Sri Vraja Mandal Parikrama

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All glories to Sri Goloka Vrindavan, the abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna where He performs human like pastimes with His most intimate associates. Leaving aside His aisvarya-bhava, the mood in which His opulence as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is prominent and in which He is worshiped with awe and reverence, He enjoys pastimes in madhurya bhava, the sweet mellows of pure transcendental love and affection, completely free of any awe and reverence. Sri Vrindavan Dhama on this planet Earth is non-different from Sri Goloka Vrindavan and was manifested by the internal potency of the Lord when He descended to this planet to perform His sweet pastimes. Sri Vrindavan-dhama is still present on this Earth to bestow causeless mercy upon sincere devotees. But one can only understand, perceive and appreciate Sri Vrindavan Dhama by being completely surrendered at the lotus feet of a rasika Vaisnava who can actually reveal the dhama. 

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada performed the month long Sri Vraja-mandala parikrama, and it was continued by his various disciples.  In the month of Kartika, devotees visit all the pastime places of the Lord.  But if one is not able to physically visit the dhama, then one may read or hear about these places and the pastimes the Lord performed there. In this way also, one can derive great transcendental benefit, as the names and glories of the dhama are as potent as the dhama itself. Chanting Sri Krsna’s names is like associating with Krsna directly, as on the transcendental platform there is no difference between the name and the possessor of the name. Similarly, the holy dhama can also be experiences by hearing, reading, chanting and remembering about the names, qualities and various pastimes performed there. Therefore, for the benefit of all the readers, we will present articles describing some of the most prominent pastime places of the Lordover the course of the next four months of Caturmasya . In this way everyone can be present in Vraja by being absorbed in the glories of the dhama. 

In the 84 krosas of Sri Vraja Mandala, there are 12 main forests, namely Madhuvana, Talavana, Kumudavana, Bahulavana, Kamyavana, Khadiravana, Vrindavana, Bhadravana, Bhandirvana, Baelvana, Lohavana and Mahavana . Of these the first seven are situated on the western side of Yamuna-devi and are under jurisdiction of Sri Syamsundara. The remaining five, which are situated on the eastern side of Yamuna, are under the jurisdiction Sri Baladeva Prabhu. With Baladeva Purnima approaching, we will describe some of these places in this article. 

Sri Bhadravana

Sri Bhadravan, named after Balabhadra Prabhu (Lord Balarama), is one of the many places where Sri Krsna and Balarama used to come with Their cowherd boys to graze their cows and enjoy Their boyhood pastimes. The two places to visit here are Bhadra-sarovara and Gocarana-sthala (cow-grazing place). This is one of the smallest of the twelve forests and only consists of these two pastime places. 

Sri Bhandiravana

Sri Bhandiravana is one of the prominent forests and the site of many wonderful pastimes of Sri Krsna. There used to be a huge Bhandiravata (Banayan tree) here, and the branches would extended many miles. The cowherd boys would even cross the river Yamuna by walking over the long branches of this Bhandiravata. The cowherd boys would bring their cows to graze on the lush green grass here and drink from the river Yamuna, which was flowing close by. While the cows would graze, the cowherd boys would enjoy various sports in the company of Sri Sri Krsna Balarama. It is here that mother Yasoda and the other elderly gopis would send some gopas with lunch for the cowherd boys . Sitting under the shade of the huge banayan tree, all the cowherd boys would enjoy their meals while joking and enjoying the company of their dear most friend Sri Krsna. Even the boys sitting far away would feel that Krsna was sitting right next to them, talking and joking with them. Such are the wonderful pastimes of the Lord. Since Lord Balarama is the presiding deity of this forest, there is a Baladeva temple here as well. 

The Venu kupa (well) situated in Bhandirvana was made by Sri Krsna Himself, with His flute, upon being accused by the gopis of killing a calf. Sri Krsna reasoned that it was a demon named Vatsasura who had assumed the form of a calf and therefore, was no sin incurred. But the gopis did not allow Him to touch them. For their satisfaction, He made Venu kupa and called all the holy tirthas there, in accordance with the instructions of the gopis. After He bathed in the water of this well, the gopis considered Him purified and performed pastimes with Him. A big mela is held at this place on Somavati Amavasya, when Amavasya tithi falls on a Monday, and women who are having difficulty in having children, go and bathe in the waters of this well, perform a puja and pray for a Krsna conscious child.  

Near by is the Vivah-mandapa of Sri Sri Radha-Syamsundara. Once, Nanda Baba was passing by this forest with Krsna, who was just a small child, and the sky became overcast by dense dark clouds. At that time, Srimati Radhika came there in the form of a young devi and took Sri Krsna from Nanda Maharaja. She took Him deep inside the forest under the Bhandirvata tree, where He manifested His youthful form. All of a sudden, all the sakhis headed by Lalita and Vishakha appeared there and so did Lord Brahma, Siva and others. The sakhis began singing wedding songs, Lord Brahma become the wedding priest, and Sri Sri Radha Syamsundara exchanged divine garlands and got married. After some time, everyone disappeared, Sri Krsna became a small child again and Srimati Radhika brought him back to Nanda Maharaja, who had been waiting for Him. A temple with Sri Krsna applying sindura (vermillion) in the hair partition of Srimati Radhika is present there to commemorate this pastime. 

Nearby are Vamsivata, where Sri Krsna performed rasa-lila with the gopis; Syama Talaiya, a pond Krsna made to quench the thirst of the gopis, who had become thirsty during the rasa-lila; Munjatavi, where Krsna swallowed a forest fire to save the cows and cowherd boys the blazing fire lit by Kamsa’s followers in the forest of dry munja grass; and the temple of Sridama, where he waited for Krsna to return after Krsna had left for Mathura. These are some of the many pastime places in Bhandirvana. May we all be absorbed in the wonderful pastimes performed in this enchanting forest. 

 Sri Baelvana

Sri Baelvana is known by this name due to the abundance of the bael (bilva) fruits growing in this forest at the time when the Lord was present here. Krsna, Balarama and all the cowherd boys would come here, enjoy the beal fruits and play various sports. The famous Laksmi-devi temple is also situated in Baelvana. Once, having heard about the most enchanting rasa-lila of Sri Krsna and the gopis, and also having heard about the good fortune of the gopis, Laksmi-devi desired to witness and participate in the rasa-lila. This, however, is not possible for anyone except those devotees who have received the special mercy of Srimati Radhika and the gopis. Therefore, to gain entrance in the rasa-lila, Laksmi-devi performed severe austerities here, but still she could not gain entrance. She therefore continues to perform austerities in Baelvana. 

Sri Lohavana

Sri Lohavana is the place where Sri Krsna killed the demon named Lohajanghasura. For this reason, the forest came to be known as Lohavana. It is a lush forest with many beautiful trees abundant with fragrant flowers and fruits. The cowherd boys would come here and graze the cows along the Yamuna river, which flows by this enchanting forest. In the Yamuna river, Krsna performed various boating pastimes in the company of the Vraja-ramanis. Sri Durvasa Rsis Asrama is also situated here, and it was from here that he went to Ambarisa Maharaja on Dwadasi- tithi. The gopis would also come here to offer respects and bring offerings for the pleasure of Durvasa Rsi. When Krsna returned to Vrindavan after having killed the demon Dantavakra, it was in the nearby village of Ayore that He met Yasoda-maiya and Nanda Baba. There is a Dauji temple situated here as well, which was established by Vajranabha, the great-grandson of Krsna. Sri Baladeva Prabhu would come here to graze the cows with the other cowherd boys. Another place to visit here is the village of Bandi-Anandi, and their kunda situated there. Bandi-Anandi were two celestial damsels, who used the excuse of making cow-dung patties here, so they could get darsana of Sri Krsna. 

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May reading about all these pastime places of Sri Sri Krsna Balarama awaken intense greed in the heart of all the readers to hear about and discuss the wonderful pastimes of Sri Krsna, along with His dear associates, that were performed in these wonderful places.