Braj Bhoomi is known as the land where Lord Krishna was born and spent most of his childhood. Brajbhoomi is divided among two distinct units – the eastern part and the western part of the Yamuna. We did a journey that covered the western part, the Mathura region, that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon.
We started our journey from Lucknow to Agra by bus. Although the expressways in Uttar Pradesh are in good condition, the tourist buses are required to travel at a maximum speed of 80kms/h so this makes the bus journey a long one. Where it should normally take about 4.5hours to travel the 336kms by car is much longer by tourist bus. Be that as it may, this was the most expedient way for the organizers to transport 20 people to their destination.
Nevertheless, a long journey and all we set off to Agra. A most appealing aspect was viewing the wonderful farming activities along the highway. At this time of year, Uttar Pradesh is lush and green.
Our Itinerary included Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri, but because of the time delay, we got to experience only the spell bounding Taj Mahal at sunset. A spectacular sight such as this is worth the long drive and delayed arrival.
We took accommodation at the newly opened Holiday Inn on MG Road, Agra. It was an oasis for us weary travelers. A welcoming, clean and professionally managed establishment. From the moment we arrived at the time we left the hotel, we had everything at our fingertips. The staff and service was top quality.
A professional and capable local Agra guide from the company Agrabeat escorted me to experience a different perspective of Agra. The view of the Taj Mahal that I was confronted with compensated for the heat of the day and the challenging terrain that we had to negotiate to get this view of the iconic world heritage site.
To get to the hill which affords us this incredible view, we needed to go through a local village. Here we stopped for Chai and Pakora. Although it was the festival of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic holiday, the children of the family, who had a school holiday, were sitting on the charpoy bed doing their school work. I was very moved by this scene of diligence and my heartfelt warm with hope knowing that people of such caliber will be the future leaders of this planet.
The evening in our Agra visit was rounded off with a walk in the busy lanes of the bazaar where we enjoyed the best parathas that I have tasted, Indian Coffee and dessert Agra are renowned for - Petha. We also got to view the preparation of the Parathas by “The King of Parata” Mr. Ram Babu Parenthewala. He uses iron plates that weigh 50kgs to fry his parathas on. The freshest of flour is used and generously covered with fresh ghee during the entire process of frying - delicious!!
Vrindavan also is known as Brindaban, is a historical city in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. It is a most sacred place and is located in the Braj Bhoomi region, and is where, according to Hinduism, Lord Krishna spent most of his childhood days. Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna and the town hosts many temples dedicated to the worship of Radha and Krishna.
Onward on the journey to follow Krishna’s trail which leads us to visit many temples dedicated to Krishna and celebrating different events during his life.
Barsana where we visited Kriti Mandir Barsana, this place is a modern-day temple and is dedicated to the mother of Radha. It is the only temple in India dedicated to the mother. This structure was built by the same person who built the Prem Temple in Vrindavan.
Giriraj Temple Govardhan - Giriraj means ‘Lord of the Mountain’. This temple is also known as Daan Ghati Temple, the place where Krishna used to take the butter from village women. The deity of this temple is in the form of a rock. When the deity is dressed up by temple pujaris it looks like Shri Krishna holding Govardhan Parvat (hill) on his little finger. Besides sweets, the main offering to the deity is milk and milk offerings. On special occasions and festivals, the deity is offered fifty-six varieties of offerings
Kusum Sarovar - a sandstone monument on the holy Govardhan Hill. It is also the place of Hat ruler Maharaja Suraj Mal’s memorial chhatri. Apart from architectural magnificence, it has religious importance for being an explicit part of the celebrated pastimes of Sri Radharani as she used to pick up flowers from here and spend time with her friends and Lord Krishna on the Ghats of this Kund.
Lord Chaitanya also bathed in the cooling waters of this Kund as it is believed that one who takes a bath in the waters attains pure love the Supreme Godhead and qualifies for witnessing the eightfold pastimes of Lord Krishna and Radha.
Nidhivan Temple - The temple is named from Nidhi which means treasure and van meaning forest. The major part of the temple is lavished with a huge busy forest. Everywhere there is greenery and twisted trees. The mystery of the forest is that there are wells, all roots, branches, and trunks of trees but they are hollow, yet the twigs and leaves are lively and stay green throughout the year.
Mysteries of the Temple - It is said that Lord Krishna comes here every night and performs spiritual activities called Raslila with Radha and all his gopis. It is believed that after the closure of the temple every day Lord Krishna and Radha appear and perform Was Leela and if anyone sees these activities, the person loses speech, becomes deaf and blind. Inside the Rang Mahal, the priest puts toothbrushes every day, a sari, bangles, paan leaves and some holes water in a jug with few sweets and prepares a bed after Aarti in the night. In the morning, everything is found scattered as if someone has used it. With the result all required to leave the premises at night, even the monkeys leave the Nidhivan Temple after the evening aarti.
Another mysterious fact of Nidhivan is the shape and size of the trees. They are short and intertwined with each other, they are the same height. It is believed that the trees are Lord Krishna’s Gopis and their intertwined shape is an aroma of love between them. The trees are devoid of birds and insects.
Accommodation for the visitors in Mathura was at the Nidhivan Sarovar Portico. The stay at this hotel was pleasant, the rooms are comfortable. The food served is vegetarian, and delicious.
On the way to our hotel, I was struck by the huge Durga Statue which is visible from a busy road in Mathura.
The other temples dedicated to Lord Krishna which the visitors on the Krishna Trail visited are: Bihariji Temple, Iscon Temple, Sahji Temple and Prem Mandir Vrindavan.
Mathura is a colorful and interesting town, we explored the streets and stalls as we walked to the Dwarkadhish Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna with its Jagat Mandir. The Dwarkadhish temple, touted as one of the holiest temples in the city of Mathura, is famous all over the country for its elaborate architecture and paintings. Built only in the year 1814, the temple is relatively new but is highly revered. Situated within the perimeter of the city's holy gate, near the ghats of River Yamuna, the temple and its surroundings are a hub of a lot of interesting activities. Thousands of devotees arrive here every day to pay their obeisance.
Evening Aarti is performed every night at the Vishram Ghat. The name literally means - the place where Krishna rested after the war with Kanshai his evil uncle.