Call of Krishna

The temples in Mathura come alive on Janamashtmi which falls later this week, says
Anuradha Thakur

Krishna, the Makhan Chor, with friends — Frieze on a doorway of a temple at Vrindavan
Krishna, the Makhan Chor, with friends — Frieze on a doorway of a temple at Vrindavan

AS the rays of the rising sun kiss the temple buildings, devotees start chanting morning prayers and throng the temples in the land of Lord Krishna. On Janamashtami, the day of Krishna’s birth, many undertake Braj Yatra to Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, Barsana and Gokul associated with the childhood and adolescence of Krishna.

According to a legend, Mathura was ruled by Ugarsen. Once Ugarsen and his wife were taking a stroll in the royal garden, a demon saw the queen and fell in love with her. He diverted Ugarsen’s attention, assumed his form and made love to the queen. The child born of this union was Kansa. To countermand a celestial prediction, Kansa put his sister and brother-in-law in jail and killed their seven children as soon as they were born. The eighth one — Krishna — escaped from his cruel hands and was brought up by Nand and Yashoda as their own son.

The first temple was built in Mathura around the first century BC, which was followed by the second and third temple in the fourth and 12th century AD. The Janambhoomi complex presently consists of four temples, a shopping complex, a vast courtyard, a stage, an inn and a guesthouse. Raas Leela is held on the stage in the courtyard, as also on makeshift stages in other parts of the city.

In 1814, the Dwarkadheesh temple was built on the spot from where Vasudev crossed the Yamuna to take the new-born Krishna to Nandgaon. Fifteen km from Mathura, Vrindavan, the forest of the basil plant, is noted for its numerous temples. It was in Vrindavan that Krishna and Radha (his friend and beloved), along with other milkmaids, met and enacted raas leelas. Today, innumerable temples have replaced the trees. Presently, 4000 temples and 350 inns apart from guesthouses and lodges dot the area. Of these, there are three important temples — Gita Mandir, Birla Temple, and Pagal Baba Ashram. The walls of Gita Mandir are adorned with a number of paintings and carvings depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology. The complete Gita is inscribed on a pillar called Gita Stambh.

The important temples in Vrindavan are Banke Bihari temple, Nidhi Van, Govind Dev temple, Sri Rang ji temple, Shah Ji temple, and the modern ISKCON temple (popularly known as Hare Rama Hare Krishna temple or Angrezon ka Mandir).

Nidhi Van is believed to be the playground of Radha. While the cows of Krishna grazed, the divine couple was lost in lovemaking. It is here that Swami Haridas, Tansen’s guru, practised his singing. The temple here was built in 1864 and renovated in 1921.

Constructed by Raja Man Singh in 1590, the seven-storey Govind Dev temple is a fine example of medieval architecture. However, four of its storeys were destroyed by Aurangzeb.

Sri Rang Ji temple, the largest in Vrindavan, was constructed by Seth Govinddas Radhakrishna in 1851 at a cost of Rs 4.5 lakh. Thick, high walls enclose the temple complex, measuring 773 ft x 440 ft. Its four gopurams exhibit sculptural art and its 50 feet high flag post is believed to be covered with gold leaf.