Journeying here in the month of Bhadra on Shukla Dashmi one invariably attains the blessings of Golok. The escapades of child Krishna, Lord Vishnu Incarnate, has virtually catapulted it a second Vaukuntha. One aspect of Lord Krishna’s enigmatic persona which distinguishes him from all other deities is his leela or playful dalliance which becomes him most of all and thus endearing himself he brings delight to all his bhaktas.
Gokul and Mahavan are synonymous with each other. The Puranas often refer to Vrihadvan which is Mahavan. The modern day Gokul is a separate town from Mahavan mentioned in the Holy Scriptures where the Yamuna River flows. Inspired by the ideals of Pushti Marg where poetry becomes practiced religion, its denizens live out stories from the cosmic world of Krishna. Fundamentally both are the same and situated close to each other.
Attracted by this picturesque land, the instant Lord Krishna was born he chose to live in Mahavan. Closely related to Lord Krishna, its ambience displays the true essence of the Lord’s child play. Nand Raiji had earlier opted to stay here, lured by its celestial beauty, secluded forests and green pastures.
Ved Vyasji Maharaj describes baby Krishna in the ‘Shrimad Bhagwat’ as he crawls along, frolicking with ducks and peacocks, demanding butter and raw sugar from his mother. Soordasji recites ecstatically that child Krishna pesters his mother for the moon, thieving milk and curd from complaining neighbours. All his pranks were and continue to be a delightful diversion for Indians.
Not just Hindus but Ras Khan, Taj and Ali Khan who were Muslims adored young Shyam at his favourite haunt, Mahavan. Highly revered by Shri Shriman Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharyaji, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji, Shri Vithal Nathji, Shri Sanatanji and several acharyas, this many-splendoured land attracts hordes of devotees till date.
Shri Rohini Temple and Shri Baldev’s Birthplace:
On the sixth day of Shukla Paksh, five top planets assembled and Baldevji was born to Rohiniji, wife of Vasudevji, blessing Nandji’s house. Kansa petrified of his own death had imprisoned Vasudevji and Devkiji and killed six of their children. Lord Shesh ( name of a thousand-headed snake, regarded as the symbol of eternity, on which Vishnu sleeps throughout periods of dissolution of the world) a portion of the Lord was to be born as the seventh child. Lord Krishna ordered for his removal to Rohiniji’s womb and Lord Sankarshan was born. He was acclaimed as Ram, striving for mankind’s well-being and called Bal Bhadra for his courage.
Shri Nand Raiji’s Temple:
He took birth for the parental tenderness and majestic celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth. 84 pillars still adorn Shri Nand Raiji’s Bhavan.
Shri Yashod’a Resting Place:
The sacred site blesses us with the immense joy of attaining a son. Yashodaji rests here along with hundreds of gopis.
At midnight when Vasudevji, with Krishna cradled on his head, entered the Yamuna River, the beloved of Lord Krishna yearned for a touch of his feet and rose in torrential fury. Terrified of the scenario Vasudevji yelled for help. Lord Krishna took out his tiny feet and pacified his sakhi, Yamunaji. The site is still famed for this miraculous feat.
The Place of Lord Krishna’s Birth-Celebrations:
The word of Krishna’s birth spread like wild-fire in Gokul. Everyone was thrilled. Cowherds coupled with their wives danced in delight. Lanes and market-places were festooned with leaves and flowers. All the Brahmans, bards, minstrels and hordes of scholars headed towards Shri Nandbaba’s house. Ecstatic, the cow-herd girls of Braj, decked in the best of their finery with decorated gifts in their hands, flocked to sing auspicious songs. Shri Parmanand Dasji observed these cheerful rejoicings and sang in joyous abandon. Restless to recount its pious tale, it is renowned as the site of Lord Krishna’s Birth Celebrations.
The Site of Demoness Pootna’s Salvation:
Lord Krishna is benevolent. Now his close ones savoured his loving tenderness and now he put an end to several demonic forces for the good of mankind. Blessed by his innate divinity, the demons attained deliverance. There lived a ruthless demoness named Pootna. She sneaked into towns, villages and bastis, brutally killing infants. Once she ventured to Gokul in the form of a ravishing beauty. Kansa had planted her to kill Krishna with deadly poison smeared on her breasts.
Lord Krishna was well aware of her evil intentions but began suckling at her breast when she cuddled him. Infuriated he sucked the life out of her. Changing to her true form she begged for mercy but died soon after. Yashodaji and other cow-herds saw child Krishna playing merrily on her huge frame. Hacking Pootna’s body to bits, the cow-herds burnt them at a distance. Pootna attained salvation blessed by the Lord’s celestial touch.
The Place where the Shakat or Cart was Broken:
It was the day of Janam Nakshatra (planets in the ascendant at the time of birth). Sprinkling holy water on Krishna, Yashodaji bathed and put him to sleep beneath a cart. As of now she was busy serving guests who had gathered on this auspicious day. In a short while Krishna woke up and began wailing for milk. A demon deputed by Kansa entered this cart while he was asleep. Angry at the scenario Krishna swung his foot and broke the cart, tearing the yoke, toppling the goodies and breaking several pots in the process. All Braj denizens who had gathered for the Utsav were stunned and Brahmans prayed for Lord Krishna’s safety. The site recounts this valiant exploit till date.
The site of Trinavart’s Deliverance:
Demonic forces continually attacked Lord Krishna who because of His innate divinity always triumphed in these encounters. Once while feeding her son, Yashodaji plonked him on the ground. Shaktasur had already been killed and as of now Kansa planted Trinavart in Braj. The demon engulfed entire Braj in the form of a dust-storm, decamping with Lord Krishna to the sky. The Lord increased his weight and tightly gripped Trinavart’s throat. Becoming unconscious he fell with a thud on the ground and died. Yashodaji, Nand Raiji and others were over-joyed to see Lord Krishna prancing on his body and thanked their good fortune.
The Gaushala where Lord Krishna and Balram were named:
Shri Gargacharyaji was highly learned and the family priest of Nand Raiji. Once he journeyed to Braj and was requested by Nand Raiji to name his two sons. Initially he refused explaining that since he was the family priest of Yadus, Kansa would figure out that Krishna was Vasudev’ son. They planned to perform the ceremony in seclusion at a gaushala or cowshed. He named the elder lad Rohiney since he was Rohini’s son. The boy would delight close relatives and friends so he would be addressed as Ram. Being greatly courageous he will be hailed as Bal and since he would bond people together, he is titled Sankarshan.
The second dark-hued boy is incarnated in every era. Because of his complexion, the colour of the condensed sky, he will be called Krishna. Born to Vasudev, he will be addressed as Vasudev by those who knew this secret. The lad would be a trove of several names and virtues. He is virtually the same as Lord Narayana regarding glory, power, qualities and wealth. Dearly loved by all Braj denizens, Lord Krishna will be their saviour, expiating all sins and alleviating pain. Highly revered by Vaishnavas the Gaushala is renowned till date.
The Site where Lord Krishna was tied to a Mortar:
Once when Krishna was starving he ran to his mother. She cuddled him but left soon on remembering milk was on the boil. Sobbing with anger he broke the milk pots and fled. Binging on butter, he looted it to monkeys as well. Infuriated at the scenario his mother strove to tie him with a rope. She did not succeed in her mission because even after tying several ropes together they somehow fell short by two fingers. Noting his mother’s vain efforts the Lord softened his stance and got bound on his own, overcome by fondness for her.
Easily attainable by hungering devotees steeped in love flowing towards him, Lord Krishna is tough to achieve by ascetics and penance doers.
The Deliverance of Yamlarjun:
Nalkoobar and Manigreev were the two sons of Shri Kuberji. Once on the banks of the Mandikini River in the environs of Mount Kailash, they were passionately making love to women. Naradji suddenly dropped by and they didn’t even look at him, drunk as they were. Angered at such rude behaviour, Narada cursed them but assured salvation by Lord Krishna.
Born as huge deciduous trees they were known as Yamlarjun. Lord Krishna dragging the mortar he was bound to ventured between the two trees. With a little force he uprooted them and a couple of radiant men evolved and ardently prayed to the Lord. Two deciduous trees adorn the entrance of Nand Bhavan in Mahavan till date.
Lord Krishna and Balramji along with their sakhas or friends performed several wrestling feats at this place. Gopeshwar Mahadev settled by deities, resides at Mallamall.
Tapt Samudrik Koop or Heated Oceanic Pit:
Sins accrued by inducing abortion and killing worms are expiated by this koop or pit inaugurated by Yadus and deities. It is supposed to placate the cold season and the environs. Bathing here a hundred times over, one certainly attains salvation while making offerings is of specific value.
Built in memory of the Yamlarjun trees’ salvation, these two pools exhibit the selfless grace of Lord Krishna.
Shri Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji in Mahavan:
Ecstatic on sighting the place of Lord Krishna’s Birth Celebrations and Shri Madan Mohanji in Mahavan, Shri Chaitany Mahaprabhuji danced in spiritual exhilaration and tears streamed down his cheeks in delight.
Everyone knows Sanatanji, follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji and the symbol of endurance, eternally relishing the grace of Shri Radha-Krishna. Once observing an extraordinary child playing on the banks of Yamunaji he was captivated and joined in. He followed the infant who disappeared on entering the temple. It is believed that Madan Gopalji Swarupa or his living presence had come to bless Him.
Lord Krishna had tasted mud but denied the truth on his mother’s questioning. Asking him to open his mouth she was stupefied by what she saw, the entire universe, majestic mountains, flowing rivers and the revolving earth. She narrated the incident to Nand Baba who merely smiled. Once when Nand Baba was praying to Shalig Ramji, Lord Krishna swept Shaligji to his mouth. Coaxing him to open his mouth, Nand Baba was stunned to see precisely the same magnificent scenario of the universe. A beautiful site, it defies description in the rainy season.
Chinta Haran Ghat:
A hot favourite of Braj denizens, it absolves all sins. Mahadevji can be sighted here.
Gokul and Mahavan are basically the same, where the delights of Paradise are reflected as if by a cosmic mirror onto the fields, forests and streams of the region. Lured to it the instant he was born to spread his love and joy; reflects the Lord’s immense love for this celestial land. Nandigram, Nand Raiji residence, is at times addressed as Gokul in the Holy Scriptures. Shri Manmahaprabu Vallabhacharyaji is responsible for enlightening us on this region, highly significant for Pushti Margi Vaishnavas. The modern day Gokul has been established by Goswami Vithal Nathji.
Pertaining to Lord Krishna’s Era it was a settlement of cowherds within the forest region of Vrihadvan, located on the banks of the Yamuna River. At present sites mushrooming from Mahavan to Gokul are hailed as Gokul by acharyas, devotees and rasiks alike.
Shri Vallabhacharyaji (1479-1531)
Born to Shri Laxmanji Bhatt and Ilammagaru in Champaranhya, he was conferred the title of acharya by the Vishnu Swami Sect and journeyed to several cities for spreading religion. While proceeding to Jharkhand, for some unknown reason he was attracted to Braj around the year 1550. Yamunaji read his thoughts and appearing in the form of a great beauty convinced him that this was Gokul and the ancient Govind Ghat.
At Mount Govardhan in Braj he found Shri Nathji, a svarupa or living presence of Lord Krishna and the celebrated deity of Pushti Margis. Lord Krishna ordered him to work on Brahma Sambandh (all-consuming intimacy with the Supreme Being) for the welfare of mankind. Flaunting BalKrishnaUpasna, Vallabhacharyaji stressed on madhurya bhakti where Krishna is adored with loving devotion and emotional exultation. He had the Shrimad Bhagwat read at several places.
Shri Gosain Vithal Nathji:
Considered the bastion of the Vallabha Sect he was born near Kashi, coming to Braj after the death of his brother Shri Gopinathji. A family dispute raged between Purshottamji, his brother’s son and him for the position of Acharya. Banned from the darshan of Shri Nathji, Vithalnathji spent this time span at Parasauli village and wrote the text ‘Nav Vigyapatiyan’ which reflects his inflamed heart. Vithal Nathji inaugurated the new settlement of Gokul. Shri Navneet Priyaji’s temple was the first to be set up here.
He elaborated on the service of Shri Nathji, laying great store in shringara bhakti where Krishna is adored with loving devotion; adorned with decorative textiles, flowers and jewellery; and bhoga or offerings of food are served to him. He brought together the astachap kavis or eight Krishna poets, the chief being Surdas, entrusting them with the task of composing and singing padas or devotional poems in honour of Shr Nathji. Thus Gokul is highly revered by Vaishnavas of the Vallabha Sect till date.
Thakur Shri Gokul Nathji:
This is the main temple of Gokul. Earlier the swarupa was looked after by Shri Manmahaprabhu Vallabhacharyaji’s in-laws. Shri Gosainji had handed over the service to Gokul Nathji. Thakur Gokul Nathji is flanked by Shri Priyaji and Shri Chandra Valiji, the Lord’s two beloveds. We have the slippers, necklaces, shawls and signatures of Acharya Mahaprabhu and Gosain Vithal Nathji preserved here.
Goswami Hari Raiji:
Goswami Hari Raiji has stressed on the importance of satsang (praising the Lord) which can be achieved by close association with saints. His father was Shri Govind Raiji, second son of Goswami Vithal Nathji. Born in Gokul, he gained knowledge of Brahma Sambandh from Gokul Nathji and imbibed the Holy Scriptures and principles of Pushti Marg under his guidance, having great reverence for the Guru. He wrote several texts in Sanskrit and the ‘Shiksha Patra’ penned by him, is an ideal for the Vaishnavas.
Goswami Gokul Nathji:
The fourth son of Shri Gosainji, Gokul Nathji showed the spiritual path to Pushti Margi Vaishnavas. He was very learned, knowing the essential truth of religion and widely loved by people. During the reign of Jahangir there was a ban imposed on Vaishnavas in Braj for wearing the tilak (a mark worn on the forehead) and kanthi (string of beads). Vaishnavas were deeply pained by this move of the government. When Jahangir was in Kashmir, Gokul Nathji walked to the valley and citing examples from the Vedas and Holy Scriptures imparted divine knowledge to the king. Greatly impressed by his learning Jahangir revoked the orders on returning from Kashmir.
Shri Shri Raja Thakur:
Earlier the settlement of Gokul was the property of Shri Raja Thakur. Tax, land revenue and duties levied on produce were gathered for his estate. After the city corporation was set up all this came to an end. The temples of Shri Gopal Lalji, Mor Vala, Katra Vala, Dauji, Brajeshwarji, Ganga Betiji, Shri Mathureshji, Shri Nathuji, Shri Parvati Bahuji Bhamini Bahuji, Shri Vallabh Lalji and Kamvan Vali are worth a visit.
Shri Thakurani Ghat:
This is the main ghat of Gokul. Maharani Shri Yamuna appeared before Shri Vallabhacharyaji Maharaj, bestowing divine insight to this site. Mahaprabhuji was the first to propagate the principles of Brahma Sambandh and blessed the place, making it highly significant for Vaishnavas of the Vallabha Sect.
On his first voyage to spread religion when Shri Manmahaprabhuji was in Jharkhand, all of a sudden by God’s grace he came to Braj. Placing an idol beneath a tree he began praying to the Lord, with Goving Ghat to his right. At midnight God appeared before a restless and relentless devotee, resplendent in all his glory, giving him a new lease of life. Ordering him to propagate Brahma Sambandh for the well being of mankind he vanished. The text ‘Sidhanth Rahasya’ was conceptualized by him and throws light on this incidence.
Though all religious sects have given Yamunaji due importance but for Pushti Marg Shri Yamunaji is not just a holy river. Its distinctive trait is to provide opportunity for the worship of Lord Krishna, leading to salvation. Initially she was the one to impart divine knowledge of significant sites to Shriman Mahaprabhuji.
As a swamini or devotional ideal she is manifest as Lord Krishna’s fourth senior queen and in Her Pushti Shakti form she is revered and worshipped. The Lord frolics on its banks, merrily plunging into its waters. Once sulking, Lord Krishna hid in a thicket. Shri Radha, Lalita and Vishakha tried to placate him but failed. Yamunaji, his beloved, adopted the form of Syam Sunder and appearing before him managed to make him laugh. Embracing her, Lord Krishna gave the boon of her worship in this form. Consequently she shows the path of Krishna worship to Pushti Margi devotees.
Baithaks or Sitting Seats:
On Govind Ghat is Shri Vallabhacharyaji’s most ancient Baithak beneath a tree. His first disciple was Damodar Das Harsani who was given the guidelines of Krishna worship.
The Dwarka Deesh temple has Shaiya and Sandhya Baithaks. Giridharji, Gokul Nathji, Raghunathji, three baithaks of Goswami Vithalnathji and Goverdhan Nathhji’s Baithak are situated here.
Ras Khan Teela (Mound)
Eminent devotee Ras Khan’s renunciation and infinite attraction for Braj made him possessed with love for Lord Krishna. By the grace of Shri Gosain Vithal Nathji he devoted his entire life to Krishna. Devotional songs loaded with worship of the Lord flowed from his melodious voice, influenced as he was by the sakhi bhava of Krishna worship. The love songs of Ras Khan resound in Gokul’s lanes and sites till date.
Ali Khan Pathan:
In spite of being an officer deputed to Braj by King Akbar, Ali Khan was an ardent follower of Gosain Vithal Nathji and arrived daily for his sermon. He adored Lord Krishna. An ancient site near Vallabh Ghat is famed by his name.
Taaj Ki Chathri:
Worship knows no boundaries. History proves time and again that all communities have been very religious. Hamida- Hasina, two sisters, Ras Khan, Ali Khan and revered Taaj in spite of being Muslims were enraptured by the love of Lord Krishna. Taaj hailed from the royal family. Once eager to visit God she proceeded to Kaba Sharif and Mathura was a stopover, en route. Hearing the sound of the temple gongs she was adamant to see the Lord but was stopped since she was not a Hindu. Squatting there itself, she sang in a soulful voice yearning for Lord Krishna who manifested to fulfill her desire.
Renouncing her religion she embraced Hinduism for the dedicated service of Lord Krishna and became immortal. Named Taaj Ki Chathri this site surrounded by small trees tells her tale.
Raman Reti is the central site of Karshinpanthi Mahatmas who have renounced worldly attachments. Shri Gopal Dasji and Harnam Dasji were the supreme saints of this region and both of them focused on the significance of renunciation. Till date several ascetics reside here.
A look at other neighbouring sites:
Purging all sins, Loh Van is the site where Lord Krishna grazed his cattle. The Lord coupled with Balramji and their cow-herd friends often came here. Escaping from the searing heat of the afternoon they made merry under the shade of the plantation. The cave of Lohasur and Gopinathji are worth seeing.
Anandi and Bandi:
The two reside here in the Devi form. They were mistresses of helps who gathered cow dung at the Nand residence. Renouncing the world, Anandi and Bandi hungered for the worship of Lord Krishna who became indebted to them for a bit of butter milk. Eagerly desirous to sight him for a moment they were ever willing to do any service at Nand Raiji’s house. This village is famed because of them and two kunds have been erected in their memory.
Oh husband of Revti and the giver of boons to cowherds, I make obeisance to both your forms! Bound by the love noose of Braj denizens, Lord Krishna is easily attainable for them. Once Shri Nand Raiji invited Yadus (a community) and gathered the milk of one lakh cows. Various delicious sweet meats, clarified butter, candy and rice-pudding were cooked for the love of Lord Baldevji.
Dugdh Kund is the site where milk was gathered for Dauji.
The Place where Baldevji ate his meals:
Baldevji coupled with Yadus relished a sumptuous meal here on being invited. We make obeisance to this revered site for the well-being of humanity.
The temple gratifies the wishes of Nand Raiji and cowherds. Circumambulating the Trikone Temple, we make obeisance.
The dark-skinned Dauji’s swarupa is very attrative with Revtiji facing Him. The Mughal Emperors were highly impressed by his miraculous feats. Once on a spree of destroying temples, Aurangzeb fanatically sought Dauji’s temple but having failed he returned to his fort. It was truly a miracle. During Akbar’s reign it is believed that Dauji was manifest at a certain kund. Goswami Gokul Nathji handed the service of the Lord to Shri Kalyan and the seva is adhered to till date by his successors. Highly revered by Braj residents, He is offered mishri and makhan popularly known as Dauji Ka Handa, for their wishes to be fulfilled.
Sankarshan Kund is close by with the Hathaura Village, known as Nand Raiji’s Baithak, next to it.
Lord Krishna and Balramji had their ears pierced at Karnaval. Shri Mathureshji was manifest in the Thakur form in this village. Temples of Madan Mohanji and Shri Madhav Raiji dot this site.
Lord Krishna and Shri Radhaji are in essence a single entity who manifest as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal romantic exchange. To express his charm as an amorous lover, Shri Krishna manifested himself in the Radha form. Arising from his heart, Shri Radha is his blissful energy or hladini shakti, the Godhead in female form. Sacred and adulated by Vaishnavas, she is the very essence of their lives.
Two bodies and one soul, Shri Radha-Krishna can’t live without each other for a moment. They are eternally bonded but always restless, yearning for more which is true love. Great poet Soordas sings ecstatically of their passionate union. Shri Radha is Lord Krishna’s power of pleasure. In reality Shri Krishna adopted the form of Radha to perform divine love play for his people. Happy in her beloved’s joy, Radha above all the other cowherdesses and above all other souls of the world ultimately emerges as the supreme object of Krishna’s passionate love. She assists Lord Krishna’s every wish. Shri Krishna and his parikar (attendants) Shri Radha and her sakhis were incarnated in Braj to delight their devotees. Braj’s highly revered Shri Usha Bahenji’s knowledgeable experiences throw light on the pivotal concept of madhurya or sweet love, taking us to the very heart of the love of Radha and Krishna.
Raja Suchendra born as Vrashbhanu, the cowherd in Braj and his wife Kalavati born as Kirtida, the cowherdess, in Vrashbhanupur were blessed with Shri Radha as their daughter. On her incarnation a wave of rejoicing swept the place with auspicious songs being sung. The site of her manifestation is famous as Rawal with a temple on the banks of the Yamuna citing this miracle. Born at her grandparents’ house, she later came to Vrashbhanupur. Baba Vrashbhanu came to Vrashbhanu Sarovar on ashtami of the Bhadra month and spotted a small girl atop a lotus flower, swimming in the pond and attracting his gaze. It is said she was Radhaji herself.