Temples and Impotent Places at Govardhan Hill


"I am the source of all creation and everything emanates from Me. The learned people know this and worship Me with all their attention and full of devotion." (Bhagavad Gita 10.8)

      Goverdhan situated 25 km to the west of Mathura and five kilometres to the south of Radha Kund. The town where the sacred Goverdhan Hill is located is also known as Goverdhan. The entire region looks like a peacock with its head tucked into its stomach. Kusum Sarovar is the face, Radha Kund and Shyam Kund form the two eyes, Manasi Ganga is the neck, Mukharavind its mouth, and Punchari Kund (Naval Kund) its tail.

      People consider Goverdhan Hill to be no different from Lord Krishna Himself. He is worshipped as Giriraji (King of the hills). Giriraji is a very common name in Goverdhan town. You will find not just temples, but even roadside eateries and small shops named after Giriraji. There are lots of Giriraji Restaurants', 'Giriraji Lassi Ghars' and 'Giriraji Gift Shops'! The stones of Goverdhan are known as Goverdhan Shilas and they are considered sacred and worshipped. Don't be surprised if you see devotees bend down while walking on the roads of Goverdhan. They are busy collecting pebbles that will soon find their way into the puja tooms once the devotee returns home.


      If you are a first-time visitor looking for a huge mountain, as you may have imagined based on the stories you have read, then prepare yourself for a shock! Today, this legendary hill is no more than a hillock because of Pulastya Muni's curse. This sacred hill, was 30,000 metres high thousands of years ago, but today peaks at just 25 metres. It has been shrinking by the size of a mustard seed, one-sixteenth of an inch, each day and some believe that by the end of Kali Yuga, it will vanish completely.

      Because of this curse, Goverdhan Hill has been shrinking every year. During my first visit to Goverdhan, I missed the hill completely. During my second visit, with great help from my guide, Mathuresh, I managed to locate the hill. The hill surrounds the entire Goverdhan town so I could see it in many places. However, due to its low altitude, I mistook the hill for flat land at most places. The highest point of Goverdhan Hill is where. Srinathji Tergple and Balarama Temple are located. There is a kund in front of it, known as Sankarshana Kund or Balbhadra Kund and as the name suggests, it is dedicated to Lord Balarama. To get a proper view of the hill, I decided to visit Sankarshana Kund since the highest point of Goverdhan hill is behind it.


      Just as people perform Brij Bhoomi Parikrama, they also perform Goverdhan Parikrama. There are two ways of performing this Parikrama. One is the short Parikrama, which is 25 km long. It encompasses the areas close to Goverdhan town. The longer Parikrama is 40 km long and encompasses many more areas.

      Both versions of the Goverdhan Parikrama start and end at Manasi Ganga, which is in the middle of Goverdhan Hill. Pilgrims who intend to perform the Goverdhan Parikrama start by bathing in the holy waters of Manasi Ganga. As I walked further ahead, I saw Goverdhan Hill on my right. I passed by Hari Deva Temple, Mukharavind Temple, both located close by. I Crossed Brahma Kund and after a couple of kilometers, I saw the ISKCON Temple on the left. I then saw Sankarshana Kund, Govinda Kund, Apsara Kund, and finally Punchari Kund. All along, I saw the Goverdhan Hill to my right. Punchari Kund is considered to be the tail of the peacock that represents Goverdhan. Here made a curved 180 degree turn.

      I then taught Kadamba Van. There are three more kunds here Surabhi Kund, Indra Kund (Charana Kund), and Airavata Kund. Proceeding a few kilometres, I found myself at Kusum Sarovar. Another five kilometres and I was at Radha Kund. I turned back and reached Kusum Sarovar once again. As I proceeded further, I touched the holy waters of Manasi Ganga again.

      There are different ways in which people perform the Goverdhan Parikrama. The most common way is to perform the Parikrama barefoot. There is a tougher method - the devotee pays obeisance to God by lying flat on the ground before taking each step. This kind of Parikrama is quite strenuous and can even take weeks to complete.

      There are a few rules to be followed while performing the Parikrama. One should perform the Parikrama after bathing in the Manasi Ganga. The devotee should walk only barefoot irrespective of the condition of the road and the soaring mercury levels. People believe that Lord Krishna and Lord Goverdhan are one and the same, and so wearing footwear in Goverdhan is considered sacrilegious. It is for this reason that staunch devotees walk barefoot throughout their stay at Goverdhan and not just while performing the Parikrama. The other rule is that if night falls during the Parikrama, then one should stop and rest wherever they are. The next morning the journey should be resumed from the place where they had stopped.

      If you do not have the time or energy to perform this kind of Parikrama, then there is an easier option hire a taxi and go around Goverdhan!


      Pilgrims start and end the Goverdhan Parikrama at Manasi Ganga, which is at the center of Goverdhan Hill. The Manasi Devi Temple is located at one end of Manasi Ganga. The deity here is Manasi Devi. Behind her idol is that of Lord Krishna. Both these idols are made of black stone. The idols look like huge black rocks with 'eyes'. A big lamp is lit in front of these idols. The priest tied a sacred red thread around my right wrist and asked me to light a small lamp in front of the big lamp.

      Manasi means 'mind'. It is believed that Manasi Ganga was created by Krishna's meditating mind to fulfill His parents' wishes.


      Mukharavind means lotus face' and mukut means 'crown'. This temple is adjacent to the Manasi Ganga Temple. At the entrance to this temple is a huge idol of Lord Krishna holding Goverdhan Hill on the little finger of His left hand. Nearby, I saw steps going down that took me to the main altar. I reached a huge circular area that housed many shops selling religious articles. At the centre was the main altar.

      As in many Goverdhan Temples, here too, the Goverdhan Shila is worshipped as the Supreme Lord Himself. People believe that worshipping Goverdhan Hill is no different from worshipping Lord Krishna Himself. Since the shilas (stones) are considered equivalent to idols, it is a very common sight to see Goverdhan Shilas being worshipped.

      There are two huge black shilas in this temple. The Shila on the left represents the crown of Krishna, also known as Mukut Shila. The Shila on the right represents the lotus face of Goverdhan, also known as Mukharavind Shila. Hence, this temple is known as Mukharavind Mukut Temple. At the entrance to the temple, I found vendors selling milk that is poured over these shilas. The priest noticed the bowl of milk I had purchased. He asked to pour the milk on the shilas and place a coconut in front of them. He applied the holy tilak on my forehead. The main altar was octagonal and all the eight walls had paintings depicting the pastimes of Krishna.


      Brahma Kund is located near the southern bank of Manasi Ganga. Unlike the Hari Deva Temple, this kund is a very famous landmark so it was quite easy to locate it. People who perform the Goverdhan Parikrama begin their journey with a bath at this kund, at Manasi Ganga. This was probably the reason why there were hundreds of people bathing here. The kund was surrounded by many vendors who were selling flowers and other puja articles. Compared to Brahma Kund at Vrindavan, this one was much cleaner.

      Brahma Kund derived its name because it was formed with the water that collected after Lord Brahma had bathed Lord Krishna. He did this to repent His sins for trying to test Lord Krishna's powers.


      The ISKCON Temple is about a kilometre from the central part of the town. While performing Goverdhan Parikrama, this temple is on the left. The temple is a two-storied sand-coloured structure. Behind it is a huge courtyard with a well-maintained lawn. The steps to the first story rise from this courtyard. The main altar is on the first floor. The ambiance in the temple is very serene. It is different from the noisy and crowded streets of Goverdhan town.

      The altar has two rooms. These are not really rooms, but more like huge cupboards. The main room has idols of Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama. Both idols are black in colour. The idols are kept on a Navaratri type pedestal. One unique feature is that the idols are just faces. Colourful clothes are attached below the faces. There is no body for these idols. It reminded me of similar idols I had seen at Jagannath Temple in Mahavan.

      There is a painting of cows grazing on Goverdhan Hill behind these idols. The room on the right has idols of Nitai and Gauranga. Both these rooms have beautifully carved wooden doors. On the right side of the main room, there is a statue of Srila Prabhupada. A Tulsi plant is kept in the main hall in a small earthen pot on a carved wooden table.

      Since we had reached the ISKCON Temple around noon, I thought it would be a good idea to have lunch here. Since ISKCON pays a great deal of attention to cleanliness and hygiene, the temptation to eat here was very strong. I asked one of the priests if I could eat here. He hesitated because they needed to inform the cook about a guest at least a day in advance. However, looking at the desperation in my eyes, he said he would check with the head priest and get back to me. After 15 minutes, he returned with the good news. I could have lunch there provided I was willing to wait for an hour. I readily agreed. I sat in the main hall in front of the main altar. A few minutes later a priest entered the main hall and proceeded towards the main altar. He was holding two plates that contained around 10 different dishes. He kept the food plate inside the main altar and told me, "It is time for Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama to have lunch." He closed the main altar doors. He disappeared into the kitchen and returned 10 minutes later with two more plates. Seeing my puzzled look, he smiled, These are for Nitai and Gauranga." He kept the plates in the other room and closed that door too.

      I noticed a few unusual things regarding the food offerings to the Gods. In most of the traditional temples, only one or two dishes are kept as prasada. However, here they had served the Gods with all the food items that had been cooked in the temple kitchen that morning, In a majority of the temples, the food is kept in front of the deities just for a couple of minutes as a token gesture. However, here they had kept it for more than 30 minutes. It was as if the Lord was really going to descend from Vaikunta to eat the food and go back.

      Finally, it was the turn of the mortals to eat. The priests placed long cloth mats in the dining section on the ground floor. Steel plates were laid in front of the mats. I sat down on these mats and had a simple, but delicious lunch. The head priest sat at one end of the dining hall. They followed a very simple protocol. The devotees were allowed to start eating only after the head priest began to eat and they had to stop eating as soon as he finished eating!


      I continued for a couple of kilometres on the Parikrama path and reached the neighboring town of Aniyora. On my right, I came across Sankarshana Kund, named after Lord Balarama. This kund is also known as Balbhadra Kund.

      The temple next to Sankarshana Kund is the Balarama Temple. This is on a hillock. Incidentally, this is the highest point of Goverdhan Hill. This temple has idols of Balarama and Krishna. The Balarama idol was installed by Krishna's great grandson, Vajranabha.


      After visiting Sankarshana Kund, I proceeded on the Goverdhan Parikrama. Within half a kilometre, I reached Govinda Kund. This was on the right side, a few metres off the main road. This was probably one of the cleanest and most well-maintained kunds in Brij Bhoomi. The water was refreshingly clear with absolutely no traces of weeds. This is the place where Lord Indra worshipped and bathed Lord Krishna to repent His folly of trying to challenge Lord Krishna.

      Since the kund was formed when Lord Indra performed the Abhisheka of Lord Govinda using Talsi, milk, and the holy waters of Ganga, this kund is known as Govinda Kund. Near Govinda Kund is a building where the 13th baithak of Sri Vallabhacharya was held. A Pathak is a congregation that is held for narrating the Srimad Bhagavatam.


      These two kunds are at the farthest end of Goverdhan Hill. As I went past Govinda Kund, after a few kilometres on the right I saw the Punchari Ka Lautha Baba Temple. There is a small lane adjoining this temple. After a short walk, I came across two kunds, Apsara Kund on the left and Punchari (Naval) Kund, on the right. To the left of Apsara Kund is the Apsara Bihari Temple. Naval Kund is also known as Punchari Kund because this kund is at the farthest tip of Goverdhan, resembling the tail of a peacock. Punch means tail'. Hence this is known as Punchari Kund.

      Since the Apsaras bathed Lord Krishna, this kund is known as Apsara Kund.


      I took a turn after Apsara and Punchari Kund towards the road that headed back in the direction of Goverdhan Town. I soon saw a lane to our right. This was a muddy and narrow road that broadened into a huge field. The field turned gradually into forest as I proceeded. This is the famous Kadamba Van, which has been the venue for many of Lord Krishna's and Radha's meetings.

      Since I was not sure of the exact location of the three kunds in Kadamba Van, I thought it would be good to park the car on the main road and walk through the lane and the fields. I had walked a few metres and had just reached the field, when a bull came out of nowhere and stood in front of me. He looked at me and snorted. I retreated a few steps. The bull was in no mood to leave me alone. He snorted once again and began to furiously rub his hooves on the ground, throwing dust at my face. I realised I was no Lord Krishna to tackle Aristasuras! I beat a hasty retreat back to the main road. My driver saw me panting. I leapt inside the comforts of my car and narrated what had transpired between me and the bull! My driver said, "Saab! It is safer to visit Kadamba Van in the car. Let me drive you there." I went by car this time into the narrow lane and entered the huge field. The bull was still there but now he appeared calm and composed. He now resembled the Divine Nandi rather than the ferocious Aristasura!

      As I proceeded, I saw three kunds in the middle of the thick woods. These were Surabhi Kund, Indra Kund, and Airavata Kund.


      This was the first of the three kunds. It was on our right as I walked further down the Kadamba Van. This kund had a flight of steps along one side to walk down and bathe. There was very little water in this kund, unlike the past when it was a huge tank created by Airavata.

      Since the water collected was formed by Airavata, this kund is known as Airavata Kund.


      This was the second of the three kunds. I came across a red sandstone building and right next to it was Surabhi Kund. Monkeys seemed to make up the bulk of the population here. This was the best maintained among the three kunds of Kadamba Van. The kund had steps on all sides for the devotees to go down to the water. There were many devotees taking a holy dip in this sacred tank. Since Surabhi had helped Indra receive Lord Krishna's forgiveness and a kund was created by the Abhisheka performed by Surabhi, this kund is known as Surabhi Kund.


      This was the farthest among the three kunds in Kadamba Van. Like the other two, this one was also on the right side of the dusty road. This was about half a kilometer from Surabhi Kund. Compared to Surabhi Kund, this one was very small and not well maintained. Most of the locals were neither aware of the name, nor the legend related to this kund, So it took a considerable amount of time to locate it. There were a few people sitting and chatting near this kund. They noticed that I was a tourist and immediately asked me to pay some donation for visiting the sacred kund. As it is, I was quite upset to see how badly they had maintained the kunds. Watching a couple of buffaloes swimming in the kund was the proverbial 'last straw'! I blasted the locals for the poor maintenance of a place where one of the most divine incidents had occurred. I told them that if they really wanted people to donate money for visiting this sacred place, they should first learn to maintain it properly.

      Since the kund was formed by the tears of Indra, it is known as Indra Kund. Since his tears washed the feet of Lord Krishna, this kund is also known as Charana Kund (Charana meaning 'feet).


      Kusum Sarovar comes your right while travelling from Radha Kund to Goverdhan. Kusum means flowers and Sarovar means lake'. This place is known as Kusum Sarovar, because the gopis used to pluck flowers here and offer it to Surya Deva (Sun God). Kusum Sarovar has a beautiful monument made of sandstone. This was built by Jawahar Singh of Bharatpur in 1764 A.D. He built it in memory of his late father Suraj Mal. It has exquisitely carved chhatris the cenotaphs of the members of the royal family of Bharatpur, who died while fighting against the British during the 18th century. The architecture of this place is very impressive.

      Kusum Sarovar is famous for many legends associated with Lord Krishna, the most famous being Kilakinchita Lila.

      To the left of Kusum Sarovar is the Sri Radha Vana Bihari Temple. This is the place where Krishna braided Radha's hair. This temple has an elegant mandapa on top of it. It is also said that Krishna killed the demon Shankuchuda at Kusum Sarovar. Behind Kusum Sarovar is Narada Kund where Sage Narada sat and wrote verses of the Bhakti Sutra.


      Adjacent to Kusum Sarovar is a temple dedicated to Uddhav. Uddhav was Krishna's first cousin. He was Vasudeva's brother's son and was as old as Krishna. This temple was built by Krishna's great grandson, Vajranabha, about 4800 years ago.

      The main altar is to the right of the temple entrance. There are two pairs of Radha-Krishna idols. The left pair of idols is made of white marble. Of the right pair, Radha is made of cream coloured stone and Krishna is made of blue coloured stone. On the left side of the inner courtyard are the Goverdhan Shilas, Next to them is a door that leads to a pond known as Uddhav Kund.

      It is believed that Uddhav lives here in the form of a creeper so that He may be blessed by the dust from the gopis' feet when they walk over him!

      People believe that Uddhav is still at Kusum Sarovar in the form of a creeper. They also believe that if you sing the musical Nama sankirtan with great love and affection for the Supreme Lord then you can see Uddhav. It is also at this spot where Uddhav narrated Srimad Bhagvatam to Vajranabha and Krishnas wives much before Shuka narrated it to King Parikshit.

      As I went to the other side of the temple, I saw a beautiful pond. There were lots of shrubs and creepers surrounding this pond. I looked intently at them. Was one of them Uddhav, as a creeper? As I walked past the creepers, I felt I heard the sounds of Radhe Radhe emanating from them!

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