Uttar Pradesh • India
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
• 170 m (558 ft)
Vrindavan (alternate spellings Vrindaban or Brindavan or Brundavan), or Vraj in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh, India, is a town on the site of an ancient forest believed to have been the region where the famous cowherd boy, Krishna, from Hindu scriptures spent his childhood days. It lies in the Braj region fifteen kilometers from Mathura city (said to be Krishna's birthplace), near the Agra-Delhi highway. In the past, Vrindavan had the most beautiful of forests in India (Kalidas). During past 250 years it has been subjected to urbanization first by local Rajas and in recent decades by apartment building developers. As of 2008, forest in the area have become meager and the local wildlife, including peacocks, cows, monkeys, and a variety of bird species have been greatly reduced and in danger of extinction. A few Peacocks and many monkeys range freely but cows mainly inhabit the gosalas of all the major Ashrams of Vrindavan.
Although all branches of Hinduism consider Vrindavan sacred, Vaisnavisisim stands as the major Hindu branch, serving as the center of Krishna worship. Millions of Radha Krishna devotees make a pilgrimage annually to Vrindavan, participating in festivals enacting episodes from the life of Krishna. The town includes many hundreds of temples dedicated to the worship of Radha and Krishna, considered sacred by numerous religious traditions including Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Vaishnavism, and Hinduism in general. The foremost temples include the Madan Mohan Temple, Banke Bihari Temple, Radha Vallabh Temple, Jaipur Temple, Sri Radha Raman Mandir, Shahji Temple, Rangaji Temple, Govind Deo (Govindaji) Temple, Sri Krishna-Balrama Temple, and Radha Damodar Mandir Temple. Vrindavan has received the name "City of Widows" for the unsavory practice of abandoned widows seeking to survive on its streets.
The ancient name of the city, "Brindaban," had been named after its ancient groves of "Brinda," Ocimum tenuiflorum, or Tulsi, with ban meaning a grove or a forest. Two small groves still exist, Nidhivan and Seva kunj Vrindavan has played an important part in Hindu folklore since ancient time and serves as a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site. One of its oldest surviving temples, the Govind Deo temple, had been built in 1590 with Brindaban becoming Vrindavan earlier in the same century.
All traditions of Hinduism consider Vrindavan a holy site. Vaisnavisisim constitutes the major tradition followed in Vrindavan which serves as a center of learning with many Ashrams. It serves as a center of Krishna worship, with places like Govardhana and Gokula associated with Krishna from the beginnings of Hinduism. Many millions of bhaktas, or devotees of Radha Krishna, make pilgrimage every year and participate in a number of festivals that relate to the scenes from Krishna's life.
According to tradition and extant records, Krishna was raised in the cowherding village of Gokul by his foster parents Nanda Maharaj and Yasoda. The Bhagavata Purana describes Krishna's early childhood pastimes in Vrindavan forest wherein he, his brother Balarama, and his cowherd friends stole butter, engaged in childhood pranks and fought with demons. Along with those activities, Krishna has been described meeting and dancing with the local girls of Vrindavan village (and especially Radharani) known as gopis. Those pastimes were the source of inspiration for the famous Sanskrit poem, Gita Govinda, by the Orissan poet, Jayadeva (c. 1200 C.E.).
The most popular temples include:
- The Madan Mohan Temple located near the Kali Ghat, built by Kapur Ram Das of Multan. The oldest existent temple in Vrindavan and closely associated with the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The original image of Lord Madan Gopal moved from the shrine to Karauli in Rajasthan for safe keeping during Aurangzeb's rule. Devotees have since worshipped a replica of the image in the temple.
- The Banke Bihari Temple, built in 1862 stands as the most popular shrine at Vrindavan. Swami Haridas, the great Krishna devotee, belonging to the Nimbarka sampradaya discovered the image of Banke-Bihari in Nidhi Vana.
- The famous Radha Vallabh Temple set up by the Radha-Vallabh sampradaya, through Sri Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu, has the crown of Radharani placed next to the Shri Krishna image in the sanctum.
- The Jaipur Temple, built by Sawai Madho Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1917, is a richly embellished and opulent temple dedicated to Shri Radha Madhava. The fine hand-carved sandstone displays unparalleled workmanship.
- Sri Radha Raman Mandir, constructed at the request of Gopala Bhatta Goswami around 1542, constitutes one most exquisitely crafted temples of Vrindavan, especially revered by the Goswamis. It still houses the original saligram deity of Krishna, alongside Radharani.
- The Shahji Temple, designed and built in 1876 by a wealthy jeweller, Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow, represents another popular temple at Vrindavan. The deities (images) at the temple are popularly known as the Chhote Radha Raman. Noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculpture, the temple has twelve spiral columns each fifteen feet high. The "Basanti Kamra," the darbar hall, has Belgian glass chandeliers and fine paintings which have won it renown.
- The Rangaji Temple, built in 1851, is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha or Rangaji depicted as Lord Vishnu in his sheshashayi pose, resting on the coils of the sacred Sesha Naga. The temple built in the Dravidian style (as a replica of Srivilliputhur) has a tall gopuram (gateway), of six stories and a gold-plated Dhwaja stambha, fifty feet high. A water tank and a picturesque garden lie within the temple enclosure. The annual festival of Jal Vihar of the presiding deity is performed with great pomp and splendor at the tank. The temple has become famous for its `Brahmotsdav' celebration in March-April, more popularly known as the `Rath ka Mela'. The pulling of the rath (the chariot car) by the devotees from the temple to the adjoining gardens highlight the ten day celebration. Following in the style of Andal, one of the twelve Vaishnava Saints of South India perform the prayers within the temple.
- The Govind Deo (Govindaji) Temple was once a magnificent seven story structure built in the form of a Greek cross. Emperor Akbar donated some of the red sandstone that had been brought for the Red Fort at Agra, for the construction of this temple. Built at the astronomical cost of one crore rupees in 1590, by his general Raja Man Singh, the temple combines western, Hindu and Muslim architectural elements in its structure. Mughal ruler Aurangzeb destroyed the temple.
- The Sri Krishna-Balrama Temple built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in a location known as 'Raman-Reti', houses the principal deities Krishna & Balaram, with Radha-Shyamasundar and Gaura-Nitai alongside. The samadhi of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, built in pure white marble adjoins the temple.
- The Radha Damodar Mandir located at Seva Kunj, was established in 1542 by Srila Jiva Goswami. The images of Sri Sri Radha Damodar stand within. The bhajan kutir of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is at the Mandir.
Other sacred sites
Other sacred sites include Seva Kunj, Sri Kathia Baba Ka Sthan, Kesi Ghat, Sriji Temple, Jugal Kishore Temple, Lal Babu Temple, Raj Ghat, Kusuma Sarovar, Meera-Bai Temple, Imli Tal, Kaliya Ghat, Raman Reti, Varaha Ghat and Chira Ghat, and across the river, a short boat-ride away sits the samadhi shrine of Devraha Baba, a revered saint of the last century.
The Seva Kunj marks the place where Lord Krishna once performed the Raaslila with Radha-Rani and the gopis and Nidhi Van where the divine couple rested. The samadhi of , the guru of Tansen, is located on site. Renowned musicians of India take part in Swami Haridas Sammelan, an annual event in honor of Swami Haridas.
As of 2001 India census, Vrindavan had a population of 56,618. Males constitute fifty six percent of the population and females forty four percent. Vrindavan has an average literacy rate of sixty five percent, higher than the national average of fifty nine and one-half percent: Male literacy is seventy three percent, and female literacy is fifty five percent. In Vrindavan, thirteen percent of the population is under six years of age. The number of females is 24,200 including thirteen percent who are under six years of age.
City of Widows
Vrindavan is also known as the City of Widows due to the large number of widows who move into the town and surrounding area after losing their husbands. According to some Hindu traditions, upper-caste widows may not remarry, so many of those abandoned by their families on the death of their husband make their way here. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 widows live in the streets, many of whom have spent over thirty years there. In exchange for singing bhajan hymns for seven to eight hours in bhajanashrams,', women receive a cup of rice and a pittance of money (around Rs.10), which they try to supplement by begging on the streets or in some instances, even through prostitution. An organization called Guild of Service assists those deprived women and children. In 2000, the organization opened Amar Bari (My Home), a refuge for 120 Vrindavan widows, and a second shelter for 500 widows is expected to open.
- University of Chicago, Brindaban. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, Brindaban. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
- Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism (State University of New York Press, 2007, ISBN 0791470814).
- Bihariji.org, Banke-Bihari Temple website. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
- Radhavallabh.com, Radhavallabh Temple website. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
- Salagram, The history of Sri Radha Raman Temple. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
- CNN, India's widows live out sentence of shame, poverty. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
- Catalyst Magazine, Moksha: the widows of Vrindavan. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Brooks, Charles R. 1989. The Hare Krishnas in India. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691031354.
- Case, Margaret H. 2000. Seeing Krishna: The Religious World of a Brahman Family in Vrindaban. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195130102.
- Corcoran, Maura. 1995. Vṛndāvana in Vaiṣṇava Literature: History, Mythology, Symbolism. Reconstructing Indian History. Vrindaban: Vrindaban Research Institute. ISBN 9788124600245.
- Daljeet. 1999. Krishna, the Living Spirit of Vrindavan. New Delhi: Aravali Books International. ISBN 9788186880616.
- Das, R. K. 1990. Temples of Vrindaban. Delhi: Sandeep Prakashan. ISBN 9788185067476.
- Klostermaier, Klaus K. 2007. A Survey of Hinduism. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0791470814.
- Mohana, Anila Krapābhikshu. 1992. Vrandāvana kī kuñja galina men. Naī Dillī: Pravina Prakāśana. OCLC 27014275.
- Rosen, Steven. 1991. The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan. Brooklyn, NY: Folk Books. ISBN 9780961976323.
- Thielemann, Selina. 1998. Sounds of the Sacred: Religious Music in India. New Delhi: A.P.H. Pub. Corp. ISBN 9788170249900.
All links retrieved May 10, 2020.
- Guide tour to Vrindavan and its allied temples
- "Nothing to Go Back To - The Widows of Vrindavan WNN - Nov 5, 2007
- BBC: More Indians in 'city of widows' Vrindavan
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