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Vrindavan
Vrindavan
Location of Vrindavan
in Uttar Pradesh and India
Coordinates 27°35′N 77°42′E / 27.58°N 77.7°E / 27.58; 77.7
Country  India
State Uttar Pradesh
District(s) Mathura
Population 56,618 (2001)
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Area
Elevation

170 m (558 ft)

Vrindavan About this sound pronunciation (alternate spellings Vrindaban or Brindavan or Brundavan), or Vraj in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh, India is a town on the site of an ancient forest which is the region where Lord Krishna spent his childhood days. It lies in the Braj region.

The town is about 15 km away from Mathura, the city of Lord Krishna's birthplace, near the Agra-Delhi highway. The town hosts hundreds of temples dedicated to the worship of Radha and Krishna, and is nicknamed "City of Widows" after the large population of abandoned widows who seek refuge here.[1]

Contents

Etymology

Kesi Ghat on the Yamuna river.

The ancient name of the city, 'Brindaban' comes from its ancient groves of 'Brinda' Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) or Tulsi with ban meaning a grove or a forest[2]. Two small groves still exist at Nidhivan and Seva Kunj

History

Vrindavan has an ancient past, associated with Hindu folklore, and is an important Hindu pigrimage site. One of its oldest surviving temples is the Govind Deo temple, built in 1590, with the town founded earlier in the same century [3].

In the last 250 years, the extensive forests of Vrindavan have been subjected to urbanization, first by local Rajas and in recent decades by apartment developers. The forest cover has been whittled away to only a few copses, and the local wildlife, including peacocks, cows, monkeys and a variety of bird species has been eliminated or are close to it. A few peacocks and monkeys can be seen found but cows are now only found in the gosalas of the Major Ashrams of Vrindavan.

Religious heritage

Madan Mohan temple

Vrindavan is considered to be a holy place by all traditions of Hinduism. The major tradition followed in the area is Vaisnavism, and it is a center of learning with many Vrindavan Ashrams operating. Its a center of Krishna worship and the area includes places like Govardhana and Gokul that are associated with Krishna. Many millions of bhaktas or devotees of Radha Krishna visit these places of pilgrimage every year and participate in a number of festivals that relate to the scenes from Krishna's life on Earth. [4]

According to tradition and recorded evidence, Krishna was raised in the cowherding village of Gokul by his foster parents Nanda Maharaj and Yasoda. The Bhagavata Purana describes Krishna's early childhood pastimes in the Vrindavan forest where he, his brother Balarama, and his cowherd friends stole butter, engaged in childhood pranks and fought with demons. Along with these activities, Krishna is also described as meeting and dancing with the local girls of Vrindavan village, especially Radharani, who were known as gopis. These pastimes were the source of inspiration for the famous Sanskrit poem, Gita Govinda, by the Orissan poet, Jayadeva (c. 1200 AD).

Temples

Temple of Radha-Madan Mohan in Vrindavan, today

The most popular temples include:

  • The Madan Mohan Temple located near the Kali Ghat was built by Kapur Ram Das of Multan. This is the oldest temple in Vrindavan. The temple is closely associated with the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is the incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna in the iron age of Kaliyuga and he spread the Congregational chanting of the Holy names. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare is the prescribed chant leading to the perfection of life in Kaliyuga as stated in the Kali Santarana Upanishad. The original image of Lord Madan Gopal was shifted from the shrine to Karauli in Rajasthan for safe keeping during Aurangzeb's rule. Today, a replica of the image is worshiped at the temple.
  • The Banke Bihari Temple, built in 1862[5] is the most popular shrine at Vrindavan. The image of Banke-Bihari was discovered in Nidhi Vana by Swami Haridas, the great Krishna devotee, belonging to the Nimbarka sampradaya.
  • The famous Radha Vallabh Temple set up by the Radha-Vallabh sampradaya, through Sri Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu[6], has the crown of Radharani placed next to the Shri Krishna image in the sanctum.
  • The Jaipur Temple which was built by Sawai Madho Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1917, is a richly embellished and opulent temple. The fine hand - carved sandstone is of unparalleled workmanship. The temple is dedicated to Shri Radha Madhava.
  • Sri Radha Raman Mandir constructed at the request of Gopala Bhatta Goswami around 1542 is one most exquisitely crafted and revered temples of Vrindavan, especially by the Goswamis. It still houses the original saligram deity of Krishna, alongside Radharani.[7]
  • The Shahji Temple, another popular temple at Vrindavan, was designed and built in 1876 by a wealthy jeweller, Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. The deities (images) at the temple are popularly known as the Chhote Radha Raman. Noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculpture, the temple has twelve spiral columns each 15 feet high. The `Basanti Kamra' - the darbar hall is famed for its Belgian glass chandeliers and fine paintings.
  • The Rangaji Temple, built in 1851 is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha or Rangaji depicted as Lord Vishnu in his sheshashayi pose, resting on the coils of the sacred Sesha Naga. The temple built in the Dravidian style (as a replica of Srivilliputhur) has a tall gopuram (gateway), of six storeys and a gold - plated Dhwaja stambha, 50 feet high. A water tank and a picturesque garden lie within the temple enclosure. The annual festival of Jal Vihar of the presiding deity is performed with great pomp and splendour at the tank. The temple is also famous for its `Brahmotsdav' celebration in March-April, more popularly known as the `Rath ka Mela'. The ten day long celebrations are marked by the pulling of the rath (the chariot car) by the devotees from the temple to the adjoining gardens. The prayers within the temple are performed, following in the style of Andal, one of the twelve Vaishnava Saints of South India.
  • The Govind Deo (Govindaji) Temple was once a magnificent seven storeyed structure built in the form of a Greek cross. It is said that the Emperor Akbar donated some of the red sandstone that had been brought for the Red Fort at Agra, for the construction of this temple. Built at the astronomical cost of one crore rupees in 1590 by his general Raja Man Singh, the temple combines western, Hindu and Muslim architectural elements in its structure. It was destroyed by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.
  • The Sri Krishna-Balarama Temple built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in a location known as 'Raman-Reti', is one of the most beautiful temples in Vrindavan today. The principal deities of this temple are Krishna & Balaram, with Radha-Shyamasundar and Gaura-Nitai alongside. Adjoining the temple is the samadhi of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, built in pure white marble.
  • The Radha Damodar Mandir Located at Seva Kunj, the Mandir was established in 1542 by Srila Jiva Goswami. The deities Sri Sri Radha Damodar are here. The bhajan kutir of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is also situated at the Mandir.
  • Shri maa katyayni mandir the temple is situated in Radha Bagh, near rangnath mandir. This is one of suddh shakti peeth of maa durga.
  • Chintaharan Hanuman Mandir' this temple of lord Hanuman is situated near atalvan.
  • Shree Radha Ras Bihari Ashta Sakhi Temple In Vrindavan, the “Lila Sthan” (the place of the divine passion play) of Lord Krishna, lies the temple that is a must visit destination for devotees completing the 84 kosh Vraj Parikrama Yatra. The temple is centuries old and is the first Indian temple that is dedicated to the divine couple and their Ashta Sakhi’s - the eight “companions” of Radha who were intimately involved in her love play with the Lord Krishna. The Ashta Sakhis are mentioned in the ancient texts of Puranas and the Bhagavata Purana. The temple is called Shree Radha Ras Bihari Ashta Sakhi Mandir and it is home to the divine Rasa Lila of Lord Krishna and Radharani. It is located in close proximity to the Shri Banke Behari Mandir. Legend has it that the Shree Radha Rasa Behari Ashta Sakhi Mandir is one of the two places in Mathura, Vrindavan where the Lord Krishna actually indulges in the Rasa Lila with his beloved Radha and her sakhis. On these nights, devotees have reported hearing the sound of the anklets, beating in tune to a divine melody.

Other sacred sites

Kusuma Sarovar bathing ghat, in the Vrindavan area

Other places of interest include Seva Kunj, Kesi Ghat, Sriji Temple, Jugal Kishore Temple, Lal Babu Temple, Raj Ghat, Kusuma Sarovar, Meera-Bai Temple, Imli Tal, Kaliya Ghat, Raman Reti, Varaha Ghat and Chira Ghat, and across the river, a short boat-ride away is the samadhi shrine of Devraha Baba, a revered saint of the last century.

The Seva Kunj is where Lord Krishna once performed the Raaslila with Radha-Rani and the gopis and Nidhi Van where the divine couple rested. The samadhi of Swami Haridas, the guru of Tansen, is situated here. Every year, in his honour, Swami Haridas Sammelan is organized, in which all renowned musicians of India take part.

Another famous temple of Sri Vrindavan is Sri Kathia Baba Ka Sthan" at Gurukul Road [1], the mahanta of which is entitled as "brajobidehi mahanta" and the acharya of Swabhuram Dwara of Nimbarka sect, Sri Swami Rash Behari Das Kathia Babaji Maharaj.

  • Sri Sri Radha Govinda Temple Red Stone Temple - was built by Mahamandaleshwar Mahant Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji from Vrindavan. This newly constructed Radha Govinda Temple, completed in 2004 is based on a famous historic temple built about 500 years ago by Srila Rupa Goswami, a direct Sanyasi disciple of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Rupa Goswami was instructed by Lord Chaitanya to travel to Vrindaban from Bengal, and excavate the locations of Lord Sri Krsna's Lila While there and chanting his daily japa ,Lord Krsna manifested before him and instructed him to construct a temple, install His deity, and worship Him. The next day, while contemplating Lord Krsna's statement, he saw a cow atop a hill freely pouring milk from her udders, unattended. Seeing this, Srila Rupa Goswami invited the leading Vrijabasis (local residents) there, and requested them to dig that spot where the cow had poured her milk. While digging, the Vrijabasis found a Govinda deity. This is the exact deity originally worshipped 5000 years ago by Lord Krsna's grandson, Vajranabha. Engaging help by the then enthroned King Mansingh, Rupa Goswami erected a 7 story red stone temple, adorned with intricate beautiful carvings. Since then, several generations in Srila Rupa Goswami's lineage worshipped Lord Govinda, until the Mogul Emperor Aurangajeb, came and dismantled 4 of the 7 stories. But luckily as fate would have it, just before Aurangajeb's arrival, the Govinda deity was taken to Jaipur so Govindaji's worship would not be interrupted. Since the time that temple was damaged 300 years ago, no one has built such a temple.

Geography

Vrindavan is located at 27°35′N 77°42′E / 27.58°N 77.7°E / 27.58; 77.7[8]. It has an average elevation of 170 metres (557 feet).

Demographics

As of 2001 India census[9], Vrindavan had a population of 56,618. Males constitute 56% of the population and females 44%. Vrindavan has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 73%, and female literacy is 55%. In Vrindavan, 13% of the population is under 6 years of age. The number of females is 24,200 including 13% who are under 6 years of age.

Vrindavan is also known as the City of Widows[10] due to the large number of widows who move into the town and surrounding area after losing their husbands. According to some Hindu traditions, upper-caste widows may not remarry, so many of those abandoned by their families on the death of their husband make their way here. There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 widows living on the streets[11][12], many of whom have spent over 30 years there. In exchange for singing bhajan hymns for 7-8 hours in bhajanashrams, women are given a cup of rice and a pittance of money (around Rs.10)[10], which they try to supplement by begging on the streets or in some instances, even through prostitution. An organization called Guild of Service was formed to assist these deprived women and children[12]. In 2000 the organization opened Amar Bari (My Home), a refuge for 120 Vrindavan widows, and a second shelter for 500 widows is expected to open.

Industries in Vrindavan

These days Vrindavan is becoming a major source of earnings for real estate companies. Many people from Delhi are purchasing houses in Vrindavan because of peace and to live in the Holy place. So, the most popular real estate industries have launched many new housing projects in Vrindavan.

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2008-01/2008-01-24-voa22.cfm?moddate=2008-01-24
  2. ^ Brindaban The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 9, p. 17.
  3. ^ Brindaban This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain..
  4. ^ KLOSTERMAIER, Klaus K. (2007). A Survey of Hinduism. State University of New York Press; 3 edition. p. 204. ISBN 0791470814. "The center of Krishna-worship has been for a long time Brajbhumi, the district of Mathura that embraces also Vrindavana, Govardhana, and Gokula, associated with Krishna from the time immemorial. Many millions of Krishna bhaktas visit these places ever year and participate in the numerous festivals that reenact scenes from Krshnas life on Earth"  
  5. ^ Banke-Bihari Temple website
  6. ^ Radhavallabh Temple website
  7. ^ The history of Sri Radha Raman Temple
  8. ^ Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Vrindavan
  9. ^ "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. http://web.archive.org/web/20040616075334/http://www.censusindia.net/results/town.php?stad=A&state5=999. Retrieved 2008-11-01.  
  10. ^ a b "CNN: India's widows live out sentence of shame, poverty". http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9711/16/india.women/. Retrieved 2007-03-25.  
  11. ^ "Catalyst Magazine: Moksha: the widows of Vrindavan". http://www.catalystmagazine.org/Default.aspx.LocID-0hgnew0ha.RefLocID-0hg01b001006009.Lang-EN.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-25.  
  12. ^ a b "Shunned from society, widows flock to city to die". http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/damon.india.widows/index.html. Retrieved 2007-07-05.   (This article was criticized by several members of the South Asian Journalists Association for "generalizations and questionable assertions." An article in the SAJA Forum documents several instances where, after such criticisms appeared, CNN quietly made changes in the online version of the article. Arun Venugopal, a reporter for WNYC, wrote, "On the SAJA Discussion list, a number of people across the political spectrum found that the story ascribed too much to 'tradition' rather than to more complex social realities.")

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Vrindavan article)

From Wikitravel

Kesi Ghat and the Yamuna River. The word "Radha" is repeatedly written on the side in the Devanagari alphabet.
Kesi Ghat and the Yamuna River. The word "Radha" is repeatedly written on the side in the Devanagari alphabet.

Vrindavan, also spelled Brindavan, is a holy town in Uttar Pradesh.

Understand

The town stands on the original forest of Vrindavana where the Hindu deity Krishna spent his childhood, on the banks of the Yamuna river. Numerous events are documented to have occurred here: this is where Krishna stole the clothes of the bathing maidens (gopis) who preyed for attaining him, wooed his lover Radha and destroyed an entire succession of demons. Consequently, it is a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus, and features by some counts as many as 5000 temples.

Rather than visiting Vrindavana as any other tourist spot, this place is best enjoyed when visited with the thoughts of Sri Krishna alone and when remembering him at every foot length of land. It will not be too inaccurate to say that all the great Hindu saints have visited Vrindavana in their lifetime atleast once. Even now most localites here always chant the names of Radha and Krishna during their day to day activities. This place is still being visited by devotees from different parts of India who are very spiritual and attracted to Lord Krishna.

Vrindavan is also known as the City of Widows, due a peculiar industry that has sprung up here. By Hindu tradition, widows may not remarry but spend life towards spiritual liberation, and many of those abandon their families or having abandoned by their families on the death of their husband make their way here. In exchange for singing bhajan hymns for 7-8 hours in bhajanashrams, they are given a meal and a pittance of money (around Rs.10), which some of them try to supplement by begging on the streets. If they fall ill, no money is paid, and some of the trusts that operate the ashrams are regularly accused of skimming off vast amounts from the donations. There are an estimated 20,000 widows, some of whom are very old having spent over 30 years there.

Get in

Vrindavan is about 150 km south of Delhi. The nearest train station is Vrindavan's twin holy town Mathura, 12 km (20 min) away by rickshaw. A one-way ride from Vrindavan's train station will cost you Rs.100 upwards.

Get around

The core of Vrindavan is much too congested even for an autorickshaw, so the only way to get around is on foot. Signage in English is non-existent, so you'll either need to ask for directions constantly or, an easier choice, hire a guide to show you around. Your rickshaw driver will be more than happy to find you one, but do beware of temple scams (see #Stay safe).

Govinda Dev Temple
Govinda Dev Temple

Entry into all temples is free, but have some coins handy for the shoe handlers. Many temples prohibit photography inside, so enquire when in doubt.

  • Bihariji, [1]. The best-known temple in Vrindavan, home to a Krishna idol known as Thakur-ji. The idol's eyes are said to be so powerful that it is kept hidden from view behind a curtain, which is opened and closed every few minutes.
  • Govinda Dev Mandir. Built by Raja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur in 1590, this squat, bulky temple reportedly had four stories lopped off during Aurangzeb's reign of terror. These days it's just infested by monkeys.
  • Jaigurudeo Temple, [2]. Also named "Naam Yog Sadhna Mandir". It resembles the Tajmahal, built with white marble. It is a unique temple in that you are prohibited from donating if you are a non-vegeterian.
  • Krishna Balaram Mandir, better known as the ISKCON Temple, [3]. A major draw for Hare Krishna (ISKCON) pilgrims to India, and uniquely among Vrindavan's temples well equipped to deal with foreign visitors. Free breakfast and lunch are available. Great restaurant. Comfortable guesthouse on the Temple grounds.
  • Kesi Ghat, by the Yamuna. According to the legend, this is where Krishna killed the demon Kesi and then bathed to celebrate. Aarti (prayer lamps) are offered to the Yamuna here every evening.
  • Seva Kunj. Planted with countless tulsi (holy basil) trees, this is the garden where gopis dance for Krishna at night, and where Krishna and his lover Radha spend the night locked in the Moti Mahal.
  • Rangji Mandir, [4]. The single largest temple in Vrindavan, built in 1851 in a South Indian style, complete with intricate seven-story gopuram (gateway) at the entrance. Inside is a 50-ft high wooden chariot, taken out yearly for festivals, and in the inner courtyard is the 50-ft high gold-plated pillar known as Dhwaja Stambha.
  • Radhavallabh Mandir, [5].A very wellknown ancient temple of Vrindavan, founded by Shri Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu, Sri Radhavallabh Lal's idol resemble Sri Radha and Sri Krishna to be embodied in it together- "One soul and two bodies".
  • Radharaman Mandir In Seva Kunj, see the Deity of Radharaman that self-manifested from a Govardhana Shila (sacred stone).
Offerings to Krishna and Radha beneath a snake during the Brahmotsava Festival, Rangji Mandir
Offerings to Krishna and Radha beneath a snake during the Brahmotsava Festival, Rangji Mandir
  • The Brahmotsava Festival, held for ten days after Holi (February/March), is the largest in Vrindavan and can draw up to 100,000 visitors. On the main day, known as Ratha Ka Mela, a giant wooden chariot is pulled by devotees from the Rangji temple to its gardens and back.
  • Parikrama is about three hour / 6km walk around the city performed by hindu pilgrims on the parikrama path that circles the city. Best to start early in the morning at the ISKCON Mandir.

poshak's bhagawan ki sewa vastu

  • Swastik Restaurant, Vidyapeeth Crossing (Shubham Hotel). North Indian, South Indian, pseudo-Chinese. Air-conditioned.
  • MVT Restaurant, Behind Krishna-Balaram Mandir (ISKCON). Best place to get western food that is cooked by westerners. A lot of fresh organic salads, pasta, great pizza, lasagna and Baskin Robins icecream.  edit

Drink

Be sure to try the delicious lassi (yogurt based shakes)as well as jal jeera (literally means "cumin water"), a sweet and sour tamarind beverage with a spicy kick. Both are specialities of the region.

  • MVT Guesthouse. 24 hrs hot and cold running water, AC or heating during cold seasons, 24 hrs electric power (with generator). Kitchens in the rooms and a Western restaurant on the rooftop.
  • Hotel The Shubham , Vidyapeeth Crossing, +91-565-2456025, [6]. City hotel with air-conditioning, CTV, Room Service, 24 Hrs Hot and Cold running water. A/C doubles from Rs.1000.

Stay safe

Like all Hindu holy towns, the chaos and squalor of Vrindavan can get pretty intense.

If you take a guided tour, you can expect to be led to a temple where the priest will treat you to a simple ceremony and then start demanding donations of thousands of rupees to carve your name on a marble plaque that will supposedly go up on the wall. A few tens of rupees for dabs of kumkum on your forehead etc are reasonable, but there is absolutely no reason to pay more: simply walk out if you feel uncomfortable. The easiest way to avoid getting into this situation in the first place is to insist on going to temples of your choice, not the guide's.

Vrindavan is absolutely infested with monkeys, who are adept at stealing cameras, glasses, food and anything you're not keeping a close eye on. Wear contacts or go without if you can.

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