Temples in VrindavanSome of the oldest temples in Vrindavan date back to the mid 16th century; their existence is intertwined with the history and cultural heritage of the country. Some of these are part of the ancient folklores and traditions that surrounded Vrindavan from the time of Krishna nearly 5000 years ago and have continued to the present era.
Sri Sri Radha Damodar Mandir
This is one of the oldest temples in Vrindavan, established and maintained by Srila Jiva Goswami, located in the middle of Seva Kunj. During the Mughal rule of India, the Radha Damodar idols were moved to Jaipur for safekeeping with the Rajput kings along with Govindadeva, Gopinatha and Madanamohana deities. They were brought back to Vrindavan around 1739 AD. And have remained in Vrindavan since then with daily prayer rituals and worship. There were speculative rumours that the idols installed in Vrindavan are not the original deities, but this fact has somewhat been disproved by the ‘pratibhu-murti’ theory. The Pratibhu-Murtis are substitute idols of deities installed in temples while the originals are locked for safekeeping; these are much smaller in size than the original. The present Radha Damodar idols are bigger in size than the ones being kept and worshipped in Jaipur; hence it is believed that the original deity of Lord Damodar is back in Vrindavan.
Timings: Mangala Aarti 4.30 am; Summer darshan 6.30 am to 12.30 pm, 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm; Winter darshan 7.30 am to 1.00 pm, 4.15 pm to 8.45 pm
Address: Sri Radha Damodar Mandir, Vrindavan, UP – 281121
Banke Bihari Temple
Legends and folklore abound in Hindu mythology and reinforce the belief that divinity is magical and entrancing. Vrindavan is not without its share of stories and anecdotes focused on Krishna and no better place to start them with other than Banke Bihari, one of the holiest and most famous temples dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The Banke Bihari got its name from the “banke” or ‘tri-bent posture’ and “bihari” means ‘supreme enjoyer’, an obvious reference to Krishna. An idol of Krishna in this pose was worshipped by Haridas Swami, a devout follower, who renounced the material pleasures of life and chose to live like an ascetic in Nidhivana, a dense forest around Vrindavan in early 19th century. Swami Haridasa is known to be the guru of the musical genius, Tansen. As time passed, more devotees came to worship and sing praises of the Lord drawn by his magnetic radiance emanating from the idol. During Mughal rule when battles were waged, conquests of temples and idols were done at the behest of the Mughal emperors. Many temples buried idols and temple treasure to preserve them for posterity. Legend has it that Haridas Swami had a dream about a buried idol of Krishna around the area of Nidhivana, which he magically found. This idol of Krishna is in the image of divine couple Shyam-Shyama, Krishna and his consort in a single man-woman form. Shyam is also another name used to refer to Krishna.
The present temple complex which houses Banke Bihari was built in 1864. The worship routine here is different from some other temples at Vrindavan; for one, no bells or conches are sounded in the temple in line with the belief that the Lord is as pure and beautiful as a child and he should not be awoken with loud sounds. The sheer presence of the deity, a single, utmost charming idol in black is mesmerising and anyone who stands long enough in his presence loses conscious thought of the surroundings; hence the sight of the Lord is broken by the purdah or curtain which is drawn at intervals to break the intensity of his magnetism and help his devotees get their bearings.
Another legend surrounds the timings of worship and the rituals in the temple. It is believed that Krishna leaves the temple each night to go into Nidhivana to play the flute and dance to his heart’s contentment, returning to the temple in the wee hours of the morning. Hence, the temple has done away with the “mangala” or early morning worship and conducts a three part ritual in the order of Shringar (bath and adornment with jewelry), Rajbhog (feast or Prasad offered to the deity) and Shayan Sewa (sleep service offered in the evening).
In summers, the temple is open to devotees from 9.30 am till 12.00 noon and from 7.00 pm to 10.00 pm. The Shayan aarti is performed at 9.00 pm. In winters, the temple is open from 10.30 am to 1.00 pm and from 6.00 pm to 9.00, with the Shayan aarti being performed at 8.30 pm.
Address: 143, Braham Ganga Kunj, Bihari Pura, Vrindavan, Mathura.
How to Reach the Temple: Banke Bihari temple can be reached from Chhatikara bypass, a distance of around 15 kilometres via Allhepur.
Garud Govind Temple
The Puranas date this temple as one among the oldest and most ancient ones; it is believed that the idol was an incarnation of Lord Krishna’s grandson, Bajranabh. This mandir is known for its rituals relating to ‘kalsarp anushthan’ to remove the ill effects of sarp dosha or misalignment of planets that supposedly cause upheavals according the astrology. In Hindu mythology, Garuda is the powerful Brahminy kite, the mount of Lord Vishnu and the eternal sworn enemy of the ‘Naga’ or the serpent.
Address: Off NH-2, Chhatikara Village, Vrindavan, UP-281121
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Madan Mohan Temple
Madan is the god of love or Cupid and Madanamohan means ‘one who has conquered Cupid’. The original deity of Madan Mohan was hidden away by local Brahmins around 1000 AD at the time of Mahmud Ghazni’s successive invasions of India. It was rediscovered in the early 16th century by Sanatana Goswami and a temple was built at Vrindavan with the help of traders and salt merchants, devotees of Lord Krishna, who thrived in their businesses. The name and fame of the temple grew inviting the wrath of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb who was angered that it was taking away the glory of Mughal architecture, that was predominant in Delhi and Agra at that time. This temple and many others were desecrated but the idol of Madan Mohan was spirited away to Karauli in Rajasthan, where the Rajput kings installed it and performed worship rituals.
When Vrindavan was re-discovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu around the late 15th century and came into prominence once again, the temple was restored to its former glory and a ‘pratibhu murti’, a substitute of the original deity was re-installed and worship rituals are performed, though not in a grand manner. The original continues to remain in Karauli; many thousands of Krishna bhaktas visit the place to worship the original Madan Mohan. Madan Mohan Mandir is situated close to the banks of the Yamuna River.
Address: Kali Ghat, Vrindavan, UP-281121
Timings: The summer timings for darshan are 6.00 am to 11.00 am and 5.00 pm to 9.30 pm. The Mangala Aarti is performed at 4.00 am only in the holy month of Kartik (Dec-Jan) which is the winter season. Winter daily darshan timings are 7.00 am to 12 noon and 4.00 pm to 8.00 pm.
Govinda Dev Mandir
Built in 1590 by Raja Mansingh from Jaipur, a trusted general in Emperor Akbar’s army, this was once a grand seven-storey structure of such magnificence and architecturally the finest in all of North India in the 15th century. The altar was made of gold, silver and finest marble and several thousand construction workers spent five years to complete the structure. The sandstone for main temple building was given by Akbar, the most genial of all the Mughal emperors who embraced all religions and was a great connoisseur of art and culture. During the reign of Aurangzeb in 1670, the temple was plundered and destroyed and only three storeys of the original seven-storey structure remained. Fortunately, the original deity Govindaji was moved to Jaipur where it remains to this day. The new temple was built on a different plot of land behind the old one; a replica of the original deity is worshipped here today.
With the urbanization of Vrindavan and the influx of modern lifestyles, many other religious structures like temples and ashrams have come up in recent years. Some of the newest temples in Vrindavan are listed here:
Prem Mandir is one of the largest and most beautiful temples of the modern era dedicated to Lord Krishna. The awe inspiring façade and interiors of Prem Mandir in Vrindavan was thrown open to the public in 2012 to offer prayers to the presiding deity, Yugal Sarkar or Radha Krishna. This religious and spiritual complex, made entirely of Italian marble was designed and constructed under the aegis of Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj, a Hindu spiritual leader who founded the Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, an organization with spiritual centres in India and the USA. The complex is a shining example of exquisite craftsmanship and inlaid with semi precious stones from all over the world.
With an imposing height of around 125 feet, length of 122 feet and width of 115 feet, Prem Mandir is set in a 55-acre plot, landscaped with lush and attractive gardens, a replica of the Govardhan mountain, lifelike tableaux representing Krishna’s life and many more tastefully done attractions. The masterpiece of the entire complex is the Musical Fountain, the tall spires of water from fountain heads dancing and swaying gracefully to aesthetically set musical notes against a backdrop of lights and colour. This display enthralls people every evening between 7.30 and 8.00 pm.
Prem Mandir is open for devotees from 5.30 am till 8.30 pm.
Address: Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, Raman Reiti, Rajpur Bangar, UP 281121
How to Reach: From the Chhatikara bypass, a straight road branches off towards Allhepur leading straight to Prem Mandir.
Maa Vaishno Devi Ashram
The Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses reigns supreme over the billions of followers of Hinduism all over the world. Maa Vaishno Devi is ‘mother’ to all her worshippers, bestowing upon them the contentment, enlightenment, prosperity and righteousness. For many Hindus, a visit to the famed Maa Vaishno Devi shrine in the foothills above Jammu is a must in one’s lifetime. But only the sturdiest and strongest can undertake the journey there and back because of the harsh terrain, extreme climatic conditions and the expenses involved.
The Jay Kay Trust, headed by J C Chaudhry decided to build a Vaishno Devi shrine in Vrindavan, one of the most popular pilgrimage centres in North India, close to Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna and with proximity to New Delhi, the national capital. This was to fulfil need of devotees to get a ‘darshan’ of the goddess in a more easily accessible environment to pilgrims and to spread the magic and largesse of devotion of the goddess to other parts of the country.
The Maa Vaishno Devi Ashram and Temple was inaugurated in May 2010 at Vrindavan and has been drawing thousands of visitors and pilgrims since then. The complex houses two dharamshalas, large dining hall, library, meditation centre, prayer hall and yoga centre.
The highlight of the temple is the image of the goddess beautifully decked in all her finery and riding a 50 ft tall lion. The statue itself is over 140 feet high and is easily visible from afar.
Bus services at scheduled times are available from within the Ashram complex directly to Delhi, about 130 kilometres away. Chhatikara bypass, the closest point to Vrindavan on the Delhi-Mathura Highway can also be reached directly by bus from Delhi; from the bypass it’s easy to get a rickshaw at a very nominal price to reach the Maa Vaishno Devi Ashram and Temple in Vrindavan.
Address: Maa Vaishno Devi Ashram, 11 Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, Chhatikara, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
Krishna Balarama Mandir Vrindavan
Established in 1975 by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), this is the newest temple and stands out for its elegant and stately architecture and has now become Vrindavan’s most sought after Krishna temples. The presiding deities in the temple are Sri Balarama-Krishna and Sri Radha-Shyamasundara along with an idol of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The high standards of cleanliness within the temple and surroundings and the manner in which obeisance is given to the deity has given it an international flavour and attracts thousands of devotees from all over India and around the world as well.
Address: Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, Raman Reti, Vrindavan, UP-281121
Timings: Mangala Aarti 4.30 am; Darshan 7.15 am to 11.00 am; Raj Bhoga Aarti 12 noon to 12.30 pm
Evening Darshan: Winter 4.00 pm to 8.30 pm, Summer 4.30 pm to 8.45 pm
Gita Mandir is also one of the recent additions to Vrindavan. Situated on Mathura-Vrindavan road, it houses the renowned Gita Stambh, a beautifully structured pillar on which the entire Bhagvad Gita is carved. Gita Mandir was built by one of leading industrial families of India, the Birlas.
Further along the road from Gita Mandir is Pagal Baba Mandir, a gleaming white and imposing multi-storied structure, a perfect example of modern architecture. Pagal Baba Mandir is known for hosting puppet shows where puppets enact scenes and tales from the two epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The Seva Kunj and Nidhivana are the gardens along the banks of the Yamuna where Krishna rested from his antics and spent time with his beloved companion, Radha. Within Seva Kunj, is the Rang Mahal, a temple dedicated to Radha-Krishna at the spot where they spent dancing with other Gopis to the notes from the flute.
At Nidhivana, it is believed that Krishna comes every night to rest with Radha. Within this complex, there is a Samadhi built in memory of Swami Haridas.
A trip to Vrindavan is not complete without a visit to other equally famous temples like the following:
Radha Raman Mandir
Timings: Mangala Aarti 4.00 am (summer), 5.30 am (winter); Darshan 8.00 am to 12.30 pm, 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm
Radha Ballabh Mandir
Address: Shri Hith Vrindavan Dham, Mathura Dist, UP-281121
Timings: 5.30 am to 9.00 pm
Shri Rangaji Mandir in Vrindavan
Address: Chhatikara-Vrindavan Road, Vrindavan, UP-281121
Timings: Summer: 5.30 am to 10.30 am and 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm; Winter: 6.00 am to 11.00 am and 3.30 pm to 8.50 pm
Address: Mathura-Vrindavan Road, Kishor Pura, Vrindavan, UP-281121