said, “When I said come and take your beautiful clothes, I was not telling a lie.” The young unmarried girls were intensely eager to attain Krishna. Thus they felt they could no longer ignore the harsh demands of this rarely achieved person. However, inside themselves the gopis waged a war with the forces of shyness trying to hold them back, and the forces of desire pushing them forward. The gopis could not move forward because the power of their moral character equaled that of their strong attraction to Krishna. Though saturated with Krishna prema, modesty subdued their ecstatic bliss. Glancing restlessly here and there from the corners of their eyes, the gopis came to the Yamuna’s bank with great difficulty. Due to shyness, they hid behind each other while trying to cover themselves from Krishna’s curious gaze. Then Krishna said, “O sakhis! Why are you afraid of Me? Now stand in a straight line, come before Me, and exhibit your splendid beauty. If you do what I say, then easily you will get your clothes.” The Vraja kumaris attentively listened to Krishna’s pleasing words. Overcome with feelings of love, respect and hesitation, each gopi slowly moved toward their beloved. While observing their state of embarrassment, Krishna relished the purity of the gopis’ prema. With their draped over His shoulder, Krishna smiled as He drank the nectar of their sweet loving faces. The gopis lost all their apprehension after hearing Krishna’s clever and pleasing words. Thus overwhelmed with prema, the kumaris slowly rose out of the water to reveal the stunning beauty and unique elegance of their beautiful divine bodies. Casting aside their shyness, the gopis stood humbly before Krishna with their heads hanging down. As Krishna’s prema-filled heart melted, a nectarean smile perfumed His lips. At that tender time, Shri Krishna said, “O Vraja abalas! You have greatly pleased Me, and I feel the utmost limit of love for you. Now take your clothes and dress yourselves. May you drown in the ocean of ecstasy according to your individual tastes of love.” While saying this, Krishna extended His hand to give each gopi her respective clothes. Holding their shimmering dresses in their hands, the gopis appeared very beautiful like clusters of golden lotuses bedecked with flags. The Kadamba tree at the Vastra Haran Ghat situated in Rural Braj Then Vrajendrakumara compassionately addressed the gopis, “I know everything about your vrata and austerities. So I have performed this astonishing pastime just to increase your love for Me. By ordering you harshly, I tested the purity of your love. Being completely attracted and attached to Me, however, you submissively obeyed My beneficial orders. Thus I have manifested a permanent bond of love within your hearts.” Accepting the words of their dearest beloved Krishna as truth, the gopis experienced both immeasurable joy and agitation due to their intense longing for Krishna. These thoughtful girls were beautified with the sweet fragrance of the vine of fickleness. Now that their vrata was finished, the gopis felt surcharged with love and incredible bliss. Krishna concluded, “O gopis! Soon we will enjoy together during a festive night. You have attained eternal perfection, so now you can return to Vrindavana.” Shri Krishna’s gopi vastra harana lila ki jai! Margashirsha mas Shri Katyayani vrata ki jai! Jai Jai Shri Radhe!
  2. Kartik Braj Darshan (Day 33): Kesi Ghat 2021-11-18 (Vrindavan Today News) : “Friends: If you have any desire to enjoy mundane pleasure in the company of your friends and relatives, then never go to Keshi Ghat to see Shri Krishna, whose face always smiles fascinatingly, whose three-fold bending posture forcefully attracts the heart, whose long-drawn eyes are crafty and enchanting, whose flute-playing is maddening to the damsels of Braj, and whose crown is decorated with a beautiful peacock feather.” (Bhakta Rasamrita Sindhu 2.239) Deity of Yamuna Ji The twisting narrow street leads us onward to Keshi Ghat by the side of the Yamuna River. This famous and elegant ghat of Vrindavan is where youthful Krishna saved the Brajvasis from the terrible Keshi demon in the form of an immense horse. This exciting story is told in the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The Keshi demon was a henchman of cruel King Kamsa who instructed him to terrorize the Brajvasis. The horse-demon entered Vrindavan digging up the earth with his hooves while his tail moved in the sky like a big cloud. Krishna appeared and challenged him to a fight, while fiery-eyed Keshi responded with a terrible sound that resembled the roar of a lion. The horse demon rushed with great speed at Krishna trying to crush the Lord with his hard stone-like hooves. Painting of Krishna killing the Keshi demon However, Krishna easily caught his legs and threw Keshi a hundred yards just as Garuda throws a big snake. Though temporarily knocked senseless, the demon soon regained consciousness and thundered at Krishna with his mouth open. Taking full advantage of the situation, Lord Krishna pushed His hand into the demon’s mouth knocking Keshi’s huge teeth out. Keshi felt the fist of Krishna to be just like a hot iron rod. Krishna expanded His hand in Keshi’s mouth and the demon was unable to breathe, threw his legs hither and thither. With his eyeballs bulging in the sockets, the life-breath of the demon forced its way from out of his body. The demigods on the highest planets expressed their amazement at the Lord’s skill by showering Him with flowers. After the incident, Krishna washed Himself here to remove the demon’s blood from His body. Manchinteshwara Mahadeva While taking bath at the Keshi Ghat, one should remember this incident and chant Krishna’s holy name. In that sublime mood one can become completely purified. Indeed, the Adi Varaha Purana confirms that a bath in Keshi Ghat is worth 1,000 dips in the Ganga. The results of bathing in all holy places await those who bathe here. The small Shiva temple here is named Manchinteshwara Mahadeva. Beside it is a Yamuna ji Temple in which is worshipped a picture of Krishna powerfully thrusting His hands into Keshi’s mouth. Often melodious Bhagavata discourses echo from the adjacent galleries which have been erected in spectacular Rajasthani style. Indeed these galleries from the rear of the mansion of Rani Lakshmi, a past queen of Bharatpur. Nearby is the Bhramar Ghat ( Bumble Bee Ghat) where Shri Vilvamangala Thakura, author of Krishna Karnamrita, performed penance . He has previously been attached to a prostitute who once chastised him for lack of devotion to Krishna. Later he tore out his eyes to force his mind to become detached from the flickering material beauties of this world. It is said that here in Vrindavan Lord Krishna used to personally serve Vilvamangala prasada . When Lord Chaitanya would listen to the shlokas from Krishna Karnamrita, He would go into a trance of devotional ecstasy. The ghat however is not kept up nowadays.
  3. by Shri Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das Shrimad Bhagavatam is called the “king of all spiritual books” (Grantha Raja) for good reason. Within this triguna-free, transcendental treatise, the amala-purana, which showcases the absolutely selfless, divine love of Shrimati Radharani, one can find all the sweet, majestic and beautiful truths about the sadhana and sadhya (daily practice and perfection) of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In his most compassionate and wonderful shastra, Shri Chaitanya Caritamrita, Shri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja summarizes the teachings of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the six Goswamis of Vrindavana by mentioning the same Bhagavatam verses that they used to substantiate their sublime instructions. To emphasize the importance of these particular verses for all Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the same Bhagavatam verse is often mentioned two, three or more times in the Shri Chaitanya Caritamrta. This series of posts presents these verses, along with selected tikas of our acharyas and the compiler. We will cover the beautiful truths, tattvas, of Krishna, Radha, Vaisnavas, Shri Guru, Bhakti Sadhana, Nama, Prema and more. Human Means Helping Others One intensely hot summer day in Vraja, Shri Krishna voiced His loving appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful, luxuriant trees of Shri Vrindavan, saying: “O Shridama, Subala, Vishala, Vrshabha, and Ojasvi! Just see how these trees have completely dedicated their lives for the benefit of others by freely offering their leaves, flowers and fruits, their shade, roots, bark, wood, and their fragrance, sap, ashes, pulp and shoots. Anyone who asks anything from a tree never goes away disappointed.” Then Bhagavan Shri Krishna addressed all humanity saying: etavaj -janma -saphalyam dehinam -iha -dehishu pranair -arthair -dhiya -vaca shreya -acaranam -sada “Human life will be successful if one always helps others with one’s life, wealth, intelligence and words (prana-artha-dhiya-vaca).” ­(Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.22.33-35) Shri Jiva Goswamipada tika: Here Shri Krishna makes the point that helping always others produces success in life. If one cannot give one’s life, then give wealth, if not wealth, then intelligence and if not intelligence, then words. Visvanatha Cakravartipada tika: One should use one’s life to serve others. mmgds comments: There are two kinds of actions one can perform, shreyas and preyas, or acts that give ultimate or immediate benefit. Unfortunately, most everyone is working very hard to get money and enjoy. But here the Bhagavata directs us to act for permanent benefit, shreya -acaranam -sada, by using our life, money, intelligence and words to HELP OTHERS! Vishnu -Purana (III.12.45) says: praninam -upakaraya yad -eveha -paratra -ca karmana -manasa -vaca tad -eva -mati -man -bhajet “By one’s work, thoughts and words, an intelligent person must perform actions that will help all living entities in this life and the next.” To encourage us to help others, the Shrimad Bhagavatam recounts the story of a sage who donated his whole body, mind, words and BONES to benefit the devatas who were harassed by the atheists. Following the order of Bhagavan Shri Hari, the devatas begged Dadhici Muni for his body. Dadhici Muni, however, just to hear about dharma from the devatas, jokingly refused to give his body. But then Dadhici donated his body to Indra who made a thunderbolt from Dadhici’s bones to vanquish Vrtrasura. During this incident, Dadhici Muni instructs Indra, the other devatas, and all of us, “O devatas! One who has no compassion for suffering humanity (bhuta-daya) and does not sacrifice one’s impermanent body for the higher causes of dharma or eternal glory is certainly most lamentable. “A person who does not help others by one’s body, relatives and wealth, which are perishable, is in a miserable, difficult situation.” (SB 6.10.8-10). We humbly encourage everyone to please think about these teachings, and start today helping a needy person by giving money, food, clothing; or by speaking kindly, remind them of Bhagavan Shri Krishna and encourage them to sing Krishna’s divine names. In these times of doubt, fear, prejudice and hate let us all become more tolerant, loving, kind and helping. Sarve sukhino bhavantu: “May everyone be happy!” Jai Jai Shri Radhe!
  4. “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.” When 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 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.
  5. 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. 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. 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.
  6. 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. 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. Inside view of the temple
  7. 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. ← 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.
  8. 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. 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. Shri Shri Radha Madhava
  9. ← 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 → “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 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 → 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 Shri Ajab Manohar Lalji Maharaj
  10. 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. ← 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.
  11. 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).
  12. ← Uddhava Gopi Samvad Sthal in Gyan Gudri Shri Krishna had a close friend – Uddhav. He was a great scholar and disciple of Guru Brihaspati himself. He believed in God’s formless and infinite nature and was totally unaware of Lords divine love. He looked exactly like Shree Krishna – Tall, Dark, Curly Hair, Pitambar and Shree Krishna loved him a lot. Shri Krishna wanted Uddhav to get introduced to the divine love power and wanted to send Uddhav to Gopis in Vrindavan. Once he called him and said, “O Uddhav !! you know Gopis are restless due to separation from me. They don’t want to live without me. I don’t want them to suffer this much. O friend Uddhav!! You know the fact of this universe…..you are a scholar yourself. Please go to these Gopis and console them. Give them some “Gyan” so that they get some relief from the pain they are having due to attachment with me”. Uddhav went to Vrindavan to console Gopis. There he meet Shri Radha and other Gopis. When he saw there love for lord Krishna, he felt as if his knowledge (Gyan) hold no value in comparison to this divine love. He considered his Gyan to be like a Gudri (Torn old clothe of no use) and threw it into Yamuna to become a follower of Shri Radha Krishna’s form of Love. Uddhava Gopi Samvad Sthal → The place where this leela took place is Gyan Gudri. There is another story associated with this place. Shri Prayagraj is the king of all the holy places on the planet. He once called a meeting of all other places of pilgrimage. Everyone came except Vrindavan. Narad Muni Jee appeared at the place and asked Prayagraj that what kind of a king he was and asked why Vrindavan didn’t obey his order to come to the meeting. Shri Prayagraj went to Lord Krishna to ask why Vrindavan didn’t follow his order. Prayagraj was really hurt and narrated the entire story to Lord Krishna. There was tears in the lotus eyes of Shree Krishna on listening the name of Vrindavan, then he said, “O Teerthraj Prayag!! I’ve made you king of all teerthas (Place of pilgrimage) and not the king of my own home. So don’t dare to control Vrindavan with your orders.” After this incident, it is said that each year during time of flood, when Yamuna Jee comes to Gyan Gudri, Prayagraj comes here in form of a black horse. He takes bath here to get purified himself and pay his obisance to Braj-Vrindavan.
  13. ← Shyam Ray, the presiding deity of ‘Dheer Sameer’ Kunj As we walk from Gopinath Bazar, towards Gopeshwar Mahadev, we pass through the area of Vrindavan known as Dheer Sameer. ‘Sameer’ means the breeze and ‘Dheer’ means soft and slow. The Yamuna River used to flow just next to this place, as the entire area was covered with her soft and sparkling sands, fine as ground camphor. ‘dhira-samire yamuna-tire vasati vane vanamali’…… This part has been glorified often in Vaishnava literature. In the Gita Govinda, poet Jaideva describes how Shri Krishna adorned in forest flowers, awaits Radha’s arrival in Dheer Sameer, where the soft breeze plays on the bank of river Yamuna. Shyam Ray and Radharani → Dheer Samir or Dhira Samir Kunj is situated on the bank of Yamuna in Vrindavan, named after the verse of ‘Gita Govinda’. Tucked away in a small alley behind Maa Sharada Kutir lies Deer Sameer Kunj. Within the temple premises is the Shyam Ray temple and the tomb of Gauridas Pandit.Gauridas Pandit was a close follower of Shri Chaityanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. He was the incarnation of Shri Krishna’s cowherd – boy friend, Subal Sakha. He is also the param-gurudev (grand-guru) of Shri Shyamananda, whose temple is one of Vrindavan’s Sapta Devalaya. Once Chaitanya and Nityananda visited Gauridas Pandit’s house in Ambhika Kalna, West Bengal. He got the opportunity to serve them to his heat’s content. When it was time for them to leave Gauridas said, “Please don’t leave me. I will die if you go. “ Shri Chaitanya then had two life – size deities made – one of himself a and one of his companion Nityananda Prabhu. ← Samadhi of Gouri Das Pandit and the temple court yard Chaitanya and Nityananda stood next to the deities and asked Gauridas to to choose. Of course Gauridas chose the originals. It is said that the deitiesa are the onew who left his house that day and completed the rest of Chaitanya Lila. Gaurisas Pandit’s Nitai Gaur are in Bengal, andShyam no photographs of them are allowed. But one photograph of them is displayed in Gauridas Pandit’s Samadhi at Dheer Sameer Kunj. The picture is fading but you can still see Nityananda’s sweet moon like face and Chaitanya’s handsome smile. The deity of Shyam Ray in the temple is also Gauridas’s own. The deity is said to have been found by Gauridas whilst he was bathing in the Yamuna behind the Kunj. In the modern day, Dheer Sameer Kunj is well maintained by the followers of Shri Sitaramdas Omkarnath Thakur. There is also a gaushala, a tulsi garden, a temple of Shri Ram darbar and Mahadev, and a charitable medical dispensary on the premises.
  14. ← 56 Bhog, on the occasion of Annakoot Mahotsava at Radha Damodar temple Govardhan Puja is one of the most special days of the year for the Brajwasis and the devotees of Shri Krishna. Five thousand years ago, Shri Krishna instructed the Brajwasis to worship the Hill of Govardhan, and revealed that the Hill is a form of His own self. During that first Govardhan puja, the Brajwasis worshipped Govardhan by offering Him huge amounts of food, and Shri Krishna accepted their offerings, in the form of ‘Giriraj’. Brajwasis have been following the custom since the time of Shri Krishna. Like every year, the Brajwasis worshipped Govardhan Nath and offered Bhog to Him. They performed abhishek by bathing the ‘shilas’ of the sacred hill with milk and yogurt and other dairy products. Flowers and new clothes were offered and lamps were lit for him. Govardhan Puja at Shri Radharaman temple → Many of the Brajwasis performed Giriraj Parikrama on this day. Throughout the villages of Braj, the Brajwasis made the cow dung hillocks and the statue of Shri Krishna lifting the hill. The Cow dung replica of Govardhan Nath worshipped in every house of Braj. Conversely, many devotees from Bengal replicate the mountain with a pile of rice, which is then offered to the deities. In Vrindavan’s ancient temples, Chhappan bhog (56 types of food) was offered to the deities and mountain of rice was also made in some temples. Images of ‘‘Govardhan Baba’ was artistically carved out of cow dung in the temple courtyards. It was ceremoniously worshiped with special rituals. Devotees from several parts of the county and foreigners visited the temples and celebrated the ‘Govardhan Puja’. In Govardhan, hundreds of thousands of devotees performed Govardhan Parikrama – the sacred walk around Govardhan Hill. The main temples like Giriraj Mukharvind in Jatipura saw huge crowds of devotees waiting to offer abhishek, while others offered their worship in the more isolated areas of the forest around the hill. “Govardhan Baba” (cow dung replicas of Govardhan) could be seen all along the Govardhan Parikrama path. Chhappan bhog was offered to deities by many devotees in order to obtain blessings and good luck on this auspicious occasion. At Mansi Ganga and Radha Kund, the steps of the holy lakes were covered with thousands of lamps.
  15. Although situated amidst the town’s hustle-bustle, Tatiya Sthan is untouched by influence of technology and modernization. Situated near Rangji Mandir, Tatiya Sthan is the sadhana sthali of the seventh achraya in the Haridasi tradition, Swami Lalit Kirshori ji. It is the abode of the deities of Shri Radhika Mohini Bihari ji that were served by Swami ji’s disciple and the eighth acharya in the lineage, Shri Lalit Mohini Dev. Tatiya Sthan is also the seat of Swami Haridas’ ‘karua-gudri’ (karua is an earthen cooking vessel). His slippers are also preserved here. However, the most prominent feature of this place is its seamless co-existence with nature. Although situated amidst the town’s hustle-bustle, Tatiya Sthan is untouched by influence of technology and modernisation to the extent that instead of switching on the lights, lamps are lit after sundown. One will hardly find an electric bulb on the premises. ← Groves at Tatiya Sthan The trees and creepers here are revered as manifestation of the divine, the eternal associates of Shri Radhika Mohini Biahri participating in Their lilas. The cool sands of Tatiya Sthan make one envision the scenes from the time when Yamuna flowed adjacent to this spot. Lalit Kishori ji is believed to have lived between the years 1758 and 1823. Detached from all material desires and concerns, he made the ‘peepal’ tree at this location his sadhana sthali. His only possession was Swami Haridas ji’s ‘karua Gudri’. However, during that time Vrindavan used to be a forested land. Concerned about his safety, particularly from wild animals, Lalit Kishori ji’s disciples fenced off the area around the tree with sturdy bamboo sticks, locally as ‘Tatiya’. This is how ‘Tatiya Sthan’ got its name. It was formally established by Lalit Kishori ji’s disciple and the lineage’s eighth ‘acharya’ Shri Lalitmohini Dev in VS 1760. Lalitmohini Dev took ‘sadhu seva’ at Tatiya Sthan to even greater heights. As a vow, he would upend the ‘karua’ after having fed hundreds of saints every day. Averse to amassing wealth, he once burnt to ashes a precious necklace presented to him by the king of Jaipur and fed the ‘bhasma’ of the metal to sadhus. The humbled king later became his disciple. The deities of Shri Radha Mohini Bihari ji at Tatiya Sthan were found in a sealed metal pot dug by a Muslim labourer at the Deeg Mahal site. He was ordered in a dream to hand the unopened pot to Lalitmohini Dev ji.
  16. Kartik Braj Darshan with Vrindavan Today (Day 20): Gadadhar Bhatt’s Radha Madan Mohan Though Gadadhar Bhatt was originally from Telanga, he wrote songs in Braj Bhasha in the mood of a ‘gopi’. Shri Gadadhar Bhatt’s charming deities of Radha-Madan Mohan who appeared from the sacred sands of Yamuna on Magh Shukla Basant Panchami (somewhere around VS 1600), are worshiped at the ‘Gadadhar Bhatt Goswami Peeth Shri Madan Mohan Mandir’ located near the east gate of Radhavallabh temple in Atkhamaba. The lordships are served by descendants of Shri Gadadhar Bhatt at the ‘peeth’ today. While all traditions and festivals are celebrated, the temple’s samaj gayan (Bhatt ji ki Samaj) and sanjhi are particularly famous. How Gadadhar Bhatt came to Vrindavan Not much is known about Gadadhar Bhatt. The main source of information comes from Priya Das’s commentary on Bhakta-māla, which tells the popular story of how he came to stay Vrindavan. ← Radha Madan Mohan Though Gadadhar Bhatt was originally from Telanga, he wrote songs in Braj Bhasha in the mood of a gopi. One of these songs became popular and was even sung in Braj, though he lived somewhere outside the holy land. That song was the following: सखी हौं श्याम के रंग रंगी। देखि विकाय गई वह मूरति, सूरति माँहि पगी।। संग हुतो अपनो सपनो सौं, सोय रही रस खोई। जागे आगे दृष्टि परि सखी, नेकु न न्यारी होई।। एक जु मेरी अँखियन में निशि, ध्योस रह्यो करि मौन। गाय चरावन जात सुन्यो सखि, सोधौं कन्हैया कौन।। कासों कहौं कौन पतियावै, कौन करै बकवाद। कैसे के कहि जात गदाधर, गूँगे को गुड़ स्वाद।। Oh Sakhi! I have been transformed by the colors of Shyam. On seeing his beautiful form, I sold my soul to him. I lost myself in his beauty. When I fall asleep I lose myself in dreams of him, And when I awake, I don’t see anything as separate from him. It is as though my eyes have been trapped by his form, like a bumblebee trapped at night in a lotus flower. When I hear that he has gone to graze the cows, I don’t know of what Kanhai people are talking [for he is with me always]. Who will listen to me? Who will believe me when I say it is all nonsense. How can Gadadhar explain any of this? I am like a dumb person trying to explain the taste of gur (jaggery). One day, Sri Jiva Goswami heard someone singing this song, he was simultaneously delighted and disappointed, for though the author had obvious devotion and talent, there was no mention of Srimati Radharani. Nevertheless he thought, I would like to have the association of such a devotee and hear more of his songs. When he found out that Gadadhar Bhatt lived somewhere outside of Braj, he thought that such a devotee belongs in Vrindavan Dham. So he sent him a letter with two confidantes. The letter contained only this one verse written by Raghunath Das Goswami. ←Temple devotional activity अनाराध्य राधा पदाम्भोज युग्मम्, अनासेव्य वृन्दाटवीं तत् पदांकम्। अनाभाष्य तत्भाव गम्भीर चित्तान्, कुतः श्यामसिन्धोः रसस्यावगाहः?।। Not having worshiped even once the dust that sprinkles from Śrīmatī’s lotus feet; not having taken shelter even once of Braja Dhām, marked with her dainty tread; not ever having spoken with the souls so laden with the weighty love for her, how foolish they who think that they can plunge into the secret sea of nectar that is Śyāma! (Sva-saṁkalpa-prakāśa-stotra, 1) According to Priya Das, Jiva Goswami’s message was, “I don’t know how you got this mood when you are living outside of Braj and have no association with the servants of Radha. It is no doubt the result of some previous lifetime of service to great bhaktas. But in order to perfect it, you must follow in the mood of Radha and live in the association of her devotees in Vrindavan. Otherwise, it will never attain its fulfillment.” When the message came to Gadadhar Bhatt in his village, he was sitting next to a well brushing his teeth. He was overjoyed to see two sadhus early in the morning and when they told him they had come from Vrindavan with a message from Jiva Goswami, he fainted and fell to the ground. When he came back to consciousness and read the letter, he touched it to his forehead, dropped everything and returned to Vrindavan with the two associates of Jiva Goswami. Gadadhar Bhatt in Vrindavan Gadadhar Bhatt studied with Jiva Goswami and Raghunath Bhatt Goswami and when the latter left the world, then Gadadhar took over his permanent spot at Govindaji temple speaking the Bhagavatam. His reputation as a speaker of Bhagavatam was his main claim to fame and he has been mentioned in the writings of Dhruvdas (Bhakta-nāmāvalī), Nagaridas (Pada-prasaṅga-mālā), Bhagavat Rasik (Rasika Devajū kī Vāṇī) and Chacha Vrindavan Das (Bhakti-rasa phūṭakāra prasaṅga) for this reason. Some of these authors have also recounted other legends about him. Raghunath Bhatt’s temple to Madan Mohan, whose seva is in the hands of the Gadadhar Bhatt’s descendants, stands next to the Radha Vallabha Ghera near Athkhamba Mahadeva. Temple courtyard
  17. Kartik Braj Darshan with Vrindavan Today (Day 19): Meera Bai Temple Even though the rasik saints of Braj recommend ‘Yugal Upasna’ in ‘sehchari/sakhi bhava’, for Meera, Krishna was her husband. Her love for Him knew no bounds. The Meera Bai temple in Vrindavan which reminds one of the loftiest states of Bhakti and divine union as experienced by this great Krishna devotee is located in a narrow lane – kunj gali – to the left of Shahji Mandir. It is a two-minute walk from Nidhivan. The traditional Rajasthani-style architecture where Meera’s Thakur sits pretty facing an open courtyard (aangan), which is greened up to look like a kunj, provides the perfect ambience for the most restless of minds to still, even if for a moment. Meera Bai spent fifteen years (1524 to 1539) in Vrindavan meditating on her beloved Lord. The story goes that she came to Shri Dham motivated by the desire to meet Rupa Goswami, who initially refused to give her darshan saying ‘he doesn’t meet women’. Astonished, Mira replied that ‘she didn’t know of any man in Vrindavan except Krishna’. Acknowledging the exalted status of this greatest of Vaishnavas, Rupa Goswami came out to greet her. Even though the rasik saints of Braj recommend ‘Yugal Upasna’ in ‘sehchari/sakhi bhava’ (as a friend in loving service of the divine couple), for Mira, Krishna was her husband. Her love for Him knew no bounds. ऐसे पति को क्या वरूँ जो जन्मे मर जाय। ऐसे पति को मैं वरूँ म्हाड़ो चूडियाँ अमर हो जाय।। The mystic poet Meera Bai was born in Kudki village of Rajasthan in a Rajput family. She was the daughter of Ratnasen. Her father unwillingly gave her in marriage to the crown prince of Mewar, Bhojraj (the eldest son of Maharana Samgram Singh of Chittor) who died shortly after the wedding. His brother Bikramjit Singh became the Rana of Chittor. Bikramjit was so averse to Mira’s ways and her worship of Girdhar Gopal that he connived with her in-laws to kill her in many ways. She was saved each time by the grace of her Lord. Once he sent a box containing a poisonous viper to Meera. However, on opening it she found a black shaligram inside. The shila is worshiped in the Vrindavan temple. The topmost simhasan (seat) is adorned by Shri Girdhar Gopal with Radharani on the left and Meera bai to His right. Below are kept the utsav vigrahas of Radha-Manohar ji and the aforesaid Shaligram Shila. One can have a darshan of it from the entrance as well. From Vrindavan, Meera Bai left for Dwarka where she spent her last days and finally merged into the divine in 1550.
  18. Kartik Braj Darshan, day 18: Shahji Temple ← The presiding deities of Thakur Shri Chhote Radharaman ji The ‘Vasanti Kamra’ of Shahji Temple opens for three days in a year – two days during the spring celebrations ‘Vasant Panchami’ and the day after; then again for one day only on Hariyali Teej, during the rainy season. The room which is a special attraction features rare and exquisite artworks, a golden throne and a dome-shaped ceiling that is dazzlingly lit by fifteen Belgain chandeliers. Under the chandeliers, there are gold plated mirrors and entrancing paintings of Krishna lila. Among the historical temples of Vrindavan, Shahji Mandir stands out. This palatial temple, filled with devotional artworks, was constructed after Radha Rani appeared to Shah Kundan Lal in a dream and instructed him to build a temple near Nidhivan. Temple construction began in 1860 and took eight years to complete. Tha Shahji temple is also known as the ‘Tera Khamba Mandir’, meaning ‘the temple with twisted pillers’. The temple features the only spiral columns among Vrindavan’s historical temples. The Shah brothers, who founded the temple, were both poets who were dedicated to the promotion of devotional art. Besides its religious significance, the temple also holds a special place for its outstanding architecture, which is a unique blend of Mughal, Greek and Hindu styles, and is thus very different from the other temples in Vrindavan and India. The Vasanti Room of Shahji Temple The festival of Vasant Panchami heralds the much awaited beginning of Spring, the beginning of Holi festivities in many temples of Braj, and one of the rare occasion when devotees can have Darshan of the ‘Vasant Room’ in Shahji Temple. This room, which only opens for a few days every year, features rare and exquisite artworks, a golden throne and a dome-shaped ceiling that is dazzlingly lit by fifteen Belgain chandeliers. Under the chandeliers, there are gold plated mirrors and entrancing paintings of Krishna lila. The room is only open for 3 days in a year-two days during the Spring celebrations ‘Vasant Panchami’ and the day after; then again for one day only on Hariyali Teej, during the Rainy Season. There is usually a big crowed in Vrindavan on Vasant Panchami, but, mercifully, the Vasant room also opens tha day after. The Vasant room is painted yellow the colour of spring. Asked about the importance of the spring festival in the temple, Mohit Maral Goswami said that the Vasant Festival is the festival of love and harmony it fills the lives of people with spring colours. The throne, the doors, and several mirrors some a big as ten feet high are all gold plated. Although they are more that 140 years old, they still glitter with amazing grandeur and brightness. The unique Vasanti Kamra (spring room), has been one of the centres of attraction in Vrindavan for almost one and half centuries. Every year, thousands of devotees from far off places make the trip to Vrindavan to see this unique room. The devotion of the Shah Brothers ← Exquisite spiral pillars of Shahji temple The Shah brothers, Kundal Lal Shah and Fundan Lal Shah, were the sons of a rich landlord, Shah Govind Lal. As soon as the Shah brothers got the chance, they relocated to Vrindavan, bringing their wealth and army from Lucknow. Their devotion and helpful attitude soon endeared them to the locals. The brothers were first called to Vrindavan by their grandfather, Shah Biharilalji. Shah Biharilalji established a Deity in Vrindavan and he called the brothers to visit and bring a throne for the Deity, Who came to be know as ‘Chote Radharamanji’. When the Shah brothers returned to their family home after the trip, they longed to return to the Dham and spent their time writing poetry about Vrindavan. Despite their intense desire to reside in Vrindavan, the brothers had to bide their time before they were able to return. Their family circumstances soon changed dramatically as their grandfather, mohter and father all passed away in little over a year, but the Shah brothers were still bound by worldly attachments as they now had the responsibility of looking after their extensive family estate in Lucknow. They eventually moved to Vrindavan after Radha Rani Herself appeared to Kundan Lal in a dream. At the time, Kundan Lal’s Guru, Shri Radha Govind was visiting Lucknow and Goswami Galluji, who had been serving their grandfather’s Deities in Vrindavan, sent Them to Lucknow with Shri Radha Govind. Galluji sent the Deities with the instruction that the brothers should take over the worship. Then Radha Rani appeared to Shri Kundan Lal, telling him to establish a temple near Nidhivan. After arriving in Vrindavan, Kundal Lal made a vow never to leave. His love of Vrindavan was so intense he did not want to pollute the holy land, so he arranged for his bodily waste to be sent outside of Braj in clay pots. Both the brothers were constantly engaged in bhajan from the early hours of the morning singing devotional verse; arranging dances and Rasa Lila, serving their Deities and writing poetry in several Indian languages, mostly under the pen names Lalit Kishori and Lalit Madhuri. Fundan Lal in Court Once, Fundan Lal was called to Mathura on charges of giving shelter to the rebel Hirasingha. Explaining his reasons for giving shelter to the rebel group, Fundan Lal explained that he had threatened to oust them with his army but promised to give them shelter if they quickely left Braj and did not harm any person or property here. Fundan Lal continued, “Sir! You can hang me if you want. But, before hanging, the criminal is asked what he wants. I tell you what I want. I want that you hang me in Vrindavan and let there be kirtan at the time of hanging. If you hang me like this, I shall regard hanging not as a punishment but as a reward.” The magistrate was impressed by the fearlessness of his devotion and ordered his release. The auspicious last journey through Braj Raj ← Chandeliers at Shahji temple At the end of his life, the elder of the two brothers, Shah Kundan Lal, made preparations to leave his body in the most devotional environment. He had a platform built and lay there for two days, listening to kirtan. He gave instructions that, when he left his body, the body should not be carried on anyone’s shoulders but should be dragged through the Braj dust. A path of ‘Braj Raj’ was laid out from the Shahji temple to the yamuna for his final journey through the holy dust of Shri Vrindavan. The legacy of the Shah Brothers The magestic Shahji temple is the legacy of the Shah brothers, who left an opulent life for the opportunity to live in Vrindavan and serve ‘Chote Radharaman Ji.’ The spectacular decorations and architecture of the temple pays tribute to their absorption in bhakti and devotional art.
  19. By Bishakha Dasi Rajarshi Banamali Raibahadur's deities of Shri Radhabinod (better known as "Jamai Binod") reside in Tarash Mandir down the road a piece from Ramkrishna Mission hospital in Vrindavan. I´ve been wanting to visit this temple since I read Banamali Raiś story about five years ago, but somehow I never could find it. Last night Binod Ji finally fulfilled my desire. Binodji was found in the river Padma by a man named Vancharam, the manager of the Tarash estate (in present-day Bangladesh). As he was taking his morning bath, he heard a voice saying, "Take me out of the water and bring me home!" Vancharam said, "Who are you? Where are you?" He looked around to see if perhaps a child had fallen into the water. Then he felt a hand tugging at his leg. He reached down and grabbed the hand, and pulled out the deity of Binod Ji. As he spontaneously hugged the Deity to his chest the ashta-sattvika vikar (like trembling, horripolation, etc.) appeared on his body. Dr. Kapoor writes, "Binod Ji alone knows how long and how intensely he had cherished the desire to be hugged by this devotee and to bathe in his tears of joy and love. He did not even hesitate to touch his feet for its fulfillment! Nothing is strange for him, for he is the Lord of Love." Vancharam took Binod Ji home and began to serve him with great care and love. Binod Ji was very demanding. Whenever he wanted something he would come to Vancharam in his dreams to tell him about it. Once he told Vancharam, ¨I want subji made from mustard flowers. You must cook it for me!¨ Vancharam awoke wondering what to do, for there weren't any mustard flowers growing in his locality. But when he went to wake up Binod Ji he found sprigs of mustard flowers decorating both his ears, and a bunch of them tied in the corner of his pitambar. He understood that Binod Ji has brought them himself from some far away place. Another time, Binod Ji asked a wealthy devotee in a dream to offer him a hookah. He brought a beautiful silver hookah which Vancharam would offer every day after Binod Ji's morning and evening rajbhog offerings. Jamai Vinod On another occasion, some guests came to the house at night while Vancharam and his wife were sleeping. Not wanting to disturb Vancharam's sleep, Binod Ji took the form of a lala (young boy) and began to entertain the guests himself. He told them, "My father is sleeping right now, but I can wake him." "No, no," replied the guests, "we'll cook for ourselves." Binod Ji went to the market to buy groceries for the guests to cook. But the shopkeeper was reluctant to give this lala groceries on credit in Vancharam's name. Binod Ji said, "Take my golden bangles as surety for the goods. I promise Vancharam Ji will pay you back tomorrow." The shopkeeper agreed, and Binod Ji brought the groceries home for Vancharam's guests. The next day Vancharam asked his guests, "When did you come? Who let you in?" They replied, "We came quite late but your son let us in. What a good boy! He made all the arrangements for our supper." Vancharam was so suprised, he did not even think to mention that he did not have a son. When the shopkeeper came at noon with Binod Ji's bangles, his suspicions were confirmed. Around this time the head of Tarash estate, Raja Banwari Lal, started coming for darshan of Vancharam's now famous deity. He also brought his wife and his ten year old daughter, Radha. Radha loved Binod Ji, and as it turned out, Binod Ji loved her too. He used to tease Radha, pinch her and even spit at her. Radha saw these things clearly but her mother and father could not perceive it. One night Binod Ji said to Vancharam in a dream, "Let me go and live with the Raja. I am pleased with your seva but now I want to accept his seva. Don't be sad for you will soon realize me." Thus Binodji went to live with the Raja, and Radha served Vinodji with all her heart. She decided what he would wear each day and what he would eat, and prepared various amazing ornaments made of flowers. Her expertise in seva seemed impossible for such a young girl. Binod Ji was very pleased with her, and showed it by teasing her even more than before. During this period Radha experienced Binod Ji wiping his dirty hands on her clothes after taking bhog. One day while Radha was offering Binod Ji a garland, he grabbed her anchal and said, "You must marry me." She told her mother but of course she didn't believe her. Soon after Radha became very ill. Binodji appeared to Radha's mother in a dream and told her, "Radha will not remain in this world much longer. I can no longer live without her direct seva, so I will take her to me as my bride. Make a murti of Radharani from the dried-up devadaru tree in the courtyard. Your daughter will also enter into that murti and thus attain me. When the murti is ready, marry it to me." When Radha's mother told Raja Banwari Lal about the dream, they wept. But their tears were of a mixture of joy and sorrow, because their daughter would soon attain Binod Ji's lotus feet, and that both of them would live in their house in the form of Shri Murtis. Banamali Rai Bahadur The devadaru tree was cut down and work on the murti started immediately. As soon as the murti was ready, Radha left her body. Arrangements for her funeral and her marriage in the form of the murti were made simultaneously. After the wedding ceremony, Binod Ji began to be called Radhabinod or "Jamai Binod" (Binod, the son-in-law). When Raja Banwari Lal died, his adopted son Banamali Lal took over his position as head of the estate. But he was an adherent of the bramho-samaj. Because he did not have much faith in Shri Murti, he had a negligent attitude towards the seva of Radha-Binod. A hired pujari continued the worship as a matter of routine. Then an amazing thing happened to Banamali. One day he was going down the highway to Pabana on the back of an elephant, surrounded by attendants and royal guards armed with guns. Suddenly Prabhu Jagadbandhu came with a huge Kirtan party. Hundreds of devotees sang with khol and kartal, with Jagadbandhu dancing at the head. Banamali could not tear his ears and eyes from the sound of the Holy Name and the beauty of Jagadbandhu's dancing. It was something totally new for him and it was completely irresistible. He did not know why he jumped down from the elephant, kicked off his royal slippers and started dancing in the midst of the kirtan. He danced and danced until the kirtan party reached its destination. There he bowed low before Jagadbandhu Prabhu, and requested him to come to visit his royal villa. Prabhu came, and he did not withhold his kripa from Banamali. He stayed in the palace for a number of days explaining Bhakti yoga and instilling love for Shri Yugal Kishore in his heart. After that Banamali Ray became enthusiastic about Radhabinod, and made the best possible arrangements for his seva. But he discontinued the hookah seva, for it was against the sastras. But Radhabinod made his own arrangements. During this period a siddha-mahatma named Shri Krishnasundara Ray used to live with Banamali Ray. He remained absorbed in lila-smaran day and night, but externally he smoked hookah out of habit. Whenever Krishnasundara Ray lost external consciousness, which was frequent, Binod Ji would take the hookah from his hand and smoke it. But after Krishnasundara Ray left the material realm, Binod Ji began to worry about his hookah-seva. Binodi Lal (the youthful enjoyer) could not think of quitting something he had enjoyed for so long, thus he came in the pujari's dream and said, "Give me my hookah! I used to smoke with Ray Prabhu. Now that he is gone I have not smoked for four days!" When Banamali Rai was informed of the dream, he made arrangements for the restoration of the hookah-seva. But in his heart he doubted whether Binod Ji really smoked. Hookah of Jamai Binod Dr. Kapoor writes, "Once Jagadbandhu Prabhu was staying in Banamali Ray's palace in a room adjacent to the temple of Radhabinod. After Raja-bhog he called Banamali Ray and said, "Today let's enjoy the hookah-smoking lila of Lilamaya (the sportive Lord). He took Banamali Ray with him and sat in the verandah of the temple. After some time he said, "See, Binod Ji is smoking. Listen to the hubble-bubble of the hookah." Simultaneously, Jagadbandhu granted Banamali spiritual ears to hear the sound of the hookah. As he was listening to the sound, he went into bhava-samadhi and tears began to trickle from his eyes." Banamali Ray's faith in Shri Murti had become firm. He could no longer tolerate any kind of talk suggesting that Shri Murti was a mere statue. He was very eager to serve Radhabinod directly, but as he was not duly initiated he was not qualified for seva. Then, in 1897 he went to Vrindavan and received diksha at the lotus feet of Prabhupad Shri Radhika Nath Gosvami, a direct descendent of Shri Advaita Prabhu. After diksha he became so exculsively absorbed in Radhabinod's seva that he had little time for anything else. He entrusted the management of his estate to a worthy manager and went to Vraja. In Vraja he constructed two buildings; Tarash Mandir in Vrindavan, and Rajbari in Radhakund. He and Radhabinod divided their time between both places. Banamali Ray was in the centre of the Vaishnav community in Vraja. Many mahatmas graced his house with their presence, and he always made arrangements for Hari Katha, kirtan and other religious festivals. He directed all the resources of his estate towards the service of the Vaishnavas. He built a free hospital for sadhus, vaishnavs and Brijwasis, and a school for teaching bhakti-shastras providing free room and board for its students. He also started a press which printed Shrimad Bhagavatam with eight commentaries, and other bhakti literature which he distributed for free amongst the sadhu-vaishnavs. He received the blessings of all the siddha-mahatmas of his day, but some particularly showered their mercy on him. They were Shri Radhikanath Gosvami, Jagadbandhu Prabhu, Shri Radharaman Charan Das Babajii Maharaj, Shri Vijayakrishna Gosvami, Shri Gaurakishor Shiromani, Shri Ramahari Das Babaji, Shri Krishnasundara Ray, Shri Harisundar Bhaumika Bhuiyan, Shri Jagadish Das Babaji and Shri Ramakrishna Das Pandit Baba. With the blessings of these mahatmas he easily attained the lotus feet and eternal loving seva of Shri Shri Radha-Binod in His eternal home Shri Dham Vrindavan. (My eternal thanks and thousands of dandavat pranams to Shri Haridas Das Babaji Maharaj who dedicated his life to recording the stories of the saints and discovering lost literary treasures of Chaitanya Vaishnavism, and to OBL Kapoor for translating some of those stories. The bulk of this post was derived from Dr. Kapoor's article on the life of Rajarshi Banamali Raibahadur found in his book The Saints of Vraja. Thanks also to the present caretakers of Tarash Mandir for their friendly reception and for kindly allowing me to take as many photos as I wanted).
  20. Kartik Braj Darshan – Day 16 While giving away the seven nidhis to his seven sons, Shri Vitthalnath ji entrusted the Deity to Lal ji Maharaj on the inspiration of Shrinath ji, thus making him the head of ashtam peeth. ← Shri Gopinath ji Maharaj Vrindavan, 2021.10.31 (Vrindvan Today News): The beautiful tribhanga Krishna gracing the Pushtimargiya Ashtam Peeth in Gautam Pada, Vrindavan is famous among devotees as Dera Ghazi Khan Wale Gopinath ji. The vigraha was served by Goswami Lal ji (Tulsidas) and later entrusted to him by his guru Shri Vitthal Nath ji (second son of Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharaya). Goswami Lal Ji Maharaj was born on Magh Sukla Saptami 1608 (VS) in Sevan village of Sindh Province in Larkana district of Pakistan to Shri Ajju Dev a (Saraswat Brahmin Purohit) and Shrimati Devki. It is believed that the couple obtained him as a boon from Lord Nagar ji. Lalji lost his mother at the tender age of five. As a child, he remained absorbed in the service of Shri Nagar ji. At the age of 17 when Lal ji’s father too left him, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to go to Vrindavan and from there to Vishram Ghat in Mathura where he was destined to meet his guru Shri Vitthal Nath Ji Maharaj. Gosain ji initiated him with a Guru Mantra and Kanthi. He also assigned him Gopinath ji’s ‘jal ghariya seva’. Lord Balram ji at the Gopinath temple → While giving away the seven nidhis to his seven sons, Shri Vitthal Nath ji entrusted the Deity of Gopinath ji to Lal ji Maharaj on the inspiration of Bhagwan Shri Nath ji, thus making him the head of ashtam peeth. On the auspicious day of Ekadashi of Bhadho Maas 1640 (VS), following his guru’s instructions, Lal ji set out with Gopinath ji towards the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) region (now in Pakistan) to preach Vaishnavism there. The deity was stalled by His own wish at Dera Ghazi Khan. However, during the India-Pakistan Partition in 1947, the situation began to worsen, and once again, Gopinath ji was brought back to Vrindavan in accordance with His divine will after nearly 300 years. Undertaking a long, arduous journey which began on November 20, 1947 (kartik sudi gopashtami) from Dera Ghazi Khan, Gopinath ji reached his own pre-existing temple of Gore Dau ji (who appeared from the Yamuna) at Sukhan Mata Ki Kunj, Gautam Para, Vrindavan on December 17, 9.00 PM. After performing sandhya and shayan sewa He was placed on a komal shayia (soft bed) next to Dau ji. Sukhan Mata was the wife of Goswami Jagannath, fourth in the line of descendants of Lal ji. Her devotion for Thakur ji was so intense that it could not remain hidden from the people, who named the lane after her. The narrow alley is right next to Banke Bihari Police Station. The temple is especially popular among devotees from Punjab.
  21. The beautiful deity of Baldau worshipped here, is said to have manifested along with Govind Dev and three other vigrahas – Devi Yogamya, Vrinda Devi, and Singhpore Hanuman, – from Gomatila. Acharya Shri Vedgopal Goswami whose ancestors have been in the service of Dauji in an unbroken chain, throws light on this mesmerising account. Following is an English translation of his write-up detailing the temple and deity’s antiquity and significance. ← Bade Dauji Maharaj Braj ke Raja Daudayal स्फुरदमलकिरीटं किंङ्किणीकङ्कणाहे, चलदलक कपोलं कुण्डल श्रीमुखाब्जम्। तुहि न गिरि मनोज्ञं नील मेघामबराढ्यं, हल मुसल विशालं कामपालं समीडे।। The one with a glowing crown, bedecked with the waist girdle and rings, His curled locks caressing the cheeks, dazzling ear-rings add to the irresistible beauty of His lotus face, He is as majestic as the Himalayas. Adorned with the mesmerising ‘neelambar’ (blue) and sporting the plough and mace, Him, I remember – the supreme, Bhagwan Balbhadra. Situated on the banks of Yamuna, Shri Dham Vrindavan is home to nearly 5500 temples, where the Saptadevalayas of Gaudiya Sampradaya are considered most ancient, particularly Govind Dev, Gopinath and Madan Mohan ji. The granthas say that instructed by Shandilya Muni, the great grandson of Shri Krishna, King Bajranabh requested Vishwakarma to make the vigrahas of many gods and goddesses in a span of about 5250 years. One of them was Shri Govind Dev. When the king’s mother (grandmother according to some accounts), saw the image, she at once drew the veil out of modesty because its lotus face (mukharvind) was exactly like that of Shri Krishna. All these deities of Braj-Vrindavan got buried in the sands of time. In the early 16th century, instructed by Shri Chiatanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Roop Goswami set out on the search for these lost treasures. While looking for Govind Dev, he was directed by Shri Krishna Himself to Gomatila. In Dwapar Yug this place was known as Keshi Teerth. When people started digging at the Gomatila, Govind Dev manifested from the kshetra/shakti peeth along with four other vigrahas – His elder brother – Sheshavatar Balaram, Devi Yogmaya, Vrinda Devi and Singhpore Hanuman. ← Shri Revati Mata Considering the evidence from Ashwamedh Khand of Garga Samhita, King Bajranabh performed an Ashwamedh Yagnya in Mathura following which he consecrated six vigrahas all over Braj. The sacrifice (yagnya) was similar in grandeur to the one conducted by Maharaj Yuddhishtir in Hastinapur. These deities were Shri Deergh Vishnu and Keshav Dev in Mathura, Govind Dev in Vrindavan, Hari Dev in Govardhan, Gokuleshwar in Gokul, and Baldau instated a yojan away from Gokul. Along with these, another five vigrahas of Bhagwan Balaram are also mentioned. ततः च मथुरायां च दीर्घविष्णुं च केशवम। वृन्दावने च गोविंदं हरिदेवं गिरीक्ष्वरे।। गोकुले गोकुलेशं च गोकुलाद्योजने बलम। स्थापयामास वज्रस्तु हरेश्च प्रतिमाश्च षट।। बलस्य प्रतिमाश्चान्याः पञ्च वै व्रजमण्डले। नृणा शुभाय वज्रस्तु स्थापयामास हर्षितः।। After the deities had manifested, Roop Goswami’s disciple, Raja Maan Singh of Jaipur constructed a magnificent red sandstone temple for Them at the site. Govind Dev and Dau ji were consecrated there and worshipped next to each other until Braj came into the grip of marauding Mughals in the 18th century. Shri Govind Dev was rushed to Jaipur. He has been residing there since 1734. Dauji stayed behind. His vigraha was hidden in a kund (sacred pond) near the temple. While most of the kund has been encroached upon today, a chhatri of it can still be seen in Govind Ghera area. It is believed that He remained safe inside the pond until the terror of the Mughals subsided. He didn’t leave Vrindavan. वृंदावन काटन लागौ भाग गए सब देव। वृन्दावन ठाड़े रहे यमुना और बलदेव।। Baldau’s vigraha was later worshipped for a long time at the place where the new temple stands today. He is still present there as ‘Gupt Dauji’. The daughter of Raja Jai Singh once got a message that Govind Dev ji’s elder brother was left behind in Vrindavan. Determined to bring Him to Jaipur, she left for Vrindavan at once. However, the camels that were supposed to carry the vigraha refused to move an inch. The princess was perplexed. That night Dauji appeared to her in a dream and said that He will not leave Vrindavan. In samvat 1835, she ordered the constriction of the present temple in anaaj mandi. The princess was by that time the queen of Karoli. She offered the village of ‘sanet’ as daan (charitable offering) to the temple. Bade Dauji has been residing here since that time. Acharya Shri Vedgopal Goswami claims that his ancestors were the ‘kul purohits’ of Govind Dev Mandir. The seva of Thakur Shri Dauji Maharaj and His temple was entrusted to Shri Govind Gopal Goswami (Parashar Gotra) and it has continued since then in an unbroken chain/tradition. The vigraha of Dauji at Shri Balbhadra Peeth is the biggest in Braj, hence He is called ‘Bade Dauji’. All festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm here; however, Paush Khichdi Mahotsav and Bhado’s Baldev Chhat are most important. Flowers blooming in the vines of the Dauji temple
  22. Lala Babu had great love for the Deities that they showed signs of being jagrit (alive). Day 18 of Kartik Braj Darshan is dedicated to Lala Babu’s Shri Shri Radha-Krishna Chandra. Born in 1775, Lala Babu was around 40 when he came to Vrindavan and established the Deities of Shri Radha-Krishna Chandra and Lalita Devi in a magnificent stone temple in 1810. The parallel horizontal lines of the temple dome create a striking effect, more pronounced for its simplicity. On each of the four sides of the temple, there is a fresco of one of the great protectors. Narasimha Dev stands on the front side and Varah Dev is depicted on the right side. These days, the temple is not well maintained, but these frescoes have been given a fresh coat of paint so they stand out brightly against the backdrop of the brownish stone. There’s also a huge garden at the back. Lala Babu spent the last six years of his life in Braj and used all his savings on building a temple that is now considered one of the finest examples of 19th century architecture. ← Krishna Chandra’s temple In order to understand the place that Lala Babu’s temple once held among the prominent temples of Vrindavan, we have to look to historical sources like F. S. Growse’s '1883 Memoire', which states, “Of the modern temples, five claim special notice [Lala Babu temple, Shahji temple, Radha Indra Kishor, Radha Gopal and Jai Singh Gehra]. The first in time of erection is the temple of Krishna Chandrama, built about the year 1810, at a cost of 25 lakhs, by the wealthy Bengali Kayath, Krishna Chandra Sinh, better known as the Lala Babu.” Even after having such a grand temple constructed, Lala Babu did not take shelter in the temple complex; instead, he lived in true babaji style, wandering here and there, subsisting on alms provided by Brajwasis. He died in Govardhan at age 46. His Samadhi is located just outside the front gate of the temple. A separate wire fence has been built around the Samadhi to protect it and it is not usually opened for visitors. Both Lala Babu and his wife have their samadhis here. The temple does not have any other memorial to Lala Babu; he was very humble and did not expect anyone to worship him. Lala Babu temple is just behind Rang ji temple, but, to reach here one needs to take a detour from the main tourist drag, through the narrow residential streets of old Vrindavan. About Lala Babu Lala Babu’s legal name was Krishna Chandra Sinha. He was a Bengali kayastha. Just a year after his father died, he left his wife and children, sold up his estate in Murshidabad, East Bengal and moved to Vrindavan. Once here, he started the construction of the temple. In the six years that Lala Babu wandered around Braj, living as a Babaji, he would often return to visit his temple. He had such great love for the Deities that they showed signs of being jagrit (alive). The Deity always responds to the heart of the devotee Soon after the Deities were installed, Lala Babu had the Pujari conduct two experiments to be sure that the installation ceremonies had been successful. First, he had the pujari place some butter on Thakurji’s head. The butter soon melted as it would from the heat of a living entity. Next, he had the Pujari place some cotton in front of Shri Krishna’s nose. Both Lala Babu and the pujari saw that the cotton was moving back and forth with the force of Thakurji ‘breathing’. In the chapter on Lala Babu in 'Saints of Braj', Dr. OBL Kapoor says, “It was Lala Babu’s bhava that enabled the Deity to pass the two tests successfully. The Deity always responds to the heart of the devotee.”
  23. Describing the glory of Radhakund Kaviraja Goswami wrote “sei kunde jei eka bara kare snana tare radha-sama prema krsna kare dana” The auspicious occasion of Ahoi Ashtami celebrated on October 28 saw thousands of devotees from all across the country and abroad taking the ritualistic dip in Shri Radhakund at midnight. Ahoi Ashtami or Bahulashtami, falling on the eight day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik, marks the appearance of Radha and Krishna Kunds. The Puranas state that on the midnight of the ashtami tithi of Kartik Masa, Shri Radha dug the earth with her bangle to manifest Radhakund, while Shri Krishna used His flute to reveal the latter. Beginning late evening, rituals, festivities, Parikramas of the two kunds and Giriraj ji, and Harinam Sankirtans went on all through the night yesterday. The ‘snaan’ which holds particular significance on Bahulashtami started at 11.53pm and continued until four in the morning. Taking a dip during the auspicious hours is supposed to bestow upon the sincere devotees immense spiritual merit and the ultimate blessing of devotion to the lotus feet of Shri Radha-Krishna. There’s also the belief that it can grant the boon of progeny to the childless. Every year, hundreds of couples desirous of having children take the holy dip together and conclude the worship with offerings of Ash Gourd wrapped in a red cloth. On this day, mothers also keep a fast and pray to Mata Ahoi, Lord Shiva and His wife Devi Parvati for the well-being and long life of their children. ← Devotees taking dip in Radhakund on Bahulashtami Devotees from faraway places such as West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and other countries like England, France and Russia reached Radhakund to make use of this most beneficent of occasions when the mercy of Shri Radha is available for all sincere seekers. Many have also staying here for the ongoing 40-day Kartik Niyam Seva. The two sacred kunds are believed to be the physical expansions of their transcendental forms in Golok Dham which, in essence, are the manifestations of Krishna and His hladini-shakti Shri Radha’s mercy. Descending to the material plane as part of Their lilas, they bring that divine bliss to this world in order to bless the bound souls. अनुदिनमतिरंगै: प्रेममत्तालिसङघै- र्वरसर निजगन्धैर्हारि-वारि-प्रपूर्णे। विहरत इह यस्मिन् दम्पती तो प्रमत्तौ। तदति सुरभि राधाकुण्डमेवाश्रयो मे।। Describing the glory of Radhakund Kaviraja Goswami wrote “sei kunde jei eka bara kare snana tare radha-sama prema krsna kare dana” (anyone who bathes in Radhakunda but once, is blessed by Krsna with prema like that of Radha). Priya-priyatam and the Gopis who remain forever engaged in Raas in the Radha and Krishna Kunds have blessed many realised saints such as Tinkodi Baba with Their darshan here. The greats have therefore rightly advised to constantly meditate upon and worship Radhakund to achieve the highest of perfection of devotion to Shri Krishna, and higher still, to experience the prema that Radha had for Him.
  24. By Radhamadhav Das 2021.10.28 (Vrindavan Today News) A Siddhapīṭha is a holy place of perfection or siddhi. Usually people know Yogapīṭha – the holy place where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa meet – such as the Yogapīṭha at the Rādhā-Govinda temple in Vṛndāvana. But despite its unique significance, most people know little about Imlitalā Siddhapīṭha. Normally, Siddhapīṭha refers to a place where sādhakas attain perfection, but in Imlitalā, it refers to a place where Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself attained a most sublime perfection! ← The deities of Shri Radha Gopinath at Imli tala temple “Imli” means “tamarind tree” and “tala” means “at the base of”. Because Śrī-Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu performed many amazing līlās under this imli tree, this holy place has come to be known as “Imlitalā.” Imlitalā is counted among Vṛndāvana’s Prācīna-devālayas or most prominent ancient places of worship. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu arrived in Vṛndāvana on the day of Rāsa pūrṇimā in Kārtika in 1515. Every morning He sat in solitude under this tamarind tree, gazing at the Yamunā and relishing the divine beauty of Vṛndāvana. He also performed harināma and spread the message of devotion to Śrī Hari to qualified people at this holy place. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī wrote: prāte vṛndāvane kailā ‘cīra-ghāṭe’ snāna teṅtulī-talāte āsi’ karilā viśrāma kṛṣṇa-līlā-kālera sei vṛkṣa purātana “In the morning, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to take His bath at Cīra-ghāṭa in Vṛndāvana. He then went to Imlitalā, where He sat down. The tamarind tree was very old, having been there since the time of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.18.75. In his Śrī-Śrī Premadhāma-Deva-Stotram, Verse 42, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja wrote: tintiḍī-talastha-yāmunormmi-bhāvanāplutaṁ nirjanaika-rādhikātma-bhāva-vaibhavāvṛtam śyāma-rādhikāpta-gaura-tattva-bhittikākaraṁ prema-dhāma-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram “When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was sitting in solitude under the imli tree and seeing the dancing waves of the Yamunā, He remembered His water-sporting pastimes with the gopīs during His previous Avatāra as Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Embracing the sweetness of Rādhikā’s love in the core of His heart, He entered into rādhikātma-bhāva or empathic union with Her. He thus fulfilled His three internal desires and His heart was completely captured by Rādhārāṇī. Imlitalā is the place of origin of gaura-tattva, for it was here where in Dvāpara-yuga, Śyāmasundara became fully absorbed in the devotional mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and became Gaurasundara. I offer my obeisance to that Lord Gaurasundara, who eternally resides in Imlitalā, and who is the abode of prema.” ← Nitai Gour at Imlitala temple Over 5000 years ago in Dvāpara-yuga, in Imlitalā, Śrīmati Rādhārani’s supreme victory was celebrated with Her coronation as Vṛndāvaneśvari, the Queen of Vṛndāvana. In Vṛndāvana, the mood of worship is very sweet, because Rādhārani becomes the Supreme Goddess and Kṛṣṇa accepts a role subordinate to Her. Once, during the performance of Rāsalīlā, Rādhārani was not given Her deserved special attention by Kṛṣṇa. She thus became sulky, left the Rāsa dance and crossed the Yamunā with Her sakhis. In a secluded spot, She sat down and wept. Absorbed in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa, Her empathy with Him reached such an intensity that Her entire body turned blue like Kṛṣṇa. Thus before Kṛṣṇa entered Rādhā’s mood and turned golden, Rādhikā entered into empathy with Him and assumed His dark blue effulgence. Tears cascaded from Her eyes and soon formed a beautiful lake, wich was named Māna sarovar – the lake formed of Rādhā’s tears of māna or sulkiness. Meanwhile, Kṛṣṇa didn’t feel the usual bliss and realized that His most beloved Rādhārani is missing from the Rāsalīlā. He quickly left the Rāsa dance and began desperately looking for Her everywhere. Unable to find Her, He remembered how She was once crowned the Queen of Vṛndāvana under the tamarind tree in Imlitalā. He thus he took shelter of that tree and started crying out, “Rādheee! Rādheee! Please save my life by giving me your darśana! The Front Gate of Imlitala Mandir → Rādhārani’s holy name is non-different from Her mood and golden colour. Thus, while chanting Rādhā’s name, Kṛṣṇa soon became immersed into Her mood of service and also attained Her golden effulgence, assuming the golden form of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu! Imlitalā is the holy place where Mahāprabhu’s beautiful form manifested for the very first time. Kṛṣṇa, being immersed in empathy with Rādhārani, got a taste of the glory of Her unparallelled love for Him, of His own sweetness that only She can relish fully and of Her unsurpassed ecstacy when She serves Him. He had thus gotten a taste of fulfilling His three internal desires mentioned by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.1.6.). Much later, in Kali-yuga, Nityānanda Prabhu came to Imlitalā. He foresaw Mahāprabhu’s arrival and prepared His āsana here. When Mahāprabhu came to Vraja, He spent most of His time on this āsana under this imli tree, chanting Kṛṣṇa-nāma in seclusion. While chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names, due to the seeing the uddīpakas or stimulants of vraja-līlā in Vṛndāvana, He once again turned blackish like Kṛṣṇa and lost the treasure of rādhā-bhāva. To make sure He won’t lose rādhā-bhāva again, He decided to return to Purī, although He had only spent a few months in Vṛndāvana. This is the confidential reason why Mahāprabhu performed His concluding pastime in Purī. Sevakuñja is accepted as the heart of Vṛndāvana because here Kṛṣṇa attains the treasure of His heart – the service of Rādhārani’s lotus feet. However, nobody can serve without the proper mood of service, especially not Kṛṣṇa, who is used to being ādi-puruṣaṁ, the supreme enjoyer. He has to first attain seva-bhāva, the mood of service. And for that He first comes to Imlitalā before He enters Sevakuñja. In the same mood, according to local tradition, pilgrims first have darśana of Imlitalā before entering Sevakuñja. There is a little known book called Imlitalā Mahātmya by the Founder Ācārya of the Śrī Gauḍīya Saṅgha and Sevait of Imlitalā, Śrīla Bhakti Saraṅga Goswami Mahārāja. We are happy to announce that it has now been translated into English and that it will soon be published. Also, a book called Yoga of Empathy that will dwelve deeper into the topic of empathic union is in the making. Both publications will be announced on www.nectarpot.com. Radhamadhav Das is a researcher, author, environmentalist and vraja-upāsaka living in Vrindavan. These would later be fulfilled in Purī (dvādaśa vatsara śeṣa rahilā nīlācale (…) āsvādiyā pūrṇa kaila āpana vāñchita – Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.13.39-43). But even just getting a taste of their fulfillment, Kṛṣṇa entered into a deep state of samādhi and attained a unique siddhi or perfection. This is why Imlitalā is called Siddhapīṭha – holy place of perfection. It is from this seed form of empathic samādhi that Kṛṣṇa’s gaura-līlā exploded infinitely and showered its fruits of gaura-prema on one and all. Devotees performing parikrama of the Heritage Tarmarind tree at Imlitala
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