vrn

The next most awaiting stop was at Vrindavan, the playground of Lord Krishna. It is a small town in Mathura. Since childhood, I always read, heard and watched pictures of Vrindavan. I was very eager to explore around. There are many places to visit in Vrindavan but Banke Bihari Temple was on the top of my list. The temple is situated in an extremely narrow lane with stalls on the both sides selling a good number of tasty eateries, clothing and spiritual products. Only cycle rickshaws can be used from the main road or you can choose to walk as it is only a 10 min short walk. I chose to walk. There a many beggars roaming around. Incase, you are visiting, just ignore them. Don’t encourage beggar. I turned deaf. Heartless, yes, but trust me you will thank me after. It was not easy to go through this lane. Not to forget the monkey business. A lot of them use to roam around. Make sure you grabbed your belongings firmly and have removed your spectacles if you have any (I specifically put on my contact lenses instead of glasses on that day). Crowded, filthy, pathetic is how I describe the street to Banke Bihari where Lord Banke Bihari (another name of Krishna) is worshipped since last century. But, let me tell you! You will not be disappointed once you reached there.Since it was a Monday, a working day, I was under the impression that the temple will be less crowded. I was so wrong. I can not describe how jammed it was. People fell on each other. Be it a holiday or working, it does not matter. The temple holds a huge crowd from 7.45am to noon and from 5.30 pm to 9.30pm.It is said that the deity Krishna was emerged in the forests of Nidhivan (one of the famous forests in Vrindavan). Around 1864, a saint named Haridas shifted the black statue of the Lord to the present temple and since then the same Banke Bihari Ji is still worshipped and cared.Actually the name Banke Bihari is half Krishna and half Radha and the name Banke Bihari has a special meaning. Banke means “bent in 3 places” and Bihari means “supreme enjoyer”. The idol of Lord Krishna standing in “tribhanga (tri-bent)” pose is named as Banke Bihari. Locals call out Shri Banke Biharilal Ji.As I entered the temple, I saw people wit their hands high up in the air, smiling and singing out “Shri Krishna bolo hari Gopal bolo, Radha Raman hari Govind bolo”. For a moment I was transcend to another place by the melodious sound. The temple was decorated beautifully all over with flowers. And again, photos are not allowed. Now I was annoyed. I could not even take a picture of Banke Bihari Ji. He was mesmerizing. Even with the huge crowd, it had a divine feel in the air.I was nearly in the middle of the crowd when I entered. With so many people standing on the altar accepting flowers, I could hardly see the details of Banke Bihari. And I was determined that I would not leave this temple without getting a clear vision of the Lord. I made my slowly and steadily, bending and passing shoulder to shoulder in the crowd, I managed to reach up near Banke Bihari ji. I got on the top, left of the altar and could see the large crowd. I could not believe He was right in front of me. It was an eye-relishing moment as I could catch a good glimpse of Him and seek His blessings too. I did not miss any details of the Lord, that is the 3 bends namely at the neck, waist and knees. So charming. Strangely, I felt that He was looking straight at me. He knows who I am and why I was standing before him. I sensed a connection. The lord already captivated my mind and soul. Just then the curtains were drawn and everyone became silent waiting for the curtain to lift again.Usually, every now and then the curtains are shut for few minutes and drawn back with the chanting of Thakur Ji(also called by this name by many devotees ). The belief goes like the brilliance of eyes of Banke Bihari Ji can make a person unconscious, if seen for too long. So, the priests regulates the curtain every few minutes so that people don’t keep gazing at the deity and are discouraged from staring at the idol for too long, in case they lose themselves.It was getting late and dark. I had one more temple to visit on pending. The priest in charge gave me a handful of some white fluffy kind of cream in my hand. I asked a lady nearby about its name. And she laughed and said “MAAKHAN”. I felt so fortunate and satisfied. I did not waste any time. Once out of the temple, I ate it all with the thought of Krishna likes to eat maakhan too.I wished I could stay longer but I had to catch another evening glimpse at another most wanted temple in my list. I rushed down lane to my rickshaw. Something inescapable happened. On my way back, I got licked by a cow on my back to my neck. I did not notice when she came so close as I was making my way through the crowd to exit the lane. Fact is, I can still remember that stickiness. It is certainly worth experiencing.         Next and final temple to visit was Krishna Balram Mandir; the very well-known Iskcon Temple located a little less than 3KM from Banke Bihari Temple. You can walk if you want to shop, eat or simply observe. I opted for a rickshaw ride, which is quite an adventure in the narrow streets of Vrindavan.  Few residents also call it “Angrezzi Temple” because it is one of those rare temples where you would find foreigners doing kirtan and wearing traditional Indian dress. This temple is very renowned and most visited temple of Vrindavan. Made in white marble with detailed carvings, I found it impressive. Good thing I noticed about was that you will not find any priest asking for dakshina (money) like other temples.        The main deities in the temple are Krishna and Balram, Radha and Krishna and Gaura Nitai. As I entered the temple, devotees were singing prayers extolling Lord Krishna. It was wonderful bliss to see the Lords eye tp eye. All the time I watched them on photos, calendars and videos. But watching Them in person was something. I was happy that I was on time for the evening aarti (prayers). In fact you should not miss the arati, it’s to die for. The smell surrounding of chandan (sandal) was making place more spiritual. After the prayers, I joined the team, singing and dancing together. Everyone was enjoying this moment. I could see only smiling faces. I knew I had to leave soon, so I begged for mercy from Them so that I can go back again. I felt very emotional as I was about to leave. It was not enough. If you want to feel spiritual ecstasy, this is the place!        With the thought that my day 1 trip came to an end, I called Raghoonath to pick me up from the temple to go back to the hotel in Mathura. It was already late. And when I asked him to take me back, he said that I could not leave Vrindavan without visiting the Prem(love) Mandir. After hesitating few times, he finally convinced me to visit it. I decided it got to be a quick one. He agreed.        Arriving there, I was surprised to see such a scene. It was a temple of lights. My mood changed and I was eager to get in and explore. The colors were changing and temple looked so unique with every new color. I grabbed my camera and started to capture whatever I could. The temple is really majestic and has intricate carving all around. It is spread over 45 acres with a beautiful garden. After visiting the deities of Radha and Krishna inside, I ran to the rickshaw. And now I was starving.        Raghoonath brought me back to Mathura. And on the way we stopped at a nice restaurant. I convinced him to share the meal. The food was yummy and spicy to full volume. That was a real feast. Then, I was back to my hotel and refreshed myself after such a long day. I had to pack my bag as another destination was waiting for me next day. As I slept, I recalled all the places I had been to and I could not stop scrolling pictures that I took from my mobile. I had now a different perspective about India. I started to love India more.