Vrindavan

Vrindavana is 135km south of Delhi and 55km north of Agra, just off the Delhi-Agra Road. It is 12km or a 25-minute auto-rickshaw ride from Mathura. It has a small-town atmosphere with narrow streets and not much motor traffic. There are said to be over 5,000 temples in Vrindavan.

Orientation and Information
Vrindavan is a maze of small streets. Everywhere you walk there are temples. The Govindaji and Ranganatha temples are in the eastern part of town. In the middle of the downtown area is Loi Bazaar, a main shopping bazaar to get devotional items and clothing.

The Krishna Balarama Mandir (Hare Krishna Temple) is in a peaceful area called Raman Reti, about a 15-minute bicycle-rickshaw ride from the main downtown area. The road in front of the Hare Krishna temple is called Bhaktivedanta Swami Road. It is also referred to by its old name, Chatikara Road.

A good detailed guidebook about Vrindavan and the surrounding area is Vrindavan and Braja Mandala also published by Spiritual Guides. It gives a good description of most of the places in the area, directions how to get there, and stories about these places. Vrindavan, Govardhan and Radha Kund by Rajasekhara Das are three good color picture books.

Weather
During the summer the temperature is between 22°C (71°F) and 50°C (122°F). The winter has a low of 4°C (40°F) and a high of 25°C (77°F). The rainy season is from the end of June to September.

During the summer months of May and June, Vrindavan is one of the hottest places in the world. It can be very cold in the winter, from the end of November to mid-February. During the winter you need warm woolen clothing in the morning, but the weather is usually all right during the day.

The weather is perfect from late September to mid-November, during the month of Kartika. Also the month of March and the first half of April is perfect.

Tours
There is a Braja Darshan bus tour (Rs 40, 8 am to 6 pm) departing from the Vrindavan bus stand. It goes to Nandagram, Varsana, Govardhan town, Manasi Ganga, and Radha Kund. There is no guide. It is a good, fast, cheap way to go to these places. You can also get this bus in front of the Krishna Balarama Temple.

Water
Most of the tap water in Vrindavan is dangerous to drink and tastes horrible. If you do drink water from the tap or a well, you should only drink water that you see the locals drinking. It is best to ask the locals what water is safe to drink.

Directly across the street from the ISKCON Temple there is a tap that many people drink from and usually do not get sick. This water tastes good and is suggested, if you choose to drink tap water. Also the water at MVT is supposed to be all right.

Doctors and Hospitals
There is a good Ayurvedic doctor on the road going to Banke Bihari Temple from Loi Bazaar, called Dr Narottama Lal Gupta. His son Liladhar Gupta, speaks English well and is also good. They also practice at their house at 502 Purana Bazaar (442-665; fax 443-914).

If you have jaundice (hepatitis) there is a good doctor in downtown Vrindavan who is a disciple of Shyamasakhi. One person told me that he was almost dead and was saved by this doctor. His house is down a side street right next to the STD phone on the road between Banke Bihari Temple and Loi Bazaar.

Across the street from the ISKCON temple at the pharmacy, Guptaji prescribes Ayurvedic medicines that I have found to be helpful with basic ailments, such as infections, cuts and basic stomach disorders.

Saraf Hospital, Bhaktivedanta Swami Rd (also called Chatikara Road), the road going out of town past the ISKCON Temple, and Ram Krishna Hospital are two places that can be used in an emergency. Better than these two places is Methodist Hospital in Mathura. If there is a serious illness it is highly suggested to go to a hospital in Delhi.

For a long-term illness I recommend going to Delhi and seeing Dr Triguna or going to the Tibetan Clinic. Both places have been given good recommendation for being effective (see the Delhi section).

WARNING! Often doctors in Vrindavan try to convince foreigners to get expensive long-term treatment for stomach, liver and other disorders, that they do not need. It is a good idea to get a second opinion before buying expensive medicine.

Monkeys
You have to be careful of the monkeys, because if you give them a chance, they will steal anything they can from you. They especially go for your eyeglasses, bananas (small surprise), and other fruit. They can jump down from a roof and snatch your glasses off your face in one swipe. While you are trying to get your friend’s glasses back, another monkey can come and steal your glasses too (true story). On the Vrindavan parikrama path there is a spot by the Yamuna River where you have to duck down to go through a doorway. This is a favorite spot for the monkeys to steal glasses. They also bite, especially small children. Children like to bother monkeys, and the monkeys won’t take any nonsense from them.

Most of the time monkeys are sneak thieves and will not try to steal from a formidable opponent. Keep your eyes open for them, and never let them get too close to you without looking at them. Give them a look to let them know that you know they are there. Never turn and run from them, as they are extremely fast. If they go for your bananas and challenge you, renounce the bananas. This is a life and death situation for them. They are willing to die for a banana.

Krishna Balarama Mandir
This beautiful temple has Deities of Gaura-Nitai (left altar), Krishna Balarama (middle altar), and Radha-Shyama­sundara (Radha-Krishna on right altar). In front of the temple is the Samadhi Mandir of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

ISKCON: Vrindavan
This is where his body was laid to rest after he left this world and returned to the spiritual world.

Devotees chant the mantra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, both to themselves and in public. They follow in the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who lived in West Bengal in the 15th century, who taught that self-realization is attained by devotion to Krishna or God.

By the guest house entrance are the actual rooms that Srila Prabhupada lived in while in Vrindavan. The bed that you see is where Srila Prabhupada passed away in November 1977. In these rooms there are many of the personal items that he used while in Vrindavan and while traveling around the world.

The guest house and restaurant are the best facilities in Vrindavan. The guest house is usually full, so it is a good idea to try to book it in advance. The phone number for the guest house is (0565) 442-478. The temple address is Krishna Balarama Mandir, Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, Raman Reti, Vrindavan, Mathura District, UP. Rickshaw drivers know this place as the Angrasi (Englishman) Mandir.

ISKCON Temple Schedule
The Deities’ doors are open from 7.15 am to 12.30 pm. They close for a half-hour to offer food to the Deities a half-hour before each aratik. The temple is closed between 12.30 and 4.30 pm (4 pm in the winter). The temple reopens at 4.30 pm (4 pm in the winter) and stays open until 8.45 pm (8.15 pm in the winter). Sandhya arati is at 6.30 pm in the winter.

Temple Mangala Arati
Mangala Arati 4.30 am
Altar Closed 5.00 am
Greeting the Deities 7.15 am
Srimad Bhagavatam Class 7.50 am
Puspa Arati 8.30 am
Noon Arati 12.00 pm
Temple Closes 12.30 pm
Temple Reopens (Arati) 4.30 pm
Sandhya Arati (6.30 winter) 7.00 pm
Shayan Arati (8 pm winter) 8.30 pm
Temple Closes for Night 8.45 pm

Yamuna River
This is the most sacred river in India. The main reason it is so sacred is because it flows through Vrindavan and Mathura, and was thus intimately connected to Lord Krishna’s pastimes. One who bathes in the Yamuna can be purified of all sinful reactions and attain love of Godhead.

Keshi Ghat
Lord Krishna killed the Keshi demon here. Keshi Ghat is on the bank of the Yamuna. If you bathe here you get the benediction of bathing in all of the holy places. There is a Yamuna Arati performed here every day at sunset.

WARNING! Several people have been robbed at knifepoint at Keshi Ghat while doing Vrindavan Parikrama. It is not a good idea to bathe here if you have any valuables with you. You should be especially cautious if you are alone or it is getting dark.

Govindaji Temple
This magnificent Krishna temple was built in 1590 by Maharaja Man Singh from Jaipur and took several thousand men five years to build. The original Govindaji Deity was found about 450 years ago by xe “Rupa Goswami” Rupa Goswami. Govindaji was removed from this temple when the Muslim emperor Aurangzeb had his army destroy part of the temple. The original Deity is now in Jaipur, in a temple right outside the King of Jaipur’s palace.

Since this temple was partially destroyed by Muslims, it is considered that worship can not be done in this temple. Behind the temple, therefore, another temple was established where worship is performed to the Deities that were installed after Govindaji was removed and taken to Jaipur.

There are two small temples on two sides of the Jagmohan, the main audience hall. Inside the small temple on the southern side, down 12 steps is a cave in which the Deity of Govinda was found and where Rupa Goswami used to meditate. A deity of eight-armed Yogamaya sitting on a lion is also there. There is also a stone slab with the footprint of Krishna on it. Vrinda Devi, who is now in the town of Kamavan, used to be in the northern part of the temple.

Ranganatha (Rangaji) Temple
This temple is dedicated to Sri Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu), as is the famous temple in Sri Rangam in Tamil Nadu. It is constructed in the South Indian Dravidian style and has an impressive gopuram tower over the main entrance. It is the biggest temple in Vrindavan. Non-Hindus (non-Indians) cannot enter the main temple area where the Deity is located, but they can enter the courtyard.

Madana Mohan Temple
Advaita Acharya discovered the original Deity of Madana Mohan (Krishna) at the base of an old vat tree, when he visited Vrindavan. He entrusted the worship of Madana Mohan to his disciple, Purusottama Chaube, who then gave the Deity to xe “Sanatana Goswami” Sanatana Goswami. Worshiped along with Madana Mohan are Radharani and Lalita.
This 18m (60 ft) high temple was built in 1580 on a 15m (50 ft) hill next to the Yamuna. Ram Das Kapoor paid to build the temple.

One day a ship he owned loaded with merchandise went aground in the Yamuna. He was advised by Sanatana Goswami to pray to Madana Mohan for help. The ship came free and the owner of the ship made a big profit, which he used to build this temple.
The original Madana Mohan Deity was moved from Vrindavan to Jaipur when the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s soldiers attacked Vrindavan in 1670. That Deity is now in Karoli, which is southeast of Jaipur in Rajasthan. There is a new Madana Mohan Temple at the bottom of the hill, where the replacement Madana Mohan Deity is now being worshiped. Worship was moved to this new temple because the Muslims contaminated the old temple.

On the side of the temple is the bhajan kutir (meditation place) of Sanatana Goswami. There is also a sweet water well here that Sanatana Goswami used.

At the bottom of the hill, down a side road to the left of the temple, is the samadhi of Sanatana Goswami. On the side of the samadhi are the puspa-samadhis of Candrasekhara Acharya and Tapana Misra, two of Sri Chaitanya’s associates. Behind Sanatana Goswami’s samadhi is a grantha samadhi, which contains some of the original manuscripts of the Goswamis.

Radha-Vallabha Temple
This popular temple was founded by Hit Harivamsa Goswami, a disciple of Gopala Bhatta Goswami. Darshan is 6 am to 12 noon and 6 to 9 pm.

Radha-Damodara Temple
Jiva Goswami founded this temple. The main Deities here are Radha-Damodara. Other Deities worshiped here are the Radha-Vrindavan Candra Deities worshipped by Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami, the Radha-Madhava Deities of Jayadeva Goswami, and the Radha-Chalacikana Deities of Bhugarbha Goswami. The original Deities were all moved to Jaipur.

The samadhis of Jiva Goswami, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, Rupa Goswami and the puspa-samadhi of Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami are here. The bhajan kutirs (meditation place) of xe “Rupa Goswami” Rupa Goswami and Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are also here.

There is a Govardhan Shila in this temple that was worshiped by Sanatana Goswami. It has Lord Krishna’s footprint on it, and it was given to Sanatana Goswami by Krishna himself. For a small donation the pujari will show you this shila. You can see the imprints of Krishna’s footprint, walking stick, flute, and the hoof-print of a calf imbedded in the shila. Maharaja Man Singh of Amber (Jaipur) built this temple. The doors of the altar are open from 8.30 am to 12 pm and 5.30 to 8 pm.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived here for six years from 1959 to 1965. He translated and wrote commentaries on the first three volumes of the Bhagavatam here. When you enter the courtyard of the temple, Srila Prabhupada’s rooms are to your right.

Radha-Gokulananda Temple
In this temple you can see the Radha-Vinod Deities of Lokanath Goswami, Radha-Gokulananda Deities of Viswanath Cakravarti, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Deity of Narottama Dasa Thakur, Vijaya Govinda Deities of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and the Govardhan-shila given to Raghunath Dasa Goswami by Sri Chaitanya. The samadhis of Lokanath Goswami, Narottama Dasa, and Viswanath Cakravarti are next to the temple.

Radha-Gopinath Temple
The Deity of Gopinath (Krishna) was discovered at Vamsivat by Paramananda Bhattacarya, who entrusted the Deity’s worship to Madhu Pandit. On the altar are deities of Srimati Radharani and her sister, Ananga Manjari. Madhu Pandit’s samadhi is next to the temple.

Gopinathji was originally installed in Vrindavan by Vajranabha, the great- grandson of Krishna. When the Muslims raided Vrindavan, the original Gopinath Deity was taken to Jaipur.

Radha-Raman Temple
Gopal Bhatta Goswami established this temple. The Deity of Sri Radha-Raman (Krishna) was manifested from one of Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s shalagram-shilas on the full moon day of Vaisakha (April/May) in 1542. This event is celebrated every year (May) by bathing the Deity with 100 litres of milk and other auspicious items. Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s other shalagram-shilas are also worshiped on the altar. The appearance place of the Sri Radha-Raman Deity is next to the temple. Radha-Raman is one of the few original Deities of the Goswamis still in Vrindavan.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s kaupina (cloth) and asana (seat), which Gopal Bhatta Goswami brought from Jagannath Puri, are also in this temple. They are brought out to be seen by the public three or four times a year. The asana is black wood and is about 30cm (12″) by 25cm (10″). Gopala Bhatta Goswami’s samadhi is to the left after you enter the first gate from the street into the temple compound.

The fires for cooking in the temple kitchen have been burning continuously for over 435 years, since the Deity was installed. This is so no foreign elements, such as matches, are used for ignition purposes.

Darshan is usually 9 to 11 am and 6 to 8 pm. According to the season, times may change.

Radha-Syamasundara Temple
In this temple are the Radha-Krishna Deities of Syamananda Prabhu. Darshan is from 8.30 to 12 am and 5 to 8 pm.

Seva Kunja (Nikunjavan)
This is where Krishna would massage Radharani’s feet and decorate her hair with flowers. Once Krishna pushed his flute into the ground here and created a small kund, called Lalita Kund, to satisfy Lalita Sakhi’s thirst. No one is allowed within the enclosure at night. The numerous monkeys that are here during the day also leave at night.

Nidhivana
Radha and Krishna are said to take rest here after dancing, and other conjugal affairs. Nidhi means “sleep.” There is a small temple here which has a bed where Radha and Krishna are supposed to take rest. The samadhi of Haridasa Swami is here. He discovered the Banke Bihari Deity here.

Banke Bihari Temple
This temple (1864) was established by Haridas Swami, a contemporary of the six Goswamis. This is the most popular temple in Vrindavan, especially in the month of Sravana, during Jhulan Yatra. It is an interesting temple to visit.

The curtain before the Deities is not left open like at other temples. Every few minutes the curtain is pulled shut and then opened again. The Deities do not get up until 9 am. The temple has mangala-arati only one day a year. Only one day a year can the lotus feet of the Deity be seen, on Akhyaya Tritiya. Darshan is from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 6 to 9 pm.

Gopiswara Mahadeva Temple
Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krishna, installed the Siva-linga in this temple. It is said that the big pipal tree here is a kalpa-vriksha tree and will fulfill all desires. This temple is in the Vamsivata area.

Kaliya-hrada
At Kaliya-hrada, there is a kadamba tree that Krishna jumped from to chastise the Kaliya snake.

Deoria Baba Ashram
Located across the Yamuna in a secluded area this ashram was where Deoria Baba lived in a hut located above the ground. For years Deoria Baba did not touch the ground. His two senior disciples now run the ashram and give classes and speak good English. To get to this ashram, you take a boat across the river at Keshi Ghat and then walk about 20 minutes to the right (south).

Vrindavan to Mathura Road
Gita Mandir is a large temple which has a Gita Stamba— a pillar with the Bhagavad Gita carved on it. The Birla family built it. Pagal Baba Mandir, is a beautiful large marble temple, close to Vrindavan.

Vrindavan Parikrama
It is customary for devotees to walk around the town of Vrindavan. There is a parikrama path that goes around the town. This path is one street over from the ISKCON temple. It takes two or three hours to walk around the town.

Where to Buy
If one merchant tells you he will give you the exact same items as another merchant, but at a much cheaper price, more than likely you will be getting an inferior quality product. Most of the time, these merchants are working on a very low profit margin and cannot afford to give you a large discount. I demand a money back guarantee in case there is a defect in any of the products. A good merchant will gladly do this, as they will not want to ruin their reputation.

Ganga Prasada, end of Loi Bazaar, is one of the best places to get devotional clothing. They have an excellent selection of items, and the quality is guaranteed or you can return it. They are highly recommended.

Gangotri, next to Ganga Prasada, is a good, trustworthy cloth merchant with many high quality items.

Rasbihari Lal & Sons are directly across from Ganga Prasada in Loi Bazaar. They have a good selection of devotional items, books, and pictures at good prices. Upstairs there are many more items.

Hare Krishna Das, another shop that sells many of the same items, is to the left a few shops down. Sometimes their prices are cheaper for the exact same items, but they do not have as good a selection.

Dinesh Cloth Merchant, Loi Bazaar, has good quality cloth and they are fairly easy to communicate with.

Mahesh Cloth Merchant has a good selection of items and is fairly easy to communicate with. He usually has new items that no one else has and good bags and bead bags.

Khadi Bhavan is a government undertaking that sells good khadi (hand-woven cotton) products at a fixed price. The month of Gandhi’s birthday, October, they have a 30% off sale.

Rajendra Tulasiwala, Loi Bazaar, has good quality and prices on tulasi and other beads. They can make custom orders of beads that you design yourself.

Heera Jewellers, in the beginning of Loi Bazaar by the Loi Bazaar Post Office, Gopaldas Emporium and Shriji Jewellers are all honest silver jewelers with a good selection of items.

Six Fingers Narayana is known to be one of the best tailors in Vrindavan. To get to his shop, go to the end of Loi Bazaar, make a right at the T intersection, and go down about 10 shops. His shop is on the right.
Matang Perfumers, across the street from the ISKCON Temple, has a good selection of incense and oils. Some people think they sell the best incense in India, and other people do not like this variety of incense.

Shipping: Shishu Kumar Agarwal, who has a trunk shop next to Ganga Prasad, also ships things out of India. He sells many other items at reasonable prices.

ISKCON Guest House Shop is a well-stocked shop with different devotional and gift items. There is a good selection of quality

Rajasthani goods, devotional books, semiprecious jewelry, gift items, and western goods.

WARNING! I have heard of many people being pick-pocketed in Loi Bazaar. A group of women thieves working together are supposed to be active there. They may even act like they are customers and rob you while you are sitting in a shop.

Where to Eat
ISKCON Guest House has a good selection of reasonably priced items that include a thali. Some good items on the menu are fried rice, dhal fried, mixed vegetable, gobhi-alu, chips (French fries) and the cheese (panir) preparation.
There is a booth at the ISKCON Temple that serves pizza and other snacks. You can also purchase a good selection of maha-prasada in the temple room. The baked goods are usually very good. You can eat temple prasada breakfast and lunch.
MVT has a good A/C restaurant on the top floor. It has good pizza, Indian and Continental food. Recommended, but it is not cheap.
You can get cold drinks and good lassis across the street from the ISKCON Temple at Biharilals. This place is also a good general store.
There are a few good fruit and vegetable stands across the street from the ISKCON Temple. They are conveniently located, but they usually charge around 25% more than what you pay for the same items downtown. They may also overcharge you and have a problem adding correctly (always in their favor), so it is a good idea to carefully add up the bill yourself.

Travel

Air
The closest International airport is in Delhi (150km, 3½ hr).

Train
There is no long-distance railway station in Vrindavan. The closest major railway station is in Mathura, about 14km away or a half-hour taxi ride. There is a passenger train between Mathura and Vrindavan.

Bus
There are buses to Delhi that you can get at the Vrindavan bus stand or in front of the ISKCON Temple at 5, 7, and 9 am, and 12 noon, 2.30, and 4 pm.
Buses to Vrindavan or Mathura from Delhi depart from either the Interstate Bus Terminal near Kashmiri Gate, in Old Delhi, or from the Ashram bus stop in the southeast part of Delhi. There are a few direct buses from Delhi to Vrindavan, but most of the buses go to Mathura (every half-hour). If you take the Mathura bus, you get down at Chatikara Road and from there get a motor-rickshaw or a tempo. You should ask the conductor of the bus to inform you when you reach Chatikara Road, or ask a few passengers to help you get off at the correct place. After dark it may be difficult to get a rickshaw at Chatikara Road. After 8 pm, it is best to get off the bus in Mathura and get local transportation to Vrindavan.
There is a direct bus to Jaipur at 5.45 am from the Vrindavan bus stand. You can also get buses to Agra (1 hr). There is an overnight bus, with thin seats, that goes to Haridwar at around 8 pm. The bus stand is about a twenty minute bike-rickshaw ride from the ISKCON Temple.
There are many buses to Haridwar, Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi that depart from the two bus stands in Mathura.

Taxi
Taking a taxi is the most convenient way to reach Vrindavan from Delhi (3½ hr, 150km) if you have a few people in your group, are a family with children, or you just want to be decently comfortable. If you take a long-distance taxi you will be charged for both going and returning, as it will be difficult for the taxi driver to get a return fare.

Mathura to Vrindavan
The easiest transportation to take between Mathura and Vrindavan is a taxi (25 min) from the Mathura railway station or a motor rickshaw (30 min from Mathura).

From the railway station there are often very crowded shared motor rickshaws (tempos) that go to Vrindavan. To get a tempo you may have to take a bike-rickshaw to the main road and from there get a tempo. From the main road, tempos depart every few minutes. Tempos also depart from the New bus stand and from Krishna Janmasthan. Once you reach Vrindavan you have to take a bike-rickshaw.

Buses from Mathura to Vrindavan leave infrequently from the Old bus stand, so it is better to take one of the regular tempos or an auto-rickshaw. There is a small train that leaves Mathura Junction at 9 am and 8 pm that goes to Vrindavan. It returns from Vrindavan at 9.30 am and 8.30 pm.

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