Vrindavan: Pilgrimage Travelogue of A Devotee

"Anyone who accepts the path of devotional service will achieve the same results as those from studying the Vedas, performing sacrifices, austerities and charitable work. By performing devotional services, the devotee surpasses all these and reaches the abode of the Supreme Lord." (Bhagavad Gita 8.28)

      Vrindavan is about 15 km from Mathura. It is believed that during the era of Lord Krishna, this place was a forest filled with Tulsi plants. Tulsi is also known as. Vrinda, hence this town was named Vrindavan which means 'a forest of Tulsi plants'. Vrindavan is located at 27.58°N latitude and 77.7°E longitude.

Vrindavan is one of the most important places for followers of Lord Krishna, especially those who follow Gaudiya Vaishnavism traditions. Any visit to this temple town is incomplete without knowing about Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, and the six Goswamis.

      It is believed that Nanda Rai felt that Gokul was a very dangerous place to live in because Krishna had been attacked by various demons like Putana, Trinavarta, and Shakatasura, He decided that it would be safer to move to Vrindavan to escape the wrath of Kansa and his allies.

      Though Mathura is a bigger city and has the Krishna Janmasthan (birthplace of Lord Krishna) located in the heart of the city, it was the smaller town, Vrindavan, that stole my heart. It is believed that Vrindavan alone has over 5000 temples! There are several sacred spots here that are associated with glorious incidents from Krishna's life. Every day, hundreds of devotees go around the entire temple town. This is known as Vrindavan Parikrama. The parikrama is around 15 km and would take a day to complete. People walk bare feet. The dusty path that is used for this parikrama is known as parikrama path and is quite well known to the locals. While performing Vrindavan Parikrama, many of the important temples, ghats, and other sacred spots are visited. A visit to the famous Loi Bazaar is a must. There are small shops on either side of the road. The shops sell different items, the common thread among them being Lord Krishna pictures, paintings, idols, key chains, gift articles, flutes, exclusive video content. There are many shops that sell milk-based products since curds, milk, buttermilk, and butter are available here in abundance.

      Vrindavan is one of the most important places for followers of Lord Krishna, especially those who follow Gaudiya Vaishnavism traditions. Any visit to this temple town is incomplete without knowing about Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, and the six Goswamis.

      The Gaudiya Vaishnavism, which is prevalent in Vrindavan and many eastern states of India, was founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born in Mayapur, in the eastern part of India on the evening of February 18, 1486. He was born to a poor Brahmin couple, Jagannath Mishra, and Sachi Devi. He is considered as the combined incarnation of Lord Krishna and Radha and because of His golden complexion, He is also known as Gaura Hari, which means the golden complexioned Lord Hari (Lord Vishnu). He took sannyasa at an early age and travelled throughout the country, visiting holy places. He spread the glories of Lord Krishna through san-kirtans (congregational chanting) of the holy chant Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare'. The brahmins objected to this, saying that this holy mantra should be chanted only by Brahmins and, not by everyone. Lord Chaitanya realised that the anger of the brahmins was gaining momentum. He felt it would be better to devote His time in performing devotional duties rather than fighting brahmins. He pacified the brahmins by interchanging the two sentences and forming a new Mahamantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare'. He told the people that the best way to reach God and attain moksha in the Kaliyuga is through constant chanting of the Mahamantra.

      Lord Nityananda is considered to be the prime associate and main disciple of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is also considered to be the incarnation of Lord Balarama and is known as Nitai. The names of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu are always taken together as Nitai-Gauranga (Nitai = Nityananda Prabhu, Gauranga = Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) and are considered to be inseparable. They are also the two principal architects of Gauda Vaishnavism. Nityananda Prabhu was born in the year 1474 to a brahmin couple Hadai Ojha and Padmavati in a village named Ekachakra in Bengal. He spent his first 12 years in Ekachakra leading an ordinary life. However, at the age of 13, he was asked to accompany a saint, Lakshmipathi Tirtha, to various holy places in the country. People who attended his sankirtan were astonished by his level of devotion and love towards the Supreme Lord. They concluded that he was no ordinary saint but an incarnation of Lord Sheshnag (Lord Balarama). Nityananda Prabhu met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Nadia in the year 1506. It is believed that both were filled with great ecstasy on meeting each other and the witnesses commemorated this episode by building a Gaura-Nityananda Temple in Nadia. After this, Nityananda Prabhu became a staunch devotee of Lord Chaitanya and both of them spread the message of God through Their teachings.

      Lord Chaitanya realised the importance of Brij Bhoomi where Lord Krishna and Radha had spent their childhood. He was aware that during the past few centuries, many holy places had been lost and forgotten. People had become too busy chasing material comforts to think of these spiritual places. Lord Chaitanya felt sad. He wanted to revive the lost glories of Brij Bhoomi by rediscovering the holy places associated with the Supreme Lord's pastimes, He spent many years at Vrindavan which is considered the heart' of Brij Bhoomi by the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. He realised that He would need the help of many of his ardent followers to spread the holy message of the Supreme Lord. He took the assistance of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan' to accomplish this. They were Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Das Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami. The Six Goswamis were staunch followers of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and spread his teachings to the entire nation.

      Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana were brothers born to a Saraswat Brahmin couple in Karnataka who later migrated to Bengal. Sri Sanatana Goswami is believed to be the reincarnation of Sanata Kumar, one of the four Kumar's, sons of Brahma who had cursed Jaya and Vijaya, the door-keepers of Vaikunta to be born as Asuras for not allowing them to meet Lord Vishnu when they went to Vaikunta. Both Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana were working as government servants during the regime of the Muslim king Hussain Shah in Bengal. They came in contact with Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and became His devotees. Lord Chaitanya asked the brothers to go to Vrindavan and spread the glories of Lord Krishna. Both Rupa and Sanatana immediately gave up their government jobs and headed to Vrindavan. They stayed there for the rest of their lives, rediscovering many of Lord Krishna's places, spreading the name of the Lord through their teachings and writings. Sri Sanatana is associated with rediscovering and commencing the worship of the Radha Madan Mohan Deities at Radha Madan Mohan Temple. Sri Rupa Goswami discovered the lost idol of Lord Govinda, which he installed and worshipped at the Radha Govind Dev Temple.

      Sri Jiva Goswami was not only the nephew of Sri Sanatana Goswami and Sri Rupa Goswami, but also their brightest student. After their death, Jiva Goswami became the most respected Goswami in Vrindavan. He wrote thousands of Sanskrit verses based on the philosophy of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He started the worship at Radha Damodar Temple. He also played an important role in restoring the glory of Radha Kund and Shyam Kund. Both Radha Kund and Shyam Kund were lost for thousands of years and they were rediscovered by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. However, it was Jiva Goswami who is credited with restoring them to their lost glory.

      Sri Raghunatha Das Goswami was born in a rich man's family but he had an aversion to materialistic comforts. He was fascinated by the pastimes of Lord Krishna and ran away from to join Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Jagannath Puri. Later, he moved to Brij Bhoomi and stayed for 40 years at Radha Kund and Shyam Kund, spreading the teachings of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krishna. It is believed that the Goverdhan Shilas (stones) that are seen near Radha Kund and Shyam Kund were brought 500 years ago by Sri Raghunatha Das Goswami and he worshipped them daily after bathing at Radha Kund and Shyam Kund.

      Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami is believed to be an incarnation of one of the Gopi friends of Radha. Though he was not a prolific writer like Sri Jiva Goswami, he was a very good singer. Thousands of people would flock to listen to his deeply moving san-kirtans and Srimad Bhagavatam glorifying Lord Krishna. He stayed for 45 years in Vrindavan and was a close friend of Sri Rupa Goswami. He was also associated with Radha Govind Dev Temple where he would daily recite the holy verses of Srimad Bhagavatam.

      Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami was a disciple of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and came to Vrindavan on His advice. He is also believed to be an incarnation of one of the Gopi friends of Radha. He found 12 Saligrama's in the river while bathing, one of which later turned into the beautiful Radharaman idol. This idol is worshipped in the Radha Raman Temple. He stayed for 45 years in Vrindavan teaching and spreading the message of the Supreme Lord. He was a staunch follower of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and began to miss His presence in Vrindavan; so he took His asana (seat) and cloth and kept them in Vrindavan where he worshipped them daily. These items are still kept at the Radha Raman Temple.

      Vajranabha was the great grandson of Krishna. He was the son of Aniruddha and Usha. Aniruddha, in turn, was the son of Pradyumna, who was son of Krishna and Rukmini. After the disappearance of Krishna and Balarama from earth and with the onset of Kaliyuga, people began to indulge in materialistic comforts, forgetting the glorious days of Krishna and Balarama. Vajranabha decided to build temples to bring back the awareness of these Gods among the people. He had never seen Krishna and Balarama so he sculpted the idols based on the description that he heard from his mother Usha. Since he was not sure of his creation, he decided to make three idols of Lord Krishna and asked Usha to choose the idol that resembled the Lord. Usha told him that the first idol resembled Krishna from the feet to the navel (this idol was installed at the Radha Madan Mohan Temple). She told him that the second idol resembled Krishna from the navel to neck (this idol was installed at the Radha Gopinath Temple). The third idol resembled the face of Krishna (this idol was installed at the Radha Govind Dev Temple). It is believed that if a devotee sees all the three idols on the same day then he will attain moksha.

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