Saturday, March 31, 2018

Mathura and Vrindavan

Mathura is birthplace of Krishna, the most beloved supreme Lord. It is one of the Sapta Puri, the seven cities considered holy by Hindus.

The Sapta Puri are seven holy pilgrimage centers in India. These are: Ayodhya (Rama), Mathura (Krishna), Haridwar (Vishnu), Varanasi (Shiva), Kanchipuram (Parvati), Ujjain (Shiva) and Dwarka (Krishna).

Mathura is an ancient city. It was known as Madhuvan as it was thickly wooded, then Madhupura and later Mathura.

In the 6th century BCE Mathura became the capital of the Surasena Kingdom. The city was later ruled by the Maurya empire (4th to 2nd centuries BCE). Megasthenes, the Macedonian ambassador, writing in the early 3rd century BCE, mentions Mathura as a great city under the name Méthora.

Though I have been to Mathura a few times earlier, but it was a quite a long while and so I decided to plan for another trip. My colleagues Kailash and Deepak also came along.

Mathura is on Delhi Agra Railway track and so quite easily accessible. It is also connected through a vast road network.

Delhi to Mathura is about 200 KMs and from Lucknow its about 400.

One fine February Saturday morning, we took the road to Mathura. A brand new Swift DZire was quite comfortable drive.

Our plan was a s below:

Day 1: Reaching Mathura by noon; Checkin in Hotel and visit Krishna Janma bhoomi temple, DwarikaDheesh Temple and the nearby Vishram Ghat. If time permitted, then Birla (Gita) Temple also.
Day 2: Morning to Vrindavan, visit Baanke Bihari, Nidhivan, Shahji Temple and then to Rangji Temple, Prem Mandir and Iskcon.

There are many more famous temples but in two days of total itinerary we could plan for these above only. There are more temples to visit in Vrindavan than Mathura. Also for hotel, its better to stay at Vrindavan as it offers better options than Mathura.

We were in Mathura by around 1 PM and took a lodge near to Krishna Janma Bhoomi temple. There are 3 temples inside the complex, which will be open till 12 noon and then will reopen by 330PM till about 8 PM.

We took lunch at “Shri Krishna Bhojnalaya” infront of Janmabhoomi Temple complex. This small restaurant serves delicious Thaali meals and is a must visit.

We took our Lunch and waited for temple to reopen….my mind took me to the bygone era….

The temple is said to have been destroyed and rebuilt many times in its history. The first temple here was constructed almost 5,000 years ago by Vajranabha, the great-grandson of Lord Krishna. The next big temple was constructed here during the time of the Gupta Emperor Chandragupta II, around 400 AD. This temple was so grand that it was said that neither painting nor description could describe it.

It was destroyed in 1017 AD by Mahmud of Ghazni. In Katra Keshavdev, one inscription is found in a stone slab which speaks of the third temple, built by Jajja in 1150 AD during the rule of Vijay Pal Deva. It's said Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the same temple when he came to Mathura before its destruction by Sikandar Lodhi.

The temple was rebuilt by Bir Singh Deo Bundela of Orchha during Jahangir’s time. Prince Dara Shikoh, had presented a carved stone railing to the Temple which was installed in front of the deity at some distance; the devotees stood outside this railing to have ‘darshan’ of Keshava Rai.

The temple was demolished in the month of Ramzan, 1080 A.H. (13th January – 11th February 1670) by Aurangzeb’s order.

 “In a short time, by the great exertion of the officers, the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built at the expenditure of a large sum.”

The idols were transported to Agra and buried under the steps of the Jama Masid (Agra) in order to be continually trodden upon.

During British rule in India, In 1815, the East India Company auctioned the area of Katra Keshavadeva, which was purchased by the then Raja Patnimal of Banaras. Although, the Raja of Benares wanted to build a temple there his wish remained unfulfilled and the family had fought several legal battles for ownership of land with the Muslim community of Mathura, in which, the court finally ordered that the land belongs to present heirs of the Raja of Benaras. In 1944, Madan Mohan Malviya was distressed at the plight of the site and arranged for the purchase of land from Raja Krishna Das of Benaras, who sold the land only at a cost recovering just the cost of fighting court battles. Meanwhile, Malviyaji died without seeing the temple work begin. Then Jugal Kishore Birla of Birla group decided to take the leading role to fulfill the wishes of Malviyaji and formed a private trust in 1951 to which the rights of land were later transferred. Jaidayal Dalmia of Dalmia Group was another leading personality, who took untiring efforts and the temple was finally constructed over the site in 1965.

Next to the temple, within the complex is a small room that looks like a prison cell, where it is said that Lord Krishna was born.

Actual place is where the mosque stands.Current temple complex is adjacent to this mosque.

Its time to visit temple, my colleagues awakened me from thoughts.

We walked towards the temple. There are three temples inside, One immediate right, another one straight left and then the Krishna birth place, straight right, with one room which looks like a prison cell. First floor of this has some marble work and some figures are getting carved on these on their own the place where these marble slabs are touching towards the mosque wall.

I prayed to the sweet Lord, who creates this universe, plays with it and engulfs all of it.

Very close to the Janma Bhoomi Temple, there is a pond, known as Potara Pond. It is siad that the cloths of toddler Krishna were washed here. This pond was later reconstructed by Maratha ruler Madhavji Sindhiya in 1839.

After visiting the Janman bhoomi cvomples, we took an auto to visit Dwarikadheesh temple.

Braving the narrow and highly congested streets, our e-rickshaw took us to this famous landmark of Mathura.

Sri Dwarkadheesh Temple is one of the most famous temples of Mathura. Its current structure was built up by Seth Gokul Das Parikh, the treasurer of then Gwalior State in 1814.Here the main deity is of Lord Dwarkadheesh, in a black Marble idol named Dwarkanath. With him is the White marble idol of his counterpart deity Sri Radharani.

The temple was yet to open when we reached. We waited in the courtyard in the divine presence.

The temple is having a good large premises with the main building enclosed by a magnificently carved Rajasthani style entrance with steep steps leading to temple courtyard. In the central courtyard a platform is built up lined up with three rows of richly carved pillars and support the ceiling which is also beautifully painted.

People were singing bhajans, it was time of Holi and the mood was enthusiastic with presence of Krishna playing holi!

Soon the temple sanctum opened and we were blessed by the supreme divinity.

Nearby is the Vishram Ghat, the banks of blessed Yamuna. She is daughter of Surya and In the form of Kalindi, she is wife of Krishna. She has brothers of Yamaraj and Shani.

On the street towards the banks, right side there is one temple of Yamuna and her brother Yama. This is a unique temple where these two sister-brother duo are worshipped.

When it comes to cleanliness and hygiene, hindus are among the worst communities. I am sorry to say this. But see their holy rivers, whom they call mother, see their current state, they are dying with sewage…..

See their other holy places…Banaras, Ayodhya or even the shrines in the lap of Himalayas. They spoil every holy place themselves.

May Krishna bestow hindus the wisdom to keep atleast their holy symbols and icons clean!

There was still some daylight left so we decided to visit the Birla (Gita) Temple.

Birla Temple or the Gita temple is located on Mathura Vrindavan Road. It was constructed in 1946 by Jugal Kishore Birla.

It is a beautiful architecture situated amongst very serene environment.

The “Gita Stambh” – a tall pillar rising up, signifies the victory of Truth over evil. On this Victory Tower the sacred teachings of Gita has been inscribed.

We spend sometime there till it started becoming dark and then took an auto to return to our lodge.

Morning we all woke up early and got ready to visit Vrindavan.

By 7:30 AM, we were on road to Vrindavan, reaching there in about 20 minutes.

Vrindavan was lost over time until the 16th century, when it was rediscovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In the year 1515, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Vrindavana, with the purpose of locating the lost holy places associated with Lord Sri Krishna's transcendent pastimes. Chaitanya wandered through the different sacred forests of Vrindavana in a spiritual trance of divine love. It was believed that by his divine spiritual power, he was able to locate all the important places of Krishna's pastimes in and around Vrindavan.

In the last few decades, the extensive forests of Vrindavan have been subjected to urbanization, and the local wildlife and serenity has been virtually eliminated.

Saint Vallabhacharya performed three pilgrimages of India, barefoot giving discourses on Bhagavad Gita at 84 places. These 84 places are known as Chaurāsi Baithak (Eighty-four sittings). He stayed in Vrindavan for four months each year.

Our first destination here was Shri Baanke Bihari Temple.

Passing through narrow streets, we reached the most famous landmarks of Vrindavan.

Holi was approaching and many people were in the festive mood. Temple is in a narrow street and does not look like any grand structure from outside.

As we entered the temple sanctum, the environment changed completely.

Here he was the Lord of Universe, people were singing bhajan, dancing and throwing holi colors and flowers and invoking Krishna in their state of spiritual ecstasy.

It was very peaceful and serene to be there amongst that crowd!

Bankey Bihari Ji was originally worshipped at Nidhivana. Bankey means “bent in three places” and Bihari means “supreme enjoyer.” The image of Lord Krishna stands in the Tribhanga posture. Haridas Swami originally worshipped this devotional image under the name of “Kunj-Bihari”.

"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord,
round whose neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified with the moon-locket,
whose two hands are adorned with the flute and jewelled ornaments,
who always revels in pastimes of love,
whose graceful threefold-bending form of Śyāmasundara is eternally manifest”

Submitting to the desire of devotees, The Lord appeared in person with his divine consort and left back a black charming image before disappearing.

Thus came into existence the physical form of Lord Bankey Bihari, popularly known as Bihariji. The responsibility of Sewa of Bihariji was handed over to Goswami Jagannath by Swamiji himself. 

Goswami Jagannath was one of the principal disciple and younger brother of Swamiji. By tradition, the Sewa is performed by descendents of Jagannath Goswami till day.

Initially, the deity was installed in a temple close to the first appearance in Nidhivan. A new temple befitting the glory of Bihariji was constructed in 1862 AD.

Nidhivan is about a KM away and we decided to go by walk through narrow streets.

Beware if you are carrying any eatables. The monkeys here are notorious and can ambush and snatch anything that you are carrying.

Nidhivan is very unique place as all the trees here are said to be incarnation of Gopis. This is the place where Krishna used to play with his devotees and it is said that even now he plays with them every night. No one is allowed in night time there.

We took a walk across the sacred place vibrant with presence of Krishna and his devotee Gopis. Some devotees were singing holi songs and dancing and rejoicing the presence of sweet Lord.
Close to Nidhivan is Shahji Temple.

This temple was built in 1876 by Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. Noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculptures, the temple has twelve spiral columns each 15 feet high and a hall with Belgian glass chandeliers and paintings.

This place is also highly infested by Monkeys. Beware of your belongings!

Not very far from here is Rangji Temple

This south Indian Dravidian style temple was 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. It has a gopuram of six storeys and a gold-plated Dhwaja stambha, 50 feet high.

It was good to see pooja happening in south Indian style there.  As I lived many years in South, seeing pooja in that style gives immense pleasure to me.

The temple is quite grand and magnificent.

Our next stop was Prem Mandir.

Prem Mandir is a new temple constructed by Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat and is dedicated to Lord Radha Krishna and Sita Ram.

The temple was opened to public on 17 February 2012.

t is extremely beautiful temple and its architecture and different pavilions are magnificent.

Prem Mandir is constructed entirely of Italian marble. A circumambulation route has been constructed, enabling visitors to view the different panels depicting the pastimes of Shri Radha Krishna which are carved and depicted at outer walls as well as on surroundings of the temple. 

I just walked through the complex mesmerized by the beauty of temple and praising the Lord, who invoked his blessings for such a beautiful temple construction.

It was holi time and so the most memorable time to be in Mathura and Vrindavan. Who dont want to be part of Krishna's holi celebrations?

Krishna is called as complete incarnation. He is not serious, he is not sad, he is always playful, he is always dancing, playing music but with all sacred knowledge in his heart and at his mouth showering to all those who wants to enjoy the ecstasy of his company at celestial worlds!

He is not serious, he is not sad, he is always playful, he is always dancing, playing music but with all sacred knowledge in his heart and at his mouth showering to all those who wants to enjoy the ecstasy of his company at celestial worlds!

He is who, after getting whom, one becomes he! 

Just like after getting mixed with milk, becomes milk or a drop becomes an ocean after meeting with it.

Bless me my sweat lord always. I am at your mercy at your lotus feet!

I surrender to you.

It was almost noon time and as per plan we decided to visit ISKCON temple.

Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir is a Gaudiya Vaishnava temple in the holy city of Vrindavan.

The deities of the temple are Krishna and Balarama, at the central altar. On the right altar are Radha Krishna with Gopi, Lalita and Vishakha. On the left altar are Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with Nityananda, and of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his spiritual teacher Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.

Near the temple, at the entrance to the complex is located samadhi shrine of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

It was afternoon time and we decided to take lunch and then to take road back to home.

On the way, I saw the Paagal Baba Temple and so decided to visit it.

Temple was closed by this time but still we visited the complex and saw one small gallery at basement depicting Krishna and his play pastimes.

There is also Samadhi of Paagal baba in the same complex.

Temple is beautifully designed with white marble stone. There are seven temples, one on top of another. All temples have beautiful deities. Presently this is the tallest temple in Vrindavan. The temple is famous for its puppet exhibition.

Lila Thakur was a Justice in the High court of Calcutta, and after resigning from the post he came to Vrindavan in search of truth and Lord Krishna. He was wandering here like a madman so people were calling him Pagal Baba.

Blessed with the visit we took the road reaching by late evening to our home, sweet home.


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    For travelers, we provide taxi services.

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