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  1. By Kapil Dev Upadhyaya O Parikshit, anguished thus by Krishna’s sudden disappearance from the Raaslila, the bewildered Gopis searched for Him in all directions, asking the trees, creepers, birds and cows for His whereabouts. The painful pursuit drove them into a state of delirium, entering which they became ‘Krishnamayi’. Thinking of themselves as Krishna, they began imitating His lilas. ‘Raso Vai Sah’; The shrutis (scriptures) state that the supreme is ‘Rasa’, whether as the formless absolute or in the supreme form as Shri Krishna. ‘Rasa’ is that indescribable emotion which is felt when one becomes ‘Rasa’ itself. Because knowing ‘that’ is becoming ‘that’, Goswami Tulsidas also says, ‘सोई जानहुँ जेहि देऊ जनाई, जानत तुमहिं तुमहिं होइ जाई।’ – One who knows Ram, becomes Ram. ‘Rasa’ is therefore our true nature as bliss knowing itself. It is indeed an ineffable state of ecstasy, awareness and consciousness which is unattainable without the complete dissolution of the ego, just as the Gopis became Krishna by constantly meditating on him in the mood of conjugal love. Only a divine awareness remained to relish itself. मंडलेन च स्त्रीणां, नृत्यं हल्लीसकं सुतत्। नेता तत्रमवदेको, गोपी स्त्रीणां यथा हरिः।। The scriptures accept Shri Krishna as the origin of ‘Rasa’, but to experience this state He had to double up as the Gopis, chief among whom is Radha. The Gopis thus effectively became the ‘first acharyas of Raas’. As the ‘aaradhya’ or the object of Krishna’s worship and His numinous desire, they directed the ‘Maharaas’, embellishing it with all the myriad ‘bhavas’ and ‘mahabhavas’ – the highest expression of ecstatic love experienced by none but Radha. This was possible only with intense meditation on Krishna. So as to facilitate the attainment of this contemplative state, He disappeared from the midst of the Gopis who had entered a mood of divine arrogance, perhaps deliberately, while enjoying and being enjoyed by Him during the ‘Raaslila’. Realising Krishna had gone, the Gopis, bereft of all pride, began to lament and look for him. Their delirium grew to a point where they started asking all things, animate and inanimate, of His whereabouts. The rapture reached its crescendo when the Gopis, pained by intense love, longing and ‘viraha’ (separation), lost all sense of individuality and became Krishna. Some went after the butter pot, others chased the demons away. Elsewhere they balanced their unfurled ‘odhanis’ in the air to symbolise Krishna’s lifting of Govardhan. Kaliya was subdued once again as the delicate Vrajanganas imitated the lilas of their dark lord. ASHTASAKHI’S ROLE IN RASALILA While Radha is chief among the Gopis, her sakhis, eight of them, play an important part in the ‘Raaslila’. Beginning with setting up the pretext for the meeting of priya-priyatam, they arrange for every other element of it, such as the venue and ambience, raag, bhog, shringaar, and the play itself. Each of the ashtasakhis is adorned with specific features, qualities and responsibilities, as described below. Lalita Sakhi: She is the most clever of Radha’s ashtasakhis, and also the most easily irked. Her angry disposition belies her sweetly radiant form of a fourteen-year-old (fourteen years, eight months and twenty-seven days precisely), embellished with yellow drapes. Lalita is the daughter of Sarada Devi and Vishoka, and the wife of Bhairava. ‘Unchagaon’ is her home. Ever residing by Radha’s side, she is an expert in organising various playful activities for the beloveds such as ‘nauka vihar’, ‘jhulan lila’ and others. Vishakha Sakhi: Being an expert storyteller, the golden-hued Vishakha is assigned the role of Radha and Krishna’s messenger. One of her other sevas include applying scented ointments to the divine forms of priya-priyatam. She is the daughter of Paaval and Daakshina, and the wife of Vaahika. Her home is in Kamai village. Vishaka is fourteen years, two months and fifteen days old. Champaklata: The third sakhi Champaklata is known for her argumentative yet emotional nature. Fresh like a flower blooming in the rainy season, she is skilled in the art of cooking for priya-piyatam, and hence Their rasoi seva is entrusted to her. She hails from Karhela. Champaklata is the daughter of Arma and Vatika, and the wife of Kaidaksh. Her age is fourteen years, two months and three days. Chitrasakhi: Adored by all for her gentle nature, Chitrasakhi is also an adept at cooking, though she is particularly known for her skill of preparing various kinds of ambrosial drinks for the divine couple. She belongs to the village Chiksoli. Chitrasakhi is the daughter of Katura and Karnika, and the wife of Peethra. She is fourteen years, seven months and fourteen days of age. Tungvidya: She is the famed musician, singer, and veena-player of the ashtasakhi mandal, who also dances for the pleasure of priya-priyatam. Tungvidya was born in Damro (Damala), as the daughter of Purudhar and Megha. Her husband’s name is Valesha. She is fourteen years, two months and twenty-two days of age. Indulekha: Indulekha sakhi is an expert palmist and fortune-teller. Her resourceful nature sets her apart from the rest. She is known to figure a way out of every tricky situation. Indulekha belongs to Agnonkh village. She is the daughter of Saagar and Bela and the wife of Durbala. Her age is fourteen years, two months and ten days. Rang Devi: This fourteen years, two months and four days old tender beauty is adept at applying collyrium in Radha’s eyes and adorning Her with various kinds of shringaar comprising precious jewels, ornaments, garments, and flowers for the ‘Raas’. Sudevi: She is the youngest of the ashtasakhis hailing from Bajreha village. Sudevi is the daughter of Rangasara and Karuna. Forever engaged in lovingly braiding Radha’s hair and serving Her lotus feet, she offers sweet drinks to priya-priyatam while they are engaged in Their love play. Having described their features and skills, it is redundant to say that the ashtasakhis play a vital role in the ‘Raaslila’. Their transcendental skills and loving devotional services bring forth and accentuate the ‘rasa’ in the ‘Raaslila’. The post "Gopis Were the First Acharyas of Raaslila" appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  2. The 33 day-long observance (7 June to 11 July 2022) was dedicated to Thakur Shri Radharaman under the guidance of Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami ji Maharaj and Acharya Venu Gopal ji Maharaj. The nectar-drenched ‘Nikunj Seva Mahotsava’ at Shri Radharaman Temple began on 7 June. The 33-day-long observance (7 June to 11 July 2022) is dedicated to Thakur Shri Radharaman under the guidance of Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami ji Maharaj and Acharya Venu Gopal ji Maharaj. Shri Abhinav Goswami and Shri Suvarna Goswami ji performed the seva from Mangala Aarti in the early morning to Shayan Aarti at night. The celebration this year was accentuated with the delight of the 100th birth anniversary of ‘Nityalila Pravishta’ Jagatguru Shri Purushottam Goswami ji Maharaj. For the Pleasure of Shri Radharaman During the Mahotsav Shri Radharaman’s day begins at 4.30am with the early morning aarti and a complete reading of Shrimad Bhagavatam performed by 24 Sanskrit scholars. It was followed by renditions of Shri Chaitanya Bhagvatam and ‘sankirtan’ by Bengali Vaishnavas. Stotras such as Gopal Sahasranam and Narayan Kavach were then chanted to bestow auspiciousness on all. Dhata, Mitra, Aryaman, Tvastra, Varuna, Bhaga, Savitra, Vivasvat, Amsa, Pusan, Vishnu, and Indra (Sakra) are the 12 Adityas, Dhar, Dhruv, Soma, Aapah, Anil, Anal, Pratyusha, and Prabhasa -the eight Vasus and Hara, Bahurup, Triyambak, Aparajita, Vrishakapi, Shambhu, Kapardi, Revat, Mrigvyaadh, Sharva and Kapaali – 11 Rudras. Together with the two Ashwini Kumaras they make the Hindu pantheon of deities. Every day for 33 days, Shri Radharaman gave darshan from a new ‘Kunj’ made with flowers, leaves, fruits and other plant material. The idea behind these kunjs was that the service was being performed by the 33 koti (categories) of demigods (12 Adityas, 8 Vasus, 11 Rudras and 2 Ashwini Kumaras), one for each of the 33 days. While someone pleased Radharaman with a mansion of delicious mangoes, others shielded Him from the summer heat with water fountains, hand fans and water pitchers. Shri Radharaman ji seated in a Phool Bangla फूल महल बैठे नंद नंदन, फूलन तन सोभित सिंगार l फूलन की पाग फूलन की बागो, फूलन पटुका सरस सम्हार l फूलन के नख सिखलौं गहने, पहनें लालन मदन मुरार l फूलन कौ सिर पेंच वन्यौ हैं, फूलन कौ कटि बन्यौ इजार l तैंसी बनी राधिका प्यारी, फूलन झलकति सारी l तैसईं बने नंद नंदन प्रभु ‘सूरदास’ बलिहारी ll A special ceremony called ‘Rajopachar Seva’ is offered to the Lord twice a day during Shringar Aarati and Sandhya Aarati. Devotees held flags and other sacred insignia during the aartis as a mark of respect for the deity. People often comment that when Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami ji and his sons are in charge of the seva, Radharaman Lal looks like a young prince. Befittingly, Radharaman ji wore gorgeous new outfits specially woven by the family of Mahahraj ji every day. New ornaments and special bhog were offered to Him. It would be of interest here to note that His Holiness Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj is one of the seniormost Acharya of Shri Radharaman Temple and an internationally acclaimed personality. He is also the founding trustee of ‘Vrindavan Today News’, and the founder of environmental group ‘Friends of Vrindavan’. The post Shri Radharaman’s Nikunj Seva Mahotsav appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  3. The beginning of the nectar drenched ‘Nikunj Seva Mahotsava’ at Shri Radharaman Temple takes place today . The 33 days long seva will be dedicated to Thakur Shri Radharaman ji under the guidance of Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami ji Maharaj & Acharya Venu Gopal ji Maharaj. Acharya Shri Abhinav Goswami and Acharya Shri Suvarna Goswami ji will perform the Seva from Mangala Aarati in the early morning and Shyan Aarati in the night. The celebration is added with the delight of the 100th birth anniversary of ‘Nityalila Pravishtha’ Jagatguru Shri Purushottam Goswami ji Maharaj. This year the ‘Nikunj Seva Mahotsava’ will be held from 7th June to 11 July 2022. Each morning during the ‘Nikunj Seva Mahotsava’, a complete reading of Shrimad Bhagvatam will be performed by 26 Sanskrit scholars. Rendition of Shri Chaitanya Bhagvatam will be performed by the Bengali Vaishnavas. In addition to this, the auspicious prayers of Gopal Sahasranam and Narayan Kavach will also be chanted by the Brahmins during the ‘seva’. Each day Shri Radharaman will give darshan from a new ‘Kunj’ to be decorated with the flowers for the pleasure of His devotees. In 16 CE during the Bhakti movement, with the arrival of various saints from all over the country, Braj became instrumental in re-establishing the Krishna Bhava again in the then existing political and social condition. These saints wholeheartedly accepted nature’s abundance of Braj in the form of groves. They made the surrounding nature an important part of their daily rituals known as ‘seva’. In 16 CE texts we find words like Phool Mahal, Phool Kunj, Phool Bhawan. Medieval texts like Haribhaktivilas, Kelimal, Hit Chaturasi, Sursagar, etc. talks extensively of the Phool Bangla as a form of seva. The present day tradition of Vrindavan is a continuation of the same age old ritualistic tradition. It is made and celebrated all over the Braj. Though, it has a special reverence in Vrindavan due to diversity in the tradition present here. These Kunj will be decorated according to the different ‘rasa’ required for performing the devotional services, as suggested by Shri Rupa Goswami Pada. Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya, Madhurya are some of the 12 ‘rasas’ for performing the devotional service. Each ‘Jhanki’ i.e portrayal will be accompanied by the appropriate music and songs describing Radharaman’s lila at that moment. The daily raag seva will be brought to life by different vocalists. A special ceremony called Rajopachar Seva will be offered to the Lord twice a day during Shringar Aarati and Sandhya Aarati. The devotees will hold flags and other sacred symbols during the Aaratis. Radharaman ji will wear gorgeous new outfits specially woven by the family of Mahahraj ji. New jewelries will also be offered to Him. Different delicacies will be offered to Shri Radharaman Lal on this day. It should be noted that His Holiness Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj is one of the seniormost Acharya of Shri Radharaman Temple and Internationally acclaimed personality. He is the Founding Trustee of ‘Vrindavan Today News’. Maharaj ji is also founder of the environmental group of ‘Friends of Vrindavan’. The post Nikunj Seva Mahotsava at Shri Radharaman Mandir begins appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  4. Dirgha Vishnu ji Mathura The two-day patosav is observed amidst rituals and festivities on vaishakh shukla ekadashi and dwadasi every year. Mathura, 2022-05-12: The appearance day (patotsav) of Shri Deergh Vishnu and Padmalayi Mahalakshmi was celebrated today at Mathura’s ancient Deergh Vishnu temple. The two-day patosav is observed amidst elaborate rituals and grand festivities on vaishakh shukla ekadashi and dwadasi every year. According to temple sevayat Kantanath Chaturvedi, on the day of Ekadashi (May 12) devotees get darshans of eight jhankis of Thakurji. The day begins with recitation of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. It is followed by chanting of vedic mantras and hymns such as Shri Suktam, Purusha Suktam, Vishnu, Gopala and Lakshmi Sahasranams by qualified brahmins. Special pushpa shringaar darshans are given in the evening, amid singing of ‘mangal geet’ by women. On the following day, that is dwadashi, maha abhishek is performed with panchamrut after the morning mangala aarti. Various vedic rituals are organised throughout the day. In the evening the deities give darshans from the plush and fragrant ‘phool bangla’. The 4500-year-old Deergh Vishnu Temple is among the oldest of temples in Mathura, belonging to Shri Krishna’s time. The glories of Shri Deergh Vishnu and Padmalayi Mahalakshmi are mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Varaha Purana, Padma Purana, Garga Samhita as well as in the Shrimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. The post Shri Deergh Vishnu and Padmalayi Mahalakshmi’s appearance day celebrated today appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  5. The lilas are enlisted on the basis of Krishna’s age, and the location where they were enacted. Vrindavan, 2022-05-02 (Acharya Shri Kumudesh Bhat): The vivid descriptions of Shri Krishna’s superhuman, yet playfully accomplished feats makes everyone wonder about the age at which they were performed. The center stage for Krishna lilas kept shifting from Gokul and Vrindavan where he played as a divine child and then a young cowherd, to Mathura and Dwarka where he was in the role of a diplomatic, and detached king. Performed until the age of three years and two months, the lilas in Gokul include Putana Vadh (six days), Shakat Bhanjan (three months), Naamkaran Sanskaar (hundredth day), Trinavarta Vadh (one year), and Yamala-Arjun Uddhar and Damodar lila at three years and two months old. Krishna’s lilas in Vrindavan begin at the age of three years and three months with His arrival in the enchanting forest. Proceeding from there, Vatsasur Vadh was performed at three years and four months, Aghasura Vadh and Brahmamohana lila at four years and four months, Gocharan lila at five years and two months, Kaliya Daman and first meeting with Gopis at six years and nine months, Govardhan lila at seven years and two months, Raaslila at eight years and one month, Ambika Van Gaman (rescuing Nand Baba), Shankchuda Vadh and Holi lilas at nine years, Keshi Vadh, Akrura’s coming to Vrindavan and Daan and other raag-anuraag lilas between ten and eleven years. Krishna’s arrival in Mathura and the killing of Kansa was carried out at eleven years and one month. Other pastimes in Mathura include Yagyopaveet (eleven years and five months), Gurukul Gaman for 64 days (eleven years and seven months), and Kubja Uddhar (fourteen years and two months). Between His 15th and 32nd years Krishna had to face Jarasandha’s attacks, 18 of them every year. The lilas in Dwarka commence at the age of 32 years with Krishna marrying Rukmini. Pradyumna was born at 33. Krishna married several other princesses between the ages of 34 and 40. During this time He also killed Bhaumasura. Kurukshetra Milan was staged at 45 years-old. When Krishna was 51, Pradyumna returned to Dwarka after 18 years. Baldau was sent to Braj a year later. Krishna’s grandson Aniruddh was born at 53. Rajasuya sacrifice and Shishupal Vadh happened at 72 years. It was followed by Draupadi Cheer Haran at 73, also the year when Krishna’s Braj lilas came to an end. The Pandavas returned from exile when He was 86. The war of Mahabharata took shape in His 87th year, eventually happening for 18 days when He was 89. Shri Krishna returned to his heavenly abode at the age of 125. The post At what age did Krishna perform His lilas? Acharya Shri Kumudesh Bhatt answers appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  6. By Shri Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Dasa Devotees often feel frustrated and hopeless with their chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. In humble sadness, they confess, “My heart must be hard as steel because when I chant Hare Krishna, I never cry nor does my hair stand erect.” This idea of having a heart of steel, despite chanting Hare Krishna, comes from a Srimad Bhagavatam verse (2.3.24), translated by Srila Prabhupada thus: “Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one’s chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.” Shri Govinda Dev The prolific translator, Bhanu Swami, gives a slightly different translation to (2.3.24): “That heart which does not transform on hearing the names of the Lord, even though HE SHOWS TEARS in the eyes and hair standing on end, is made of iron.” Bhanu Swami says the verse describes someone who chants the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra, and though feigning symptoms of ecstasy i.e. crying or standing hair, does not experience any real change of heart or consciousness. This phenomena is seen in sahajiya Gaudiyas who, though making a show of tears and transcendental ecstasy, are completely attached to material life. In his Sarartha Darshini, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada explains (SB 2.3.24) thus: “A show of tears and erect hairs alone do not prove that a person has a melted heart. Srila Rupa Goswamipada has said that some devotees may have melted hearts and be deeply in Krishna prema, even without showing external tears and hairs standing on end. Therefore this verse means that if someone’s heart does not transform [change or improve] with chanting, yet that person still shows tears in the eyes and hairs standing on end in imitation of bhava, then that means he has an iron heart.” Basically, the Srimad Bhagavatam verse (2.3.24) above talks about change and transformation by contemplative chanting, hari nama dheyaih vikriyeta vikaro. The ultimate change or purification of heart is elevation to the stage of bhava bhakti, or intense loving feelings for Lord Sri Krishna. The tear-full eyes and erect bodily hairs, which may be present or not, are only the secondary characteristics of bhava. Shri Radharani ji Srila Rupa Goswamipada does not even mention them in his description of the nine symptoms of bhava bhakti. Bhakti-rasamrta sindhu (1.3.25–26) says, “The characteristics of a person who has developed the bud of bhava are as follows: tolerance, not wasting time, detachment from enjoyment, pridelessness, confidence in Krishna, longing for Sri Krishna, taste for chanting Krishna’s name, always describing Krishna’s qualities, and attachment to living in Sri Krishna’s abode [Vrindavana, Navadvipa].” Bhanu Swami’s translation and Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada’s tika will surely give relief to the many sadhakas who think their chanting is useless. Crying and other symptoms of transcendental bliss are sometimes experienced by a devotee who has attained the rare stage of bhava, intense loving attachment for Bhagavan Sri Krishna. This is the ultimate transformation effected by chanting Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. True, we may not be in ecstasy when chanting Hare Krishna. But we should be confident that our chanting is definitely improving, changing and transforming us. Ceto darpanam marjanam means our consciousness, mind and heart ARE CHANGING AND BECOMING SPIRITUALIZED. As we daily chant and progress toward bhava bhakti, bhava bhakti is moving toward us. Way before the stage of bhava, every chanter will experience some portion and degree of the nine symptoms of bhava. Correct and steady chanting is slowly softening our hearts. Don’t be sad, lament or feel that nothing is happening. Just measure your own progress and see the changes and transformation that chanting has brought you. Yes, you can definitely see and feel that chanting Hare Krishna has made you much more tolerant, peaceful and detached from a lot of Maya. You are somewhat humble and much less proud. You don’t waste time and try to serve Krishna whenever possible. You feel confident in Krishna’s presence and protection; He’s in every pillar! You have some drops of genuine longing for Sri Krishna too. And at least occasionally you really get a taste from chanting Hare Krishna. What to speak about living in Vrindavana, “O, how I love Vrindavana!” All this personal experience proves that Sri Krishna’s all-sweet and powerful transcendental names are softening our hearts, purifying our minds, raising our consciousness, delivering us and preparing us to see Sri Krishna face to face. Radha Govinda Yugala darshana ki jai! Hare Krishna Maha Mantra ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe! The post Why no tears? appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  7. “For him whose knots of heart have been undone, only Vrindavan and nothing else exists.” Vrindavan, 2022-04-26 (Vrindavan Today News): Shri Maa Anandmayi was a widely revered self-realised seer of India. Following is an excerpt from Maa’s discourse with her disciples where she explains the essence of Vrindavan, and why the formless absolute and its divine form are one and the same. The article concludes with some interesting accounts about her Vrindavan ashram situated on the Mathura-Vrindavan road. Maa Anandamayee and Gopal “When the kingdom of pure consciousness has been attained, form is revealed as the essence itself. What was sorrow from the worldly point of view is now ‘viraha’ – separation from THAT; in other words, the agony of existing in a particular form. This separation is without end, and manifests in ever new ways. By a mere stroke of God’s imagination this vast universe comes into being. What actually is this creation? He himself, the one. Why then are there distinctions? Why should there be others? There are no others. The ocean is contained in that form. How can this be when ‘the one’ reveals itself as a form, a ‘vigraha’, say for instance as Radha-Krishna? This ‘vigraha’ exists eternally. Where? In Vrindavan. For him whose knots of heart have been undone, only Vrindavan and nothing else exists. What you have thus realised as ‘lila’ is infinite, and this infinity will be known by discarding the world and all that belongs to it. One who sees Vishnu everywhere is a ‘Vaishnava’. The idea that the world has a boundary is delusive. It is you who have created the distinction between the natural and the supernatural. As a matter of fact all and everything is but his ‘lila’. In the ‘all’ He is to be found. The supernatural is not apart from the rest. If one remains confined within the boundary, one’s heart cannot become Vrindavan. When realisation has occurred, there is nothing but Vrindavan, nothing but Vrindavan, complete non duality. Maa Anandmayi and her Vrindavan Ashram Deities at Shri Anandamayee Maa Ashram Vrindavan Maa Anandmayi was born in 1896 in Kheora village of present-day Bangladesh to a pious though impoverished Brahmin couple. Her parents named her Nirmala Sundari Devi. Maa took Samadhi at the age of 86 in the year 1982. Her disciples carry on her unmatched legacy through her many ashrams located all across the country, including in Vrindavan. Maa Anandamayee Shri Haribaba, a well known saint of Vrindavan, had a special desire that there should be an ashram of Maa in Braj Dham. He took the lead to welcome her into the ashram after it was built. Temples gradually came up on the grounds of the Vrindavan Ashram. At first, through the earnest desire of Dr. Panna Lall, the temple of Nitai Gaur was constructed in March 1955. It was followed by a Shiva temple on 10 March, 1956. On 7 September 1966 – the day of Janmashtami, the two supreme deities of Radha and Krishna were installed in the central temple. There’s an interesting account associated with it. According to information available on the ashram website, Maa had a divine vision of a curly-haired boy of tender age dancing on the banks of Yamuna at the place where the ashram stands today. She also saw someone holding an umbrella for him. Moreover, a mahatma in the form of a stone was also found to bow down at the blessed feet of Maa here. To everyone’s amazement, when the plinth was being dug for the construction of the temple, the fact came to be revealed that the Yamuna once flowed at the site and the entire area was in fact a pastoral ground. The post There is nothing but Vrindavan: Maa Anandmayi appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  8. Following the inclusion of Govardhan in the TTZ (Taj-Trapezium Zone) by NGT, generators, waste and stubble burning, as well as cutting of trees are prohibited in the region. Govardhan, 2022-04-24 (Vrindavan Today News): Despite the order of the National Green Tribunal prohibiting waste and stubble burning in Govardhan forest area, two separate incidents were reported on Friday night. According to the forest department, unidentified persons were responsible for the event. Details will emerge on further enquiry. Following the inclusion of Govardhan in the TTZ (Taj-Trapezium Zone) by the NGT, generators, waste and stubble burning as well as cutting of trees were prohibited in the region. Despite these orders, on Friday night two incidents of waste burning came to light in Govardhan foothills. Before the authorities could take any action, the fire claimed many small trees and plants in the vicinity. Parikramarthis had to face inconvenience, as the entire Parikrama Marg from Sant Nivas to Baagdi Pyaau became engulfed in smoke. On receiving information from officer-in-charge Prabhakant Pandey, forest range officer (Govardhan) Manoj Kumar stepped in to control the situation. The officers seemed to be evading responsibility for the incident. Mostly the forest department employs manual labour to clear up thorny bushes, and plant grass and trees in the area. Instead of taking the waste to the dumping ground, they gather it near the hill and set the dump on fire. The forest officials, however, claim that unidentified miscreants were behind the incident. The post Two incidents of waste burning reported in Govardhan in defiance of NGT orders appeared first on Vrindavan Today. View the full article
  9. The MVDA granted permission for 1180 illegal constructions to be carried out in the ASI protected Madan Mohan Temple premises. On the other hand, only 150 illegal structures were demolished by its order. Vrindavan, 2022-04-20 (Vrindavan Today News): Taking cognizance of the petition filed against illegal construction in the protected Madan Mohan Temple zone, the Allahabad High Court has sought explanation from Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority (MVDA) and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as to why permission was granted for the same. The 500-yr-old Madan Mohan Temple in Vrindavan is an ASI protected monument, and hence any construction, old or new, in and around the premises (within 200 meters) is restricted by law. Despite the prohibition, the MVDA granted permission for 1180 such illegal constructions to be carried out. On the other hand, only 150 illegal structures were demolished by its order. Hearing the case, the two-judge bench of Justice Rajesh Bindal and Piyush Agrawal questioned the MVDA’s involvement in the matter. It has also sought an explanation from the ASI. The Madan Mohan Temple is an ancient heritage site in Vrindavan. It was built by a merchant named Ramdas Kapur at the behest of Sanatan Goswami in 1580. The post HC questions MVDA, ASI for permitting illegal construction around Madan Mohan Temple appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  10. Until 18 years back, Bhagwan Goda-Rangmannar’s abhishek was done with the sacred waters of the Yamuna on the river bank. Now it happens in the temple tank (Pushkarni). It seems blasphemous to say this, but the physical form of Shri Krishna’s ‘Patrani’ is not fit for His service anymore. By Acharya Naresh Narayan Vrindavan, 2022-04-12 (Vrindavan Today News): Rangji’s ten-day annual festival ‘Brahmotsavam’ concluded on 29 March. Like every year, on the day prior (28 March) Bhagwan Rangnath and Devi Goda went for the grand ritual bathing ceremony in the ‘Pushkarni’ (temple tank) after the morning ‘Shri Palki’. Well, this sentence needs a minor correction….or two perhaps! Like every year ‘for the last nearly 18 years’, Bhagwan Rangnath and Devi Goda went for the grand ritual bathing ceremony in the ‘Yamuna-swaroopini Pushkarni’ after the morning ‘Shri Palki’. ‘Yamuna-swaroopini Pushakrni’ because the physical Yamuna in the form it exists today in Braj-Vrindavan, is unfit for Rangji’s seva! And this calls for ‘major’ correction for us as a civilization, not a ‘minor’ one. It is an extremely disconcerting truth that Yamuna pollution has caused this 150-year-old sacred tradition to break. And yet it is not the only one. Priest performing bathing ritual of the Lord in Pushkarini Many temples in Braj and outside, for which the Yamuna was a fundamental element of daily and special ‘seva’, had to discontinue their services due to alarming levels of pollution in the river. These include Rangji, Govind Dev, Radharaman, and Nathdwara’s Shrinathji to name a few. In fact, many people in Vrindavan used to perform daily puja of their personal deities with Yamuna Jal. Coming back to Rangji, the temple boasts a lofty tradition of Yamuna worship which began nearly 4500 years ago with the avatar of Bhu Devi, Godamma or Andal as she is popularly known. Andal longed to obtain Krishna as her husband, and the only way she knew was to follow in the footsteps of the Braj Gopikas who worshipped Devi Katyayini and Devi Yamuna in Dwapar Yug for the fulfilment of their desire. As travelling all the way to Braj was not feasible for her, Andal worshipped the Yamuna by invoking her in the temple tank (‘Pushakarni’) of the Vatapatrasayi Vishnu Temple in the southern town of Srivilliputtur (Tamil Nadu), where she lived. Srivilliputtur became her Vrindavan, the temple was Nandbhavan, and her friends were the Gopis. On the completion of the ‘vrata’, Bhagwan Shri Rangamannar appeared to her in a dream and married her. Andal merged into Him that very day. The Shrivaishnav Sampradya celebrates her month-long vow as ‘Dhanurmaas’, of which early morning ‘Yamuna Snaan’ is the most essential element, in addition to the ‘Thiruppavais’ – a collection of 30 poems – one for each day – composed by Andal. Even today, the Rangji temple area reverberates with the sounds of her transcendental hymns in the wee hours of morning during the months of December-January. But the Yamuna is not there. Even though Andal is now in Vrindavan, the river which granted her the highest of all desires, that of Krishna Bhakti, has to be invoked in the temple tank once again. But it was not always so. Until 18 years back, Rangji temple followed the daily ritual which involved a retinue of priests heading to the Yamuna with complete paraphernalia comprising chatras, chadi-chamar, mashaal (two each),and two guards to bring water for Bhagwan Rangnath’s early morning abhishek. The tradition was instituted on the day the deity was consecrated in the temple. During Dhanurmaas Godamma led the entourage accompanied by ‘Thiruppavai’ singing. She still does, but her ‘Yamuna snaan’ has now been restricted to ‘Yamuna Darshan’ alone. Another special occasion linked to the Yamuna is ‘Brahmotsavam’, on the ninth day of which both Devi Goda and Shri Rangamannar are taken to the Yamuna on a splendid sawari (palanquin). Before the Yamuna met this deadly fate, the day used to be marked with grand rituals and festivities beginning with ‘snaan’. It may be difficult for those who have seen the Yamuna only in the present state, but the special ‘vigrahas’ of the deity actually took a dip in the river. The event was attended by hundreds of devotees every year. Now Shri Goda-Rangnath’s ‘sawari’ travels only as far as the temple’s ‘Pushkarni’. Given the significance of the Yamuna in the Sampradaya, the aggrieved temple and priest community tried its best to save the tradition, devising alternative ways to obtain pure water for seva. The archaks used to dig a deep hole on the river bank at night, and cover with it stones to avoid any disturbance. Overnight, clean water would seep in and collect in the pit. This water was used for the temple rituals next morning. However, the practice could not be carried on for long due to animals and miscreants. The Yamuna plays an inextricable role in the lilas and seva of Krishna, both of which are not only incomplete but impossible to conceive without her. This is true specifically of the Yamuna in Braj, where she is worshipped as the ‘Patrani’ – chief queen of Krishna. Her significance remains undiminished wherever His service is held in accordance with the principles of Braj Bhakti. It is heartbreaking to see how despite its spiritual, ecological, and civilizational significance, the life and liberation-giving Yamuna is suffering this fate due to the apathy of the government and common public. The post Pollution that affected the age old tradition of Shri Ranganath Temple appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  11. 2022.04.10 (Vrindavan Today News Service): April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our articles will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centers dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the ninth day of Navratri, we pay our obeisance to Shri Chandravali Devi. Nearly 15 km from Mathura, a cut across the Mathura-Baldev road, is situated the temple of Chandravali Devi. Every Monday and during the Navratri, hundreds of devotees gather to attend the temple fair, and pray to Devi for her blessings. Maa Chandravali is known to never disappoint her ‘bhaktas’. A unique feature of this temple is that it has no roof. Not that the means to build one do not exist, but many devotees have tried and failed. All ‘purusharthas’ pale in front of Devi’s will who sits braving the seasons all alone in the desolate landscape, waiting for Krishn to come back. Chandravali is one of Radha’s ashtsakhis, and she has been waiting in the wild ever since Dwapar Yuga. The story goes thus… On seeing Radha and Krishna heading for Raas to the Yamuna bank, Chandravali insisted on joining them, but Krishna asked her to wait at the spot until he returns. Obeying his wish Chadravali sat down to rest under a ‘hees’ tree by the Yamuna. Seasons turned, and years passed before Krishna finally returned. Miffed at the delay, the irate Chandravali refused to talk to Him. So as to assuage her anger, Krishna granted her the boon of being worshipped in Kaliyuga in that very form which exemplified the soul’s wait for the divine. When the time arrived, Devi Chandravali appeared to a Krishn devotee by the name Muralidhar in a dream, and instructed him to resurrect her form from under the ‘hees’ tree and consecrate it. Every year during Navratri a fair is organised in the temple. Devotees undertake different kinds of penances, and vows to please the ‘ever-waiting goddess’. Some travel barefoot on the treacherous road to her temple, others organise ‘dolas’ (sawari or palanquin), ‘bhandaras’ and ‘kanya pujan’. Tags: Chandravali, Ashtasakhis, Baldev Highway, Raas, Yamuna, Devi Temple, Kanya Pujan, Bhandara The post Navratri Special (Day 9): Chandravali Devi, the goddess who refuses to accept a roof appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  12. 2022.04.09 (Vrindavan Today News Service): April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our articles will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centers dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the eighth day of Navratri, we pay our obeisance to Maa Yogmaya Devi of Yogpeeth of Goma Teela. Steps to the under ground chamber of Patal Devi During Chaitra Navaratri, ‘Vrindavan Today’ is introducing you to the different Devi temples of Vraja Vrindavan. Today, we take you for darshan of ‘Maa Yogmaya’ of Goma Teela (the mound upon which Govind Dev temple is built). Among Brajwasis, Goma Teela Yogamaya is also known as ‘Patal Devi’. Yogamaya’s nickname ‘Patal Devi’ may refer to her position under the ground, as Patal Lok is the lowest of the three worlds. The name also indicates Durga Maya’s ability to subdue demons from the underworld. The entrance to Yogmaya temple is adjacent to the main alter of the iconic old red sandstone building that is Radha Govinda Temple. On the Southern side of the temple, built into the overall design, there is a raised entranceway that leads into an underground chamber. This chamber is generally accepted as the place where the original Govinda ji deity appeared, and supposedly once served as a subterranean bhajan kutir for Roop Goswami. Patal Devi is installed in the underground chamber. The deity is very small and delicately beautiful. Yogamaya temple only opens a couple of times in a year, during Navaratri. On other days, special permission has to be requested from the priest on the altar. Before Govinda Dev was moved to Jaipur, He was seated on the main altar with Vrinda Devi on the left and Yogamaya on the right. Now Vrinda Devi has been moved to Kama and Yogamaya has moved to Roop Goswami’s bhajan kutir, next to the temple. Patal Devi temple is closed for the entire year except on Navaratri. It is not easy to have darshan of Yogmaya Devi. On request, the temple priest at Govind Dev temple can open the door to allow visitors to enter the basement chamber where the deity of goddess Yogamaya is installed. There is an inner passage from Sanctum Sanctorum of the main alter, from where the priests have direct access to the ‘Yog-peeth’. The post Navratri Special (Day-8): Maa Yogmaya of Goma Teela appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  13. 2022.04.07 (Vrindavan Today News Service): April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our articles will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centers dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the sixth day of Navratri, we pay our obeisance to Shri Katyayani Devi of Vrindavan and Cheer Ghat of Braj Adi Katyayani at Siyara village The legend of Sati’s immolation is one of the most widely-known stories of the ‘Puranas’. The 52 locations where parts of her divine body and ornaments fell became the shakti-peethas (literally energy centres). The place where her hair fell on the banks of Yamuna in Vrindavan is known as Katyayini Devi today. According to another popular tale from the tenth canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam, in Dwapar Yuga, the Braj gopis made a vigraha of Maa Katyayini with the sand of Yamuna – the revered Braj-raj – and prayed to her to obtain Krishna as their husband. The ancient ‘vigraha’ is till worshipped at Cheer Ghat in the village of ‘Siyara’. It is one of the important sites on the Braj 84 kos Parikrama. ‘Vrindavan’ was Re-discovered by Shri Chaitanya Mahparabhu 500 years ago. Scores of temples were established by His followers and the acharyas of different sampradayas. The area within the ‘Panchakos’ was considred as ‘Vrindavan’. Therefore another temple of Shri Katyayani Devi was founded in Vrindavan 150 years ago by Swami Keshavananda ji. Reference of ‘Katyayani’ is found in Shrimad Bhagvat Purana of the various spots, where Lord Krishna performed His lila in Vrindavan. These spots were identified centuries later by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Similarly Swami Keshavananda ji located the Katyayani Peeth in Vrindavan. Reference is found the Bhagwat Purana of the various spots, where Lord Krishna performed His Leelas in Vrindavan. These spots were identified centuries later by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a saint who came from Bengal. Similarly Swami Keshavananda ji discovered the ‘Katyayani Peeth’, with the ‘Divine vision’. Swami Keshavananda ji spent about 33 years traversing the snow clad peaks and dales of the Himalayas meeting the existing masters under directions of his Guru Shri Lahiri Mahasaya. There he had the vision and direction of the ‘Divine Mother’ to proceed to Vrindavan and perform the most important mission of his life by locating the ‘Peethasthan’ mentioned in the Puranas, install the deity of Goddess Katyayani and initiate the regular worship of the Goddess for the benefit of the mankind in the present times. Guided by the dictates of the almighty he came to Vrindavan and started living in a small hut on the banks of river Yamuna in Radha Bagh and identified the Shakti Peeth. He gradually acquired the land and built the present temple and ashram in the year 1923, where he live the rest of his life until October 1942 when he attained ‘Mahasamadhi’. Katyayani Devi, Vrindavan The post Navratri Special (Day 6): Katyayani Devi of Braj – Vrindavan appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  14. The Devis Bandi, Anandi, and Manovancha are the clan goddesses or kuldevis of Shri Krishna. Krishna and Balaram’s tonsure ceremony, and also that of Pradyumna, Aniruddh, and Vajranabh from the successive generations, were held at their temple in Mahavan. The miracles of Ma Bandi-Anandi are narrated in the third and fourth chapters of the tenth canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam. When Vasudev had to sneak out of Kamsa’s prison to exchange Krishna with Nanda and Yashoda’s daughter in Gokul, Ma Bandi not only freed him from the tethers, but also caused the gatekeepers to go into deep sleep and the gates to unlock miraculously. Ma Anandi, on the other hand, was the one who showered Gokul with ‘anand’ (joy) on the appearance of Krishna. It is customary for new brides of the Yaduvanshi Jadon clan pay their first respects to Maa Bandi-Anandi after marriage. The Anand kund (pond), where their vigrahas were found, is situated near the temple. According to the Garga Samhita, Devi Bandi and Anandi presented Shri Radha with beautiful tilak and earrings for her Maharaas shringaar. Devi Manovancha answered Yashoda’s prayers by protecting her dear son from the many troubles that kept befalling him over and over again. Even today people pray to her for relief from afflictions like squint eye and stammering, and offer silver tongue and eyes to Devi when their wishes are fulfilled. The post Maa Bandi, Anandi and Manovancha, Mahavan appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  15. 2022.04.06 (Vrindavan Today News Service): April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our articles will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centers dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the fifth day of Navratri, we pay our obeisance to Shri Sancholi Devi of Koilavan. Sancholi stands for ‘sanchi ali’ or sacchi saheli, a true friend… and that is Krishna. There’s an endearing story behind Kokilavan’s Sancholi temple. In Dwapar Yuga when Krishna took his cows for grazing in the surrounding hills of Nandgaon, Radha would come there to meet him every day. One day when Radha and her sakhis were just about to leave Barsana, king Vrishbhanu asked her where she was going. Caught off guard by the unexpected question, she incautiously replied that she was going to the Devi temple in the woods. Curious to know more about this new temple, King Vrishbhanu sent his servants along with the girls. Sancholi Devi temple Knowing that she had blundered, Radha fervently prayed to Krishna to help her out of this predicament like a true friend (‘sanchi ali) would. Ever willing to rescue his beloved from all troubles, Krishna wrapped himself up in a chunari (stole) and went and sat in the bushes. On reaching the forest when Radha saw Shyamsundar in the form of Devi, out of sheer joy, she exclaimed, ‘meri sanchi ali’ (my true friend). Since that day the form of Krishna as Devi is being worshipped in Sancholi as the one and only true friend.
  16. 2022.04.05 (Vrindavan Today News Service): April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our articles will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centers dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the fourth day of Navratri, we pay our obeisance to Shri Devi Yogmaya of Devi Atas village of Vrindavan. The tenth canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam tells the story of Devi Yogamaya. After transferring Krishna to the protection of Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul, Vasudev brought back their girl child in place of him to the prison. Overcome by fear and ignorance, the demonic Kamsa paid no heed to the fact that according to the prophecy Devaki and Vasudev’s eighth son would kill him. He pledged to kill them all, girl or boy. Devi’s temple at Devi Atas village When he came to know that Devaki had given birth to her eighth child, he attempted to kill it as well. But as soon as he lifted the baby in his arms, she leapt into the sky, and revealed her form as Devi Ashtabhuja (Goddess with eight hands). With a roaring laugh she warned Kamsa once again of his impending end. The Shrimad Bhagavatam further mentions that after speaking thus to Kamsa, the goddess appeared in places as distant as Varanasi, and became celebrated by different names such as Annapurna, Durga, Kali and Bhadra. One of these places is Sunrakh in Vrindavan where she is known as Devi Aatas after her roaring laugh or ‘attahas’. The post Devi Aatas, Sunrakh appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  17. April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our articles will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centres dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the third day of Navratri, we pay our obeisance to Shri Mansa Devi of Govardhan. Mansa Devi, Govardhan Seeing his seven-year-old child lifting the seven-kos Giriraj for seven days on the little finger of his left hand, Ma Yashoda grew extremely anxious. In deep distress, she called out to Ma Bhagwati to protect Krishna. Appearing as Mansa Devi (the one invoked in the ‘manas’ or mind of Yashoda) from a shila on the holy mountain, the divine mother assured Yashoda that she would take care of him. This divine shila was eventually consecrated by Krishna’s grandson Vajranabh in the foothills of Govardhan. For the loving mother all Brajwasis are the manifestations of Krishna. Sitting along the Mansi Ganga, she takes care of her children even today. Mansa Devi is the kuldevi or clan goddess of the Tomar clan. Her temple in Govardhan was built by Maharaj Anangpal Tomar, the ruler of Tomar Rajput Dyanst who is credited with establishing Delhi in the 11th century. The post Navratri Special (Day -3): Mansa Devi of Govardhan appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  18. April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our article s will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centres dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the second day of Navratri we pay our obeisance to Shri Nari Semri Devi of Braj. Maa Nari Semri, Mathura Maa Nari Semri of Mathura is also known as ‘Nagarkot Wali Devi’ for she is an expansion of the divine goddess who resides in the Himalayan town of Kangra or Nagarkot, as it was historically called. The story goes that Devi’s bhakta Dhandhu wanted to bring her down from the lofty mountains to the plains of Agra with him. Pleased by his devotion, Devi agreed on the condition that he would not turn back to see if she is coming along, and if for whatever reason he happened to do so, she would settle down at that place forever. Dhandhu agreed, but as they approached the village of Nari Semri in Mathura, he grew impatient and turned back to check on her. Devi at once froze and established herself perpetually in the village. It was Nagarkot Devi’s lila that Braj was blessed by her presence. There are many legends and miracles associated with this temple, but one which everyone can witness is the special chaadar aarti where flames cut across a cotton sheet without burning it. The spectacle is carried out not once, but five times, for all to see. The aarti is performed by the descendants of Dhandhu who come down from Agra especially for this purpose. Four of them hold the white cotton sheet, while the fifth pujari manoeuvres the flame below it. Before beginning, they perform prolonged, elaborate rituals requesting Maa Nari Semri to cool down the flame of the wheat flour lamp so that it doesn’t burn the cloth, and the aarti can be concluded without any obstacles. Dhandhu’s successors have upheld this miraculous tradition for generations. It is said that when the ‘chadar aarti’ is performed here, the doors of the main temple in Kangra are closed. During those auspicious hours Devi descends from her high altar to attend this mystical ritual in Nari Semri. The post Navratri Special (Day -2): Nari Semri Devi appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  19. April 2 to 10, 2022 India is celebrating the festival of Chaitra Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to Devi. Like everything else, Navratri in Braj is also subsumed in Krishna Bhakti, whether through the worship and contemplation of Radha and her ashtasakhis or through the nine manifestations of Devi associated with Krishna lilas in various forms and names. Everyday during ‘Navratri’ our article's will take readers on the trail of Braj’s own shakti peethas – the nine energy centres dedicated to celebrating the feminine. On the first day of Navratri we pay our obeisance to Shri Chamunda Devi of Shri Dham Vrindavan. Shri Chamunda Devi Mandir of Vrindavan ॐ ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चै Chamunda Devi, Vrindavan One of the first mystical experiences Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had on coming to Vrindavan was the darshan of a little girl. Seeing her all alone in the desolate forest, Mahaprabhu was surprised. Nevertheless, he requested her to guide him to Vrindavan. The girl told Mahaprabhu that he was standing at the entrance of Vrindavan; it was where Vrindavan began, and then, she disappeared. On returning to Jagannath Puri, Mahaprabhu shared all his experiences including the above with his disciples and associates. While he was sending Roop, Sanatan and other goswamis to Vrindavan for its rediscovery and restoration, he revealed to them that the little girl he had met there was none other than Devi Yogamaya. Mahaprabhu instructed them to build a temple for her at that spot. The shrine, which is perhaps the first one built by Roop and Sanatan Goswami in Vrindavan, became known as Chamunda Devi. It is believed that Shri Radha herself guards the entry to Vrindavan as Chamunda Devi. It is only by her will and causeless mercy that one can enter Dham, and live there under her divine, motherly protection. Shri Chamunda Devi Mandir of Vrindavan
  20. By Manali Deshpande 2022.04.01 (Vrindavan Today News): Now, you will not have to worry about the quality of ‘prasad’ being distributed in the temples of Prem Mandir and ISKCON. These temples will receive the required certificate for matching standards set by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Every year millions of devotees visit the holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan for darshan and offer their prayers in different temples. In the course of their visit they go to the temples for darshan and offer Bhog to the deities procuring it from the temple stalls. It is believed that deity partakes the Bhog and consecrates into Prasad. The Prasad is then distributed among the devotees, who takes Lord’s blessing by eating the ‘prasad’ offered in the temple and taking it to home. Prasad offered to Shri Krishna is ensured to be pure and of best quality Audit report on Prem Mandir and ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan submitted to Govt. of India. Quality Certificate to be issued soon. Under the Govt. of India, FSSAI and Private firm conducted multifold investigation to ensure the best quality Prasad distributed to devotees coming for Darshan from all around the country and globe. The ‘Bhog’ offered in these temples have gone through strict tests and quality checks so that it meets the high-quality standards set by Govt. of India. Based on these inspections Govt. of India will issue quality standard certificates to Prem Mandir and ISKCON Temple. Food Safety Department and the government nominated independent agency have performed different levels of stringent quality tests of the ‘prasad’ distributed in these temple. The Food Safety authorities have submitted their report to the Central Government, which focusses on the cleanliness maintained during the preparation of ‘bhog’ and purity of ‘prasad’. In this regard, Central Govt. nominated independent agency has completed the first and second levels of audit. The ‘agency’ has submitted detailed audit report to the Central Govt. The Food Audit also covered the cleanliness of the kitchen, health of cooking staff, quality of water and overall atmosphere. The private agency also confirmed that the precautions to prevent the menace of rodents and pests are in place. Prem Mandir Shri. Ajay Tripathi of Prem Mandir, Vrindavan and Shri Ravi Lochan Das, PRO of ISCKON Temple, Vrindavan confirmed that Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and audit team have conducted inspection and reviewed the administration and system. Dr. Gouri Shankar, An official from the Food Safety and Drug Administration, Mathura stated that as part of inspection process, independent agency ‘Origa’ has been appointed. The agency has done the first and second levels of Audit on cleanliness and quality. The reports have been submitted to Govt. of India. Kitchen staffs have undergone health checkups. He further stated that the underlying purpose is to ensure that the ‘bhog’ is being prepared under hygienic conditions and of best quality. He also said the Shri Krishna Janmabhumi is also undergoing the process of ‘food auditing’. Temples free of pests and rodents – Certificate issued. Both the temples of ISKCON and Prem Mandir have been issued a certificate from a private agency that the premises are free of pests and rodents. Varanasi and Kanpur temples already received certificates on quality of Prasad. Temples of Varanasi and Kanpur have already been issued certificates by Govt. of India for maintaining good quality of Prasad. Krishna Balaram Mandir (ISKCON) The post Prem Mandir & ISKCON temples to receive Food Safety Certificates for ‘prasad’ appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  21. By Anmol Mathur The annual 10-day festival is being celebrated from 20 to 29 March this year Vrindavan, 2022-03-20 (Anmol Mathur): Soon after Holi, the grand festival of ‘Brahmotsavamam’, or the ‘Rath ka Mela’ as the Brajvasis excitedly call it, is celebrated in Vrindavan. It is the most important observance in Rangji Temple. The grand festival celebrates the consecration of the deity; it is also known as patotsav or prakatyotsav in North Indian temples. This year ‘Brahmotsavam’ is being celebrated from 20 to 29 March. During the 10-day festival, various sevas are performed and many processions are taken out, all around the town. The utsav deities are given royal baths before they come outside the main temple in colourful processions twice a day. Led by elaborately decorated elephants and horses, and flanked by musicians playing naadaswaram, They are paraded in various attires on different kind of mounts each day. The Brahmotsavam begins by hoisting of the garuda dhwaja (flag) on the dhwaja sthambha (flag staff), popularly known as ‘sone ka khamba’. The humungous temple is decorated and illuminated with colourful lights, flowers and geometric designs called kollam or rangoli. Women joyously paint kollams in the temple corridor and open grounds to express their joy about Bhagwan Rangamannar visiting their homes in a royal procession. The grand chariot of Bhagavan Ranganath The deities parade through the temple alleys displaying various forms of Krishna leela. On the first day of the festival, Shri Rangamannar enthrones Himself on the purnakoti vimanam – a golden palace bedecked with gems. In the evening, He mounts a silver lion to express His valorous side. Next morning devotees are blessed with the sight of Him gallantly riding the chariot of the Sun. In the evening He brings forth His pramahamsa, gyaan swaroopa on the swan chariot. On the evening of ‘Garuda Vahana’ Shri Rangamnnar appears in His form as Mahavishnu riding the Garuda. This is one of the most popular darshan of Him. Next comes the ‘Gaja Vahanam’ – the silver elephant – stationed on which He marches with gaja gati (elephant like gait) to steal the hearts of devotees who travel from faraway places to attend the Brahmotsavam. On one of the days He appears as Shri Rama, sitting on a huge vigraha of Hanuman. Every procession or sawari of Rangji is a delight in itself, being joined by hundreds of devotees doing nama sankeertana in Dravida style. Some of them struggle to rush ahead of the chariots to decorate His path with flowers, while others carrying the royal umbrella try hard to keep pace with Him. Occasionally, classical dances are also performed in front of the deities. One of the unique traditions of Brahmotsavam is to give a glimpse of the important festivals of the year as a mark of respect to the presiding deity. A ‘mini Diwali’ is celebrated by putting up a firework show as Bhagwan Rangamannar goes around on the silver horse. Thousands gather to watch this spectacle. On one particular day, Shri Bhagwan is seated in a little glass and gold bungalow from which He comes out to play Holi with His devotees. People attending the procession splash colour and flowers on Him. As the festival approaches its end, Rangji sends His sudarshan chakra in the palanquin to have a bath in the Yamuna, while the lordships Themselves proceed to the temple tank or pushkarni. Qualified pundits chant vedic mantras during the bathing rituals. Now is the time for the festival’s main attraction – Rathotsav or Rath Ka Mela as it is popularly called. Shri Rangamannar and Godamba enjoy the ride through the town in Their lavish ratha decorated with festoons and flowers. The darshan of Shri Rangamannar as raas bihari from atop the silver moon soothes the hearts of devotees like nectarean moonbeams. Much like Puri’s Jagannath Yatra devotees eagerly wait for a chance to pull the chariot. It is a moment of great excitement and gratitude for them. The last leela of the Brahmotsavam is pranay kalah utsavam, where Godamba fights with Shri Rangamannar for having neglected her. As devotees try to bring Him inside the temple, Godamba and Her team of devotees block the main entrance. They throw flower balls on Him and abuse Him while singing sweet songs. Finally Rangji defers and Godamba allows Him in. Seated in a floral palanquin, They go around the temple, and then the dhwaj (flag) is taken down signifying the end of the festival. Over the years, Brahmotsavam has emerged as one of the biggest congregations of Vrindavan providing spiritual nourishment and enjoyment to the Brajvasis. The processions are thronged by thousands of devotees every day. After having darshan of Shri Ragamannar in the temple streets, they proceed to the stalls outside to enjoy the myriad tastes of Vrindavan. Ferris Wheel and other swing sports attract the kids. The post Rangji’s Brahmotsavamam is here again! appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  22. The festival commences today with the hoisting of the Garuda Dhwaj on top of the golden pillar or dwaja stambha, colloquially known as Sone ka khamba. Vrindavan, 2022-03-20 (Vrindavan Today News): Shri Rangji Mandir is celebrating its 10-day annual ‘Brahmotsavam’, popularly known as ‘Rath ka Mela’ among Brajwasis, from 20 to 29 March 2022. Brahmotsavam is not just a temple ritual; it involves the whole town. Once the Garuda Dhwaj is hoisted, it is expected that no householder leaves the town or plans any auspicious ceremony at home until the festival ends. The idea is to allow everyone to fully immerse in the celebrations. Even if someone needs to leave the town due to emergency, he is expected to return before the Garuda Dhwaj is brought down. The pre-festivities began on 17 March with the pushpa palaki. It was followed by ankurarpanam (initiation ceremony wherein 9 grains or navadhanya were planted in earthen pots) on 18 March, and raksha bandhanam (tying the sacred thread on utsava vigrahas of Lord Goda Rangamannar, chief priest and other priests) and garuda pratishtha on 19 March. The main festival will commence today (Sunday, 20 March 2022) with the hoisting of the Garuda Dhwaj on top of the golden pillar, also known as dwaja stambha or sone ka khamba (colloquially), amid chanting of vedic mantras. The schedule for the 10-day Brahmotsavam is given below: The post Rangji Temple celebrates 10-day annual Brahmotsavam from 20 to 29 March appeared first on Vrindavan Today.
  23. Phulera Dooj is being celebrated today (March 4) Bhandir Vat: The Great Banyan tree under which Shri Radha and Krishna were tied in a knot Phulera Dooj celebrated on the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Phalgun marks an important event in the 40-day Braj Holi calendar. The festival holds special significance in Bhandirvan where Radha and Krishna married each other in Dwapar Yuga on this day. The vedic wedding ceremony was solemnized by the creator, Lord Brahma, himself. The endearing story of their wedding is narrated in Gargacharya’s Garga Samhita as well as in the Krishna Janma Kand of the Brahmavaivarta Puran. According to the later, one day Nand Baba decided to take Krishna to Bhandirvan for grazing the cows. Sitting in his father’s lap, the divine child deciding to enact another lila, stirred up a storm in the sky. Lightning and thunder flashed through the black clouds, and soon enough a heavy downpour ensued. Worried about the safety of his little one and the cows Nand Baba asked Krishna to stop the mayhem. Krishna, who was waiting for this opportunity, relented at once. As soon as the rain stopped, Shri Radha appeared from behind the scattering clouds. Picking up Krishna from Nand Baba’s lap, just as she touched him to her bosom, the child Krishna grew up to become as big as Her. Enchanted by the divine darshan Lord Brhama arrived at the scene, and prayed to Shyama–Shyam to bless him with the great fortune of seeing Them getting married. He also expressed the desire to carry out the ceremony. Radha and Krishna obliged. The vedic ceremony was carried out at Bhandirvan at the place where the Bhandir Bihari Temple stands today on the auspicious day of Phulera Dooj. Soon after the wedding was over Brahma left for his celestial abode and Shri Krishna came back to his child form, playing in Nand Baba’s lap once again. The story evolved into a tradition as per which people carry out Radha-Krishna Vivaah Manorath at Bhandir Bihari Temple on Phulera Dooj every year. Hindus also consider this day auspicious for marriages in general. The Divine Couple of Bhandir van Phulera Dooj also marks the day when the Lordships get into the Holi mood with full vigour. While the spirit of Holi takes over Braj from Basant Panchami, the main festivities commence today, especially in Vrindavan’s Radhavallabh Temple. Every year on this day, Radhavallabh is dressed in a white ‘poshak’. A white ‘phenta’ (cummerbund/girdle) with a pouch of ‘gulal’ (coloured powder) is tied around his waist to indicate that he all set for ‘the big event’ – the five-day Holi from Rangbharani Ekadashi to Phalgun Purnima. Thereafter, the ‘phenta’ and ‘gulcha gulaal’ (dab of colour on the cheeks and chin) become a regular feature of His daily ‘shringaar’. Interestingly, during the Lathmaar Holi played in Barsana and Nandagaon, men tie a similar girdle with a ‘gulal’ pouch attached to it around their waists. The ‘phenta’ and huge turbans form a dress code of sorts for their Holi play.
  24. Gulal Kund: Where Holi Never Ends Nowhere in India is the celebration of Holi as vibrant as it is in Braj. Beginning on Basant Panchami, the first day of Spring, first tiny dots of coloured powder (gulcha Gulal) are offered to Shri Radha-Krishna, then lightly sprinkled on Their devotees as prasad. From that moment on, the game builds and builds in a constant crescendo until the end of Phalgun Purnima when the entire town erupts in colours. Going beyond the revelry, the festival in Braj-Vrindavan becomes a metaphor for the transcendental lilas of Shri Radha-Krishna expressed through the myriad Holi plays. How can then ‘just two months’ be enough for Brajwasis whose yearning to relish this rasa is endless! So they request the beloveds to continue Their Holi play at the quaint Gulal Kund forever, whatever the time or season. The sacred lake of Gulal Kund is snuggled in a sea of yellow mustard flowers in the lap of Shri Giriraj Govardhan. It is easy to reach from the Govardhan Parikrama path. When coming from Poonchari, take a left near Rudra Kund, at the corner where the auto rickshaws linger. Bear right, then left, then it’s pretty much a straight shot. As soon as one makes the turn down the lane towards the village, the hustle and bustle of Jatipura is snuffed out by an extreme sense of peace that blankets the entire area just beyond the Parikramapath. It is a smooth ride on a motorbike over a pavement of white bricks which seem like they have been laid with special care. The farther one drives, the more the pukka (concrete) buildings get replaced with kuccha houses made of Vrindavan’s earth and cowdung, the combined aura and fragrance of which is extremely intoxicating. After driving for about ten minutes there’s an elegant pink sandstone gateway on the left marking the entrance to Gulal Kund. Entering inside one sees the entire courtyard is stained pink from Holi colors. A large, beautiful tree shades the area and the several large Govardhan Shilas. At the back is Gulal Kund. Unfortunately, the Kund is nearly dry, but the ambience is still incredible; very serene, with many green parrots chattering in the trees. There is a plaque commemorating the renovation of the Kund which mentiones Teerth Vikas Trust, Shri Ramesh Baba of Barsana and the names of several devotees. A scene of Shri Radha and Krishna playing Holi is depicted in bas relief on sandstone, and on the right side of the courtyard is a small temple with a baithak (sitting-place) of Shri Vallabhacharya. A nitya-lila sthali It is said that once Shri Krishna was playing Holi in Barsana with Shri Radharani and other gopis. Although Shri Radha is His dearmost Beloved during this Holi game, Krishna was giving His time to all the gopis equally. Feeling that Krishna was not doing justice to the festival, Radharani and Her friends became upset. Unless Krishna played with Radha with full abandon, the true bliss of Holi could never be attained. By the time the game was over; Shri Radha fell into a sulk and began to cry. So to please Her, Shri Krishna brought only Radharani and Her close friends (sakhis) to this kund to play Holi to their hearts’ content. Since then this place became known as Gulal Kund. Shri Radha and Krishna are offered Holi colours every day at this place, and the devotees are adorned with Their prasad. Every day, Vaishnavs visit and play colours here in remembrance of that beautiful lila. Holi is a nitya lila in both itihaas and lok lila. Gulal Kund is a neutral place; it’s neither Radha’s Barsana nor Krishna’s Nandgaon. There’s no losing or winning here, only eternal play. Here the divine beloveds play sajal holi (holi with colors), They tease each other, and it is here that They are made fun of as they sit down to play with colours. Gulal Kund is also known by another name – Gantholi (Gantholi for ganth or knot). As per the folk tale, when Shri Radha-Krishna sat close to each other while playing Holi, the sakhis tied their upper garments in a knot (stoles) like it’s done for the bride and bridegroom in a marriage ceremony, and prayed/wished that They be together always. A continuing tradition Gulal Kund is well-known for its relation with Shrinathji. It is said that He comes here often to play Holi. Even today, when the festival is celebrated in Nathdwara, a replica of the Kund is made in front of Him and filled with flowers and colours. This is done to ensure Shrinathji doesn’t miss His favourite place. This tradition is followed in other temples and even in homes. All round the year Vaishnavs belonging to the Pushtimarg Sampradaya come to Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya ji’s baithak here in large numbers. Their Braj yatra is considered complete only when they bring their Thakurji to the Kund to play Holi. Gulal Kund is also a popular Sanjhi motif. During the Shraddh Paksh, young girls depict Shri Radha-Krishna playing Holi in the Kund in their Sanjhi – a Braj folk art dedicated to the goddess Sanjhi who is considered an emanation of Devi Parvati.
  25. by Manali Deshpande Like every year, a priest in a village of Mathura will again walk through the fire on the eve of Holi. Monu Panda, 28, a local priest will jump into a 15-foot high bonfire again this year. It will be the third time that Monu will walk on fire this year. For over 500 years, pandas have walked through fire in the village Falen of Mathura, and people here claim that no one has ever been injured in the ritual. The pandas don’t wear anything to protect them from the fire. This is being done by the Panda families over the years and Monu will continue the tradition this year too. This tradition denotes the age-old story of Bhakt Prahlad and his aunt, Holika. As per mythology, Bhakt Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu was saved from the flames by the grace and blessing of Lord Vishnu Himself. His Aunt Holika tried to immolate Bhakt Prahlad by placing him on her lap on a burning pyre. Monu Panda walking on fire Falen is a remote village located in the interior of Mathura district. Located at a distance of 40 kilometers from the district headquarters in Mathura, this village has maintained the age-old tradition of walking through the bonfire on every Holi. To know more about the ritual and understand the practices of the festivities associated with the Panda Mela, our team reached Falen on 16th February, on a Full Moon day (Purnima). This is the day when Panda sits on the month-long meditation and the pole is placed to mark the beginning of the festival. Monu Panda, who will walk on fire this year, spoke in detail. According to Monu, his village is the actual place where ‘Holika’ was burnt. Mythology has it that Prahlad had defied his father and insisted on worshipping Lord Vishnu. His father, the demon king Hiranyakashipu, asked Holika to sit in a pyre with Prahlad, knowing that Holika had a magical shawl that was used to protect her from the fire. She wore the shawl and took her nephew in her lap as the pyre was burnt. With the mercy of Lord Vishnu, the shawl flew off her shoulders and wrapped itself around Prahlad, saving the boy by reducing Holika to cinders. At Falen, the preparations for the Holi Festival have already started. On 16th February, the Pole was erected in the temple grounds, to mark the beginning of the month-long festival. It is celebrated like the Diwali Festival in the village. For this festival, people color and decorate their homes. Villagers invite their relatives and friends to join the celebrations. Villagers cook savories to treat their guests. All the villagers gather at one place with drums and sing folk songs of Holi like Rasiya, Chaupai, Ghamar etc. Women of the village dance and sing devotional songs. The full village is devoted to Lord Krishna during the period. The priest who walks through the fire is considered as Bhakt Prahlad, it is because of his blessings, the pandas walking on the pyre don’t get hurt. Satish Fauji, a resident of the village said, “Like last year Pandaji will not disappoint the thousands who converge here to watch the spectacle. He will accomplish the feat for the third consecutive year, taking on the task; he has inherited from his grandfather.” A few of his uncles, too, have tried their hands at it in the past, with varying levels of success. The fire jump has made holi celebrations of their village in Kosi Kala famous in the entire region. By 4 am on the day of the festivity, thousands of people gather at the village to see Panda’s walk through the raging flames, which flickered up to more than 35 feet. The bonfire is prepared out of cow dung cakes and the prickly stems of berr, the Indian plum. Villagers claim that this tradition is kept alive for 500 years. Wood is not used in the bonfire, which, after it is set alight, is as tall as it is wide. At the predetermined auspicious moment, Monu Panda will walk into the pyre, taking 15 steps in to cross the blaze. The ritual symbolizes, according to the locals, the triumph of good over evil. The crowd chants mantras to boost his morale. Monu Panda said, “It is not easy to keep the tradition going. It requires a lot of meditation and strengthening of body and mind. For 40 days, I lived in the Prahlad temple, located in the village. I can’t leave its premises till the time I perform the task of Holi, be there a marriage or death in the family.” “No food grain is allowed and one is required to survive on fruits and milk. Most of the days and nights, I spend in meditation and, before the final task, I bathe in the Prahlad Kund and perform Puja as part of sacred ritual, before walking through the fire”, said Monu. Temple of Bhakt Prahlad The Holika pyre is built with a diameter of 35-40 Ft and a height of 15 Ft. Crossing the 35 Ft flames seems to be an impossible task. However, Monu believes that after taking bath in holy Prahlad Kund, he is blessed by Lord Narsimha, who gives him the courage to cross these flames unhurt. He said that when he is in the middle of the Holika fire, some divine force helps him to come out of it. Villagers believe that the priest who walks through the fire gets the energy from Bhakt Prahlad. It is because of his blessing that we don’t get hurt.’ the priest said. Till eight years ago, members of 14 adjoining villages used to appoint the person to cross the bonfire. Now the tradition is observed within four families who take their turn after mutual agreement to perform the ritual. Falen stares up at a dried and dug up Prahlad Kund, ahead of the Panda Mela The villagers are concerned about the condition of the pond where the panda takes bath, before walking on the burning pyre. The work on the renovation of the Prahlad Kund has been started very recently. Due to this all the water from the holy Kund has been drained. Currently, there is no water in the Prahlad Kund due to the restoration. The villagers have dug up a small portion of the kund and filled it with some water, so that the Panda can take a bath every day in it, as a part of the tradition. Prahlad Kund being excavated Villagers pointed out the negligence towards the area surrounding the holy Prahlad Kund. They requested the concerned authorities to develop the area with greenery. They also showed concerns towards the pathetic situation of the road connecting Falen village with other towns. This makes it very difficult for the relatives and tourists to come to reach their village to take part in the age-old Mela.
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