Krishna Janmasthan Temple: Pilgrimage Travelogue of A Devotee

      Krishna Janmasthan is the most important temple in Brij Bhoomi. As the name indicates, this is the very spot where Lord Krishna was born 5000 years ago. The temple is located in the heart of the city. For security reasons, private vehicles are not allowed inside the premises of the Krishna Janmasthan Temple. In fact, no vehicle can be parked within 500 metres of the temple's premises. We parked our car in a small field nearby, which is also a parking lot.

Sri Krishna Janmasthan Temple is a few metres above the ground almost like as if it were on a small hillock. As I reached the huge gates at the main entrance heavily armed security guards welcomed me. After a thorough frisking by the 'bomb detector' wielding policemen, I was allowed to walk up the ramp. When I reached the top of the ramp, I saw a huge open courtyard. Huge and open-air courtyards seem to be a hallmark of most of the ancient temples in North India.
Sri Krishna Janmasthan Temple

      As soon as I got off the car I was surrounded by no less than 50 guides. Each one of them insisted on taking me to Krishna Janmasthan. There seemed to be lots of confusion among them regarding the timings of the temple. Some of them promised to escort me to the temple right away and show me all the spots that breathed the holy 5000 year old history. The rest of them argued that the temple was closed for lunch and would open only after 3 p.m. They offered to escort me from Mathura to Gokul and take me around the temples of Gokul.

      As the two groups were busy locked in a heated argument, stealthily managed to escape and made my way towards the Krishna Janmasthan Temple. As I stepped on to the main road, where the famous temple stood, I saw a police barricade that prevented all vehicles from entering the road. The only way to approach the temple was on foot. Small gift shops were lined up on either side of the road. It was amazing to see that although every shop sold similar items, all of them seemed to be doing very good business. All of them sold various souvenirs of Radha and Krishna idols, cassettes, exclusive video contest, T-shirts, books, and posters. I was told at the entrance that the temple was closed and would open only at 3 p.m. I still had about 30 minutes and so I went around the colourful shops near the temple premises.

      Sri Krishna Janmasthan Temple is a few metres above the ground almost like as if it were on a small hillock. As I reached the huge gates at the main entrance heavily armed security guards welcomed me. After a thorough frisking by the 'bomb detector' wielding policemen, I was allowed to walk up the ramp. When I reached the top of the ramp, I saw a huge open courtyard. Huge and open-air courtyards seem to be a hallmark of most of the ancient temples in North India.

      The original temple was built by Vajranabha and later rebuilt by Vikramaditya. The original idol was 15 feet tall and made of gold and precious gems. Mahmud Ghazni ransacked the temple and desecrated the idols. It is believed that this temple was destroyed and rebuilt 17 times. The final assault was by Aurangzeb.

      Currently, the Sri Krishna Janmasthan Temple complex houses many temples. At the left corner of the courtyard is the Keshav Dev Temple. The idols are on the left hand side of the temple. In the middle of the Sanctum Sanatorium, is a huge idol of Lord Krishna, made of white marbie. Below this idol are smaller idols of Krishna, Radha, and Balarama.

      Behind the Keshav Dev Temple is the Giriraja Temple. There is a black idol of Lord Krishna here. Like in many other Krishna temples in north India, this idol also has only the face of the Supreme Lord and not the full figure. As I proceeded, I came across the Yogamaya Temple.

      To the right of the courtyard, after I climbed a few steps, came across the biggest temple in the complex. This is also the most crowded. The main deities in this temple are Radha and Krishna. Both idols are made of white marble. Krishna is to the left of Radha. Below these huge idols is a smaller pair of Radha-Krishna idols. There is also a black idol (only the face) of Krishna to the right.

      To the left of the main sanctum sanctorum is a counter where pedas (a sweet made from sugar and milk) was sold. I bought 250 grams of these and gave it to the priest. The priest took the packet of pedas from me and went close to the Radha-Krishna idols. He performed a puja and returned a few minutes later with the peda packet. He gave it back to me (it had become God's Prasad after the Puja) and a garland of marigold flowers.

      As I performed the parikrama of the main deities in the sanctum sanctorum, I saw huge pictures depicting the Dasha Avataras (ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. To the left of the sanctum sanctorum is a small room that houses idols of Jagannath, Balarama, and Subhadra, reminiscent of Jagannatha Puri. To the right is another similar small room that houses the idols of Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana. Right opposite, is an idol of Lord Hanuman, ever waiting to serve His Lord. Next to this, is a small room, with a Shiva Linga called Keshaveshwar. The Shiva Linga is enclosed in a cage-like structure. Opposite this is another room that houses the idol of Goddess Durga.

      Between this temple and the Keshav Dev temple is the main and most important temple, though not the biggest. I desperately wanted to see this one since this is the actual birth spot of Lord Krishna. Next to the Keshav Dev temple, is a narrow, inconspicuous looking entrance leading to a passage that finally leads to a dimly lit small room. This narrow passage is the prison passage leading to the small room that was a prison cell 5000 years ago, where Kansa had imprisoned Devaki and Vasudev. On the right side of the room is an elevated platform that has a slab that marks the exact birth spot of Lord Krishna. There are various paintings and pictures adorning the wall above the raised platform. To the left is a painting depicting Lord Shiva bowing to Lord Vishnu. On the right is a painting of Lord Brahma paying obeisance to Lord Vishnu. In the centre is a picture of Devaki and Vasudev getting a glimpse of the Supreme Lord in the prison cell. Below this is a picture of Vasudev carrying an Infant Krishna in a small basket, across the River Yamuna that was in spate, on the rainy night when the Supreme Lord descended on this planet. There is also a picture of Lord Krishna, four-armed like Lord Vishnu. On the raised platform I saw an idol of Lord Krishna on a slab of stone. I found numerous devotees bowing and touching this sacred slab with reverence.

      Above the raised platform, I found verses of Garbha Stuti painted on the walls. These were the holy verses sung by Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva in praise of Lord Vishnu. Since these verses were addressed to the womb of Devaki when she was carrying the foetus of Lord Vishnu, they are known as Garbha Stuti (verses for the foetus).

      To the right of the raised platform, is a beautiful verse written in Hindi which translated here.

      (He whose Hands are adorned with the flute, whose fresh limbs and body are like dark blue clouds, He whose dark body is adorned with golden clothes, whose red lips are like a ripened fruit, whose beautiful face can even put to shame the beautiful full moon, whose eyes are as beautiful as a lotus, I can't imagine this Supreme Lord to be anyone but Lord Krishna).

      Though this room is quite small and dark, almost like the prison that it was thousands of years ago, you can't find a holier place than this in the country since it marks the exact birth place of Lord Krishna, when Lord Vishnu descended to earth in His eighth avatar (incarnation).

      As in the case of many other important historic places, a controversy surrounds the exact birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura. There are a few people who believe that Lord Krishna was not born at the famous Krishna Janmasthan Temple that I had just visited. They believe that He was born in another place, close to the famous Krishna Janmasthan. I was curious and decided to visit that place too. This place is about 500 metres to the north of Potara Kund. A dilapidated signboard near Potara Kund led me to this temple.

      The temple was not on the main road but in one of the quiet, dusty bylanes so I almost missed it. It was an inconspicuous-looking building. Had I not seen the signboard, I could have mistaken it for someone's residence. This temple is also known as Yogamaya Temple since Vasudev had brought Yogamaya here from Gokul. As I entered inside the premises, I saw a small courtyard. To my left was the main altar. It had white idols of Vasudev, Devaki, and a black idol of four-armed Krishna. As I walked further ahead, I came to the Yogamaya Temple which had a white idol of Goddess Yogamaya. The temple was in a dilapidated state and did not have many visitors. Apart from the priest, I did not see anyone around.

      As I proceeded about 500 metres to the left of Krishna Janmasthan, I saw Potara Kund. Potara means 'diapers'. It is believed that when Lord Krishna was born that rainy night, his clothes were washed in this kund. This kund was dry and tall grass grew every-where. There were many steps on all four sides of the kund that led to the centre that contained water from the times of Krishna.

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