Wednesday 24 May 2017 News Updated at 11:05 AM IST
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The mythical, the mystical - Deccan Herald
The mythical, the mystical
Chetna Keer,
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Delight: The trip is incomplete without relishing the famous 'kesar-gulab lassi'.
Think Krishna. Think Vrindavan. Thanks to the Yamuna Expressway, our trip to Vrindavan, about 10-12 km from Mathura city in Uttar Pradesh, is accomplished within two hours by car from Delhi, which is about 160-165 km away.

Vrindavan occupies the pride of place on the pilgrim radar by virtue of being the Brajbhoomi where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. So, setting foot at this seat of spirituality is a dream come true for me, a bulawa ardently wished for! But poised for a peek beyond a pilgrim’s perspective, we discover that Vrindavan is much more than a destination for the devout, as it proffers plenty for foodies as well as shoppers.

As far as the pilgrim circuit goes, the main destinations that stand as monuments to Radha-Krishna include the Banke Bihari Temple, Nidhivan, Radha Raman Temple, Radha Vallabh Temple, Radha Damodar Mandir, ISKCON Temple & many more.

The showstopper and crowd-puller in this spectacle of divinity is the Banke Bihari Temple, darshan of which tops our itinerary. So replete is this place with the Radha-Krishna aura that even the rickshawallahs ferrying us and other tourists to the shrine do not blow horns, instead they softly spout, 'Radhe, Radhe’. Aha, this sounds like a catchy noise-free refrain to navigate the bustling bylanes of this holy city; and what better inspiration for cities battling noise pollution?

As we arrive at the mandir of Banke Bihariji, the principal deity of Vrindavan, legend and piety pervade the air, as it is believed that this idol was endowed to Swami Haridas by the lord himself. Granting swamiji his wish, the celestial couple of Shyam-Shyama turned itself into a single black idol.

Unique offerings

Such is the blinding charm of this idol that if one gazes too long into the eyes of Banke Bihariji, a devotee could lose consciousness. It is for this reason that the darshan in the temple is punctuated by drawing curtains in front of the idol every few minutes. A unique legacy of Swami Haridas is the distinct sewa rendered for Bihariji. Unlike most temples in Vrindavan, it does not have the tradition of Mangala aarti, but only three kinds of sewa: shringar, rajbhog and shayam.

Among the other revered temples is the Radha Raman Temple, 'Raman’ meaning the lover of Radha Rani. It is especially revered by the devotees of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The beautiful deity in this temple has self-manifested from a saligram shila and radiates a mystic smile. It was installed on the full moon day in the month of Vaishakh in 1542. The temple was established by Gopal Bhatta Goswami.

For a taste of mystery and myth to feed the faith, Nidhivan or Madhuban is the destination we head for. Steeped in mystical stories that perpetuate the Radha-Krishna love legend, Nidhivan is the place where Lord Krishna is believed to come even to this day to perform Raas Leela with his consort Radhaji every night. It is for this reason that after the evening aarti, Nidhivan and its Rang Mahal are shut down.

Even the birds and beasts habiting the place abandon it at nightfall. The legend is that not a soul stays beyond dusk, and anyone who dares to flout this unwritten code either goes mad or loses sight, speech etc. The guide tells us that the sandalwood bed prepared for the divine couple in the Rang Mahal appears ruffled in the morning, the shringar for Radhaji, the paan for Lord Krishna, and the other stuff are found used in the morning. Interestingly, the prasad here comes only in the shape of Radha Rani’s shringar.

Such is the aura this place is imbued with, that the tulsi trees in this forest also occur in pairs, in dancing mudras (postures). It is believed that at night, when Raas Leela is played out, the basil trees turn into gopis.

Giving a global face and feel to Vrindavan is the ISKCON Temple, which is where most international pilgrims flock to. One of the special features of the famous Krishna Balaram Temple is the sheer splendour of flowers used to decorate Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Krishna Balaram and Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundara.

The principal shrine of the Radha Vallabh sect is the temple of that very name. Legend has it that the idol of Radha Vallabhji was granted as a boon by Lord Shiva and was brought by Shri Hit Harivansh Mahaprabhu to Vrindavan.

What imbues it with the spirit of secularism and multi-culturalism is the tale of Mughal Emperor Akbar bestowing a grant of 100 bighas’ land for this Hindu temple.

There’s food as well

Stepping beyond the pilgrim’s circuit, Vrindavan also proves to be a heaven for vegetarian foodies. Other than the famous pedas that are the prime prasad proffered at the shrines, Vrindavan’s famous kesar-gulab lassi and kesar milk tops my gastronomic wishlist. The bylanes leading to the Banke Bihari shrine are veritable food streets conserving and churning out age-old recipes. The trip to Vrindavan is incomplete without relishing its famous thali of aloo-puris and kaddoo ki subzi, or savouries like pav bhaji, dhokla, tikkis...

For shoppers, these very bylanes are a treasure trove of local craftsmanship, showcasing brass and panchdhaatu idols of Laddoo Gopal and Radha-Krishna, as well as vastra, mukuts and shringar to adorn deities. Among the gifts to carry are the T-shirts emblazoned with the tagline: 'I Lost My Heart in Vrindavan’. What better catchphrase to capture my mood, for I cannot not help but fall in love with this Brajbhoomi!