History/Hindu Mythology

       According to Hindu mythology, Vrindavan is the place where Vasudeva brought his newborn son, Krishna, in order to protect him from the evil King Kamsa. Giving Krishna over to a settlement of cowherds, Vasudeva ensured the secrecy of his son’s identity. As the boy grew from his infancy, The_Gopis_Search_For_Krishnahe became renowned for his pranks, raiding the orchards of Vrindavan and the dairies of the gopis (milkmaids) to steal fruit, milk and butter. As a youth, Krishna roamed the forests, “destroying demons, dancing, [playing his flute], and making love with the milkmaids”[i]. Though he was well known for being a lover-boy, he proudly took Radha as his divine mistress/consort, and their love became “the symbol of ecstatic union between devotee and Lord”[ii].

       In the time following Krishna’s life in Vrindavan, two figures have been recognized as pioneers in establishing the site as a major pilgrimage destination and center for the bhakti tradition. Caitanya Mahaprabhu Chaitanya-Mahabrabhu-at-Jagannath(1486-1533), a Bengali spiritual teacher who founded Gaudiya Vaisnavism and popularized kirtana, the singing of simple hymns and repetition of Krishna’s name, as a form of worship[iii], and Hit Harivams (1502-1552), a Vaisnava poet saint who taught bhakti “in such a way that each person’s devotion to a particular form of the deity increased”[iv]. Each lived their life in reverence of the Lord, worshiping him, extolling him, and favorably recalling upon his time in Vrindavan. Thereby reinforcing the mythology embedded within the landscape.


       The most famous religious practices in Vrindavan are the viewing of or participation in the Krishna lilas and the completion of the forest pilgrimage. The lilas are reenactments of the sacred story of Krishna’s life as a child, performed by “troupes of young boys specially consecrated for their divine roles”[i]. The forest pilgrimage, on the other hand, takes a group of dozens of pilgrims together on a meandering journey through a landscape that is “saturated with the lore and life of the divine”[ii]. The trip lasts about three weeks and covers more than two hundred miles, beginning in Mathura, at Krishna’s birthplace, venturing through Vrindavan (where the pilgrims take a ritual bath in the Yamuna), and ending in Mathura, at Vishram Ghat.

       In regards to beliefs, people say that the site is sacred because it where the 8th avatara of Vishnu[iii] was brought, as a child, to be protected from the evil King Kamsa, where he spent his adolescent life, and where he made love to the gopis, chief of which was Radha, who became his consort. Vrindavan is also believed to be a sacred site because it is on the bank the Yamuna River, the second most sacred body of water in India, behind the Ganges, which is not only a purifying entity, but also a goddess.Krishna-eating-butter-poster-with-glitter-BJ32_l



Madan Mohan Temple

F:1 I:S QT:2 MT:+117This is the oldest temple in Vrindavan and it is situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, on a hill that is lush with green grass. Its central tower stands 60 feet tall and the long, straight staircase leads to its platform.

 Shahji Temple

Shahji_Temple_VrindavanA very popular temple in Vrindavan, iconic because of its 12 spiral columns made out of white marble, each standing 15 feet high. Inside, there is an impressive hall, Durbar Hall, that is famed for its yellow decor, Belgian glass chandeliers, and fine paintings.

 Radharamana Temple

Entrance_Radha_Raman_Temple,_Vrindavan Another famous temple in Vrindavan. Its name means “one who gives pleasure to Radha”. Its exterior walls bear intricate engravings of lotus flowers and various other shapes. Within the temple, one navigates under large archways and immediately has his/her attention directed towards the black stone image of Krishna playing his flute.

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[i] Diana Eck, India: A Sacred Geography (New York: Harmony Books, 2012), 366.

[ii] Ibid, 367.

[iii] A. S. Woodburne, “The Idea of God in Hinudism,” The Journal of Religion, vol. 5, no.1 (January, 1925): 52-66, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1195422.

[i] Denise Cush, Catherine Robinson, and Michael York, ed., Encyclopedia of Hinduism, s.v. “Vrindavana,” (New York: Routledge, 2008), 973.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “Chaitanya Movement,” Encyclopedia Britannica, last modified May 26, 2015, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.britannica.com/topic/Chaitanya-movement.

[iv] Ibid, “Hit Harivams”, 235.