Gokul

display enlarged image in new window Gokul, Raval and Dauji are main places of pilgrimage on the other side of Yamuna river in southern part of Vraja-mandala. Raval and Gokul are birthplaces of Radha and Krishna and their simple atmosphere increase the mood of separation in the hearts of true devotees of Their Lordships.
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Since we know from Srimad-Bhagavatam that Krisna was born in Kamsa's prison in Mathura, the above statement seems to be contradictory. But actually, it is not...

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Mahavan - Gokul
is situated about 10 km east from Mathura. Parjanya Gopa, the father of Nanda Maharaja, initially resided at Nandgaon, where he had five sons: Upananda, Abhinanda, Nanda, Sunanda and Nandana - and two daughters Sananda and Nandini...

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...His middle son Nanda had no offspring and therefore Parjanya Gopa worshipped Narayan in the hope that Nada would be blessed with the child. A voice from the sky announced that a very brave son would be born to Nanda. After this prophecy, demons began to cause a disturbance at Nandgaon. Parjanya Gopa and his family decided to move along with their relatives to Brhadvan, or Mahavan. Beholding its beauty the vrajavasi gopas began very happily reside here...

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...After some time, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was born to Vasudev and Devaki in the Kamsa's prison house in Mathura. The Lord ordered Vasudev to bring Him to the house of Maharaja Nanda in Gokul. The night was very dark, but as soon as Vasudev took Krishna on his lap, he could see everything as in the sunlight. Vasudev came onto the bank of Yamuna and the river gave him mysteriously a free passage over its roaring waters...

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...In Gokul he saw that all the cowherd man were asleep. He silently entered into the house of Yasoda, placed Krishna next to her and took her newly born girl back. Than he had returned back to prison, clamped the shackles on himself so that Kamsa could not recognize that so many things had happened...

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...Mother Yasoda understood that a child was born to her, but because she was very tired from the childbirth, she was fast asleep. When she awoke, she could not remember whether she had given birth to a male or female child.

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We have heard that Krisna never leaves Vrindavan and obviously, He must have been born there. Srila Vishvanata Chakravarti Thakur and other vaisnava acaryas describe that Krishna appeared simultaneously as the son of Devaki and as the son of Yasoda. As the son of Devaki He appeared as Vishnu and as the son of Yasoda He appeared as svayam bhagavan Sri Krisna. Actually a twins were born to Yasoda - Krisna and some moments later a girl Yogamaya...

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...As soon as the Vasudev entered the house of Yasoda, two-handed Krisna assimilated the son of Vasudev within Himself. Vasudev was not able to understand that this mysterious event had occurred. According to tattva (category), Yasoda-nandana and Devaki-nandana are actually one, but from the viewpoint of rasa (devotional mellows) there is a difference between Them.

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Nanda-bhavan is the place where Krisna and Balaram lived with Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda. The architect Visvakarma built the House of Nanda Maharaja over 5,000 years ago. It is on a hill at Old Gokul.

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It has 84 pillars and that is why it is called Chaurasi Khamba.

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Chaurasi means "84" and the pillars in this temple are said to be the original pillars from the house of Nanda Maharaja.

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Thee are big Deities of Nanda Maharaja on the left, mother Yasoda on the right and Lord Balaram in the Middle. Bellow them is Deity of baby Krishna swinging in the cradle...

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..."Only here Krisna who!" usually says the vrajavasi pujari at the altar.

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Nanda, Yasoda, Rohini, Balaram and Krisna are the Deities on different altars at Nanda Bhavan.

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Krisna and Baladeva's name giving ceremony also took place at Mahavan in the nearby gosala of Nanda Maharaja. Gargacarya performed it in a simple way without the festivities because of fear of Kamsa. This simplicity is found there in Vraj even today.

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Mahavan and Gokul are in fact one and the same place. Mahavan is called Gokul because go (cows), gopas (cowherd men) and gopis (cowherd ladies) live there.

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Nearby, on the left side on the way up the hill are places where Krishna killed Trinavarta and Putana demons. There are small temples on the side of the hill that mark those places.

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Putana disguised herself as the mother, smeared her breasts with deadly poison and came here at Nanda Bhavan. Directly in front of Yasoda and Rohini, she picked up sleeping baby Krisna from the cradle, put Him on her lap and began to breast-feed Him. Krisna sucked out the deadly poison together with her life force, thus liberating her from the body of raksasi demoness...

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...In her previous life, Putana was Ratnamala, the daughter of Bali Maharaja. When she beheld the beauty of Lord Vamanadev, she desired to have a son just like Him. But when Vamanadev took away everything from Bali Maharaja and bound him with the rope of snakes, she began to cry: "I would kill such a cruel son by feeding him breast milk mixed with poison..."

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...Knowing her desire, Lord Vamanadev said: "Evam astu (So be it)", granting her this boon. All merciful Sri Krisna therefore killed her in that form and gave her the proper identity as His dhari, a nurse or His foster-mother in Gokul.

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Once Kamsa sent a demon Trnavarta to Gokul to kill Krisna. Trnavarta assumed the form of whirlwind and seized baby Krisna who was sitting beside mother Yasoda and flew into the sky. Krisna caught his neck as any baby might do, but this chocked the demon. Trnavarta's eyes popped out from their sockets, and he fell to the earth and died.

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Another time Krisna was sleeping in a cradle in a shade under a cart while mother Yasoda was busy preparing His birthday ceremony. Demon Sakatasura entered into the cart and began to press it to the ground wanting to kill the baby. Krishna, however, made a joyous cry and with the kick of the His foot, easily killed the demon...

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...In his previous life, Sakatasura was Utkaca, the son of demon Hiranyaksa. Once he had trampled and destroyed the green trees and creepers in Lomasa Risi's asram. The Risi angrily cursed him: "May you become bodiless!" Utkaca fell at the feet of the Risi begging forgiveness and Risi said: "You will be liberated by the touch of Krisna's feet during the rein of Vaivasvata Manu."

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The entrance into Nanda Bhavan at the top of a hill. Across the path is the bhajan-kutir of Srila Sanatan Goswami

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The trees in the courtyard are worshipped as desire tress...

...but remember! Any tree in Vrindavan is actually kalpa-vrksa!

Krisna's childhood pastimes up to the age of three years also took place in Gokul - Mahavan.

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Entrance at the bottom of the hill.

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Utkhal ("grinding mortar") is in a small hut, 1 km from the town of Mahavan. Once Mother Yasoda was churning yogurt and singing about Krisna's pastimes. This waked up baby Krisna and feeling hungry, Krisna searched for His mother. Yasoda began to breast-feed Him, but meanwhile, the milk on the fire began to boil over. She put Krisna on the floor and went after the milk. Krisna was still unsatisfied and in uncontrollable anger broke the churning pot with the stone...

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...He trampled through the spilled yogurt and climbed unto the upside-down grinding mortar, feeding the monkeys and crows with the pieces of butter. Yasoda Maiya saw this and began to smile. Creeping up behind Krisna, she went to catch Him, but He caught sight of Her, jumped off the mortar and fled. Yasoda ran faster and caught Him from behind...

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...To punish Him, she tried to bind Him to the mortar, but the rope was mysteriously always too short. When Krisna saw His mother fatigued, He agreed to be bound. Krisna and His sakhas began to drag grinding mortar. He was heading for the place where Nalakuvara and Manigriva stood in the form of the Yamala-Arjuna trees...

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... Those sons of Kuvera were cursed in their previous lives to become trees because of their frivolous behavior in front of the sage Narada. Krisna was able to pass through the trees but the mortar stocked horizontally between them. When the Lord pulled with the rope, the trees fell on the ground and two shining personalities emerged from them offering prayers to the baby Krisna.

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Which ones are the Yamala-Arjuna trees?

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...This ones?...

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...Or those?...

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We can assure you - none of them!

The sons of Kuvera are already liberated. Just Vrajavasis have planted new trees in the places where Nalakuvara and Manigriva were delivered from their bodies.

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Nanda Maharaja's well is across the road from here. The yellow turret behind the tree is Main Temple at Nanda Bhavan.

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On the road between Utkhal and Nanda Bhavan is the ancient Yogamaya temple.

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Some say that this is the birthplace of Balaram, others say that Yogamaya was born here.

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There are Deities of Vasudev and Rohini and apparently baby Balaram.

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There is also a Deity of Yogamaya in the middle.

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Before Sri Rupa and Sanatana's arrival in Vraja, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wandered through its forests...

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...At the place of Krisna's birth festival at Mahavan, Mahaprabhu took darsan of Sri Madana-mohanji and overwhelmed with prema began to dance and streams of tears flowed from His eyes.

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After Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's arrival in Vraja, Sri Vallabhacarya sat on the bank of Yamuna at Govinda Ghat to read Srimad-Bhagavatam from beginning to end. Sri Vallabhacarya's son, Sri Vitthalacarya, and his son Gokulanath also have their bhaitaks there. In fact, Sri Vitthalacarya leased this place in his own name after showing Aurangzeb a miracle. After them, the son of Gokulanath resided here together with their family members.

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The town now called Gokul is actually a new settlement. Nanda Maharaja's gosala was in the Old Gokul.

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Brahmanda-ghat
About 2 km south is Brahmanda-ghat on the bank of the Yamuna River.

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While playing with the cowherd men, Bala Krisna ate dirt. The boys saw it and told mother Yasoda about it. Balaram verified that it is true and she went to her boy asking: "Have you eaten dirt?"
"No Maiya, I haven't."
"All right Kanhaiya, open Your mouth and show me!"
"You can see, Maiya," said Krisna and opened His mouth...

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...Looking into Krisna's mouth, Yasoda became dumbstruck. She saw countless planets, universes, Brahmas, Visnus and Mahesas, the entire universal creation. She closed her eyes in fear and thought: "What I am seeing?"

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"It is someone's mystic power or illusion or I am becoming a crazy woman?"
Upon opening her eyes she saw her baby Krisna on her lap. She had returned to her house and called brahmanas to pacify the Supreme Lord and invoke His blessing just to make sure no wrong might come from this strange incident to her son Krisna.

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Although Yasoda Maiya had directly witnessed Krisna's bhagavatta in the form of countless universes, she never accepted Krisna as Bhagavan, Supreme Lord. Her parental love vatsalya-prema blossomed rather than weakened during this incident. When Devaki and Vasudev saw Krisna's four-armed form, their vatsalya-prema weakened. Devaki and Vasudev folded their hand and began to pray to Krisna...

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...In Vraja, however, the prema of the vrajavasis does not weaken even when Krisna manifest Himself as Bhagavan. Their sweet mood toward Krisna never diminishes because they never accept Him as Bhagavan. For them He is their son, friend or lover. "He might be some demigod." But as Srila Prabhupad used to say, this is "only a suggestion, it is not sure and nobody cares much about it." This is the true glory of Vrindavan and vrajavasis.

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Another time, Bala Krisna was playing with the cowherd boys and after while they started to tease Him about being blackish. They said that He might not be the son of Nanda and Yasoda, since they are both fair complexioned. "Nanda Baba must have found you in some hollow in the tree and picked you up as his son." Krisna stopped playing and went home weeping.

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"Dama and Sudama were saying that I am not your son, since you are fair complexioned and I am blackish!" said Krisna to Yasoda Maiya, when He had calmed down.
Hearing this Yasoda started to laugh: "Lala, who else is saying this?"
"I take my oath before the Supreme Lord Narayan that You are my only son. Do not worry, I will chastise those naughty boys."

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...Nanda Baba was in realty fair complexioned and Yasoda was slightly darker in hue and because Kanhaiya was somewhat darker than His mother, boys were teasing Him about it.

And the place that treasures these pastimes can still be seen today.

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"In a world frightened by birth and death, some people take shelter of srutis, some of the smritis and some of the Mahabharata. But I pray to Sri Nandaraja, in whose courtyard Param Brahma is playing as a child."
Sri Padyavali, 127



Please visit Vaisnava.cz
Thanks to Vaisnava.cz for the creation of
this photo essay. Copied with permission.

English texts, selection of images, design:
Tattva-darsi das
Most texts are based on the information from Jada Bharata's book "Holy Places of India",
which contains many additional information useful for travelers.
Some texts are based on "Braja Mandala Parikrama"
by Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaj.

Photographs from his travels:
Radha-raman das, Pavan-suta das, Tattva-darsi das and Bhakta Zbynek

 


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