Stretched out quaint river banks with hundreds of lit candles, embowed gateways and innumerable temples in itself explain the sacred nature of Mathura – the birth place of Lord Krishna, and of Vrindavan – where he spent most of his childhood. The cities are today an important place of pilgrimage.
Every corner of Mathura and Vrindavan is enveloped with unending worship of Lord Krishna, eighth incarnation of Vishnu – the Hindu god of protection and preservation. From temples to ghats (river banks), Vrindavan without Lord Krishna is like Bethlehem without Jesus.
Approximately 15 kilometres from Mathura, Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is a primary destination for pilgrimage on the banks of river Yamuna. Attracting millions of devotees every year, especially during festivals like Janmashtami (Krishna’s birth anniversary) and Holi (the festival of colours), the town is well known for its countless antique, but also contemporary temples, many of which have their own unique eccentricity, making a visit here more than just an average temple stroll.
According to the locals, the entire place was a tulsi (Holy Basil) grove centuries ago, two of which still exist at Nidhivan and Seva Kunj. During the past decades, forests covers in Vrindavan have been laid open to urbanisation, first by local kings and in recent past by city developers. The forests have been destroyed leaving only a few remaining spots and the local wildlife including peacocks and a variety of bird species cannot be seen today, though a few peacocks are left in the city but monkeys and cows can be seen almost everywhere.
According to Hindu legends, Lord Krishna spent his childhood days in this little town that still houses innumerable temples dedicated to the worship of Krishna and his beloved Radha. If the mythological tales are to be believed, Devaki, Lord Krishna’s mother, was imprisoned by his brother believing that her eighth child would be his destroyer. Lord Krishna’s father, Vasudeva, who suffered the loss of seven daughters being killed by his brother-in-law, escaped from prison with the help of Lord Vishnu and carried Krishna, the 8th child, to his friend Nanda who would ultimately lead his uncle to destruction.
Upon reaching Vrindavan, one can easily spot the multitude setup of hotels, restaurants and residential buildings as far as you can roll your eyes. On the ‘Parikrama Road’, a small street in the vicinity amidst the buildings, huge crowd of devotees, both tourists and locals, fill the place, who have a myriad of interesting Krishna stories to tell.
According to the villagers, Lord Krishna and Radha still visit the Nidhivana forest every night and if anyone enters the place at that time, they return blind or some even die inside the forest itself. The locals also warn tourists of maintaining a safe distance from the area and also tell that they themselves securely lock their doors and windows at night.
If you want to know the beliefs better, pay a visit to another hill town – Govardhana, which is 8 kilometres from Vrindavan, where the locals will narrate you tales of how Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhana mountain on one finger to protect villagers from heavy rains.
A typical day at Vrindavan would start with people taking a holy dip in river Yamuna as it is believed that doing so will wash away the negative effects of the sins people made and will also purify their souls. Whereas, at the advent of dusk, the ghats in Vrindavan light up with hundreds of candles and diyas (earthen lamps) sent floating out into the river during the evening aarti ceremony by the pilgrims.
Vrindavan is undoubtedly one of the most sacred Hindu destinations, where beliefs of the people still stand strong that makes the place a religious charm.