“There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go”- this statement by Keith Bellows is absolutely true for the holy city of Vrindavan. It engulfs you with its dizzying burst of culture and rituals, carrying you into a world of colour and commotion.
According to tradition, this was the place where Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu spent his childhood, frolicking with Radha Rani. Vrindavan is visited annually by thousands of devotees far and wide. It contains more than 1000 temples and is home to a large population of peacocks and monkeys.
The town itself dates back to the 16th century, when several holy men from different parts of India settled here and four of the existing temples were built around that time. The finest of these is the temple of Govinda Deva, built in 1590 by Raja Man Singh of Amber. (Unlike today, in earlier times temples were built by rajas and maharajas for the holy men to perform tapa and sadhana. Devotees visited the temples not to ask for something but to offer service to those performing penance.)
The town lies some distance from the Jumna, surrounded by sacred groves of trees most of which contain shrines. The name ‘Vrindavan’ comes from the forests of tulsi (also called vrinda and regarded as an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi) that adorned the area in ancient times. The forest lives through two small groves that still exist in Seva Kunj and Nidhivan.
Holi is the largest festival in Vrindavan and can draw upto 100,000 visitors. The devotees get busy with preparations for Holi and the ten day Brahmotsava festival that follows it. On the main day, known as Rath ka Mela, a giant wooden chariot is pulled by devotees from the Rangji temple to its gardens and back.
Getting in and around
- Vrindavan lies at a distance of about 150 kms from Delhi and can be reached by train. The nearest station is Mathura which lies at a distance of 12 kms. It is also around 50 kms from the city of Agra.
- It is a congested town with narrow lanes, so the best way to get around is on foot or cycle rickshaws.
What to see
Well the temples are the main attraction here and with over five thousand of them, you might have to pick and choose which ones you want to visit. Some of the most popular temples are:
- Banke Bihari Temple: The most popular shrine in Vrindavan, is a home to Krishna’s idol known as ‘Thakur ji’.
- Madan Mohan Temple: It is the oldest surviving temple in the town.
- Govind Dev Mandir: Built in 1590, it is one of the oldest surviving temples of the area.
- Rangji Mandir: The single largest temple in Vrindavan; it is built in a south Indian style.
- Kesi Ghat: By the Yamuna, it is the place where Lord Krishna is believed to have killed the demon Kesi.
This small town of Vrindavan is always buzzing with life and colour. It is just like Krishna, full of fun and frolic and bursting with energy. With streets full of monkeys and cows, and the sound of constant chanting in the air, you are sure to be transported to a different world.
In fact, given the number of monkeys in the temple town and the unfortunate felling of trees in the area, Dhyan Foundation has been carrying out a feeding drive for the starving monkeys in the region. The van feeds at 2 points in the city daily. It might just be a good idea to pay a visit to the feeding point and experience the joy of giving while you are in the town!
To be a part of this initiative, #9953800690