BRAJ: The land of Krishna
Located about 115 km from Delhi on Agra-Delhi national highway, Braj lays in the golden triangle region of Agra-Jaipur-Delhi. Spread across the central doab region of Ganga – Yamuna Rivers and adorned with the benevolence of supreme lord Radha and Krishna, Braj is the land of rich culture and heritage in India. As per the geographical statistics Braj spans around the area of around 3800 sq. Km.
Situated along the banks of river Yamuna (also known as Kalindi) Braj can be divided into two units, the eastern side of the Yamuna encompassing places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna, while the western side region of the river spanning the Mathura region along with Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Nandgaon and Barsana. Brajbhoomi as closely related to the mythological epics of Vishnupuran, Mahabharata, Bhagvata and Varaha Purana originally inherited its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Vraja’ which is closely linked to pastimes or leelas of lord Krishna, the eternal and complete manifestation of God or the’ Purna Avatar’ with his cows, cowherd boys (Gopas), cowherd girls (Gopis) and divine supremacy Sri Radha. It’s said in traditional scriptures; “Brajati gacchati iti brajah” (व्रजति गच्छति इति व्रजः). So, the land full of groves, hills, lakes, forests, where cows and people roam around is actually described as Braj. Brajbhoomi has solely witnessed the pastimes of Sri Krishna, and thus is called the land of the supreme Lord Krishna who is the expositor of the sacred Hindu epic Shreemadbhagvata. Along with Yamuna, around 137 sacred groves and 1000 kunds have been the centers of the pastimes of lord Krishna from childhood till youth.
Brajbhoomi is known for its rich culture and allures thousands of pilgrims every year during the endless festivities in the region. Krishna ‘Janmashtami’ and ‘Braj ki holi’ are the major festive attractions which should never be missed by the tourists in Braj. Apart from this, Rasalila & Charkula dance depicting the love harmony of the divine couple Radha-Krishna is an integral tradition of Braj. The people of Braj are called Brajvasis and the language spoken is called Brajbhasha which is quite similar to spoken Hindi. Most of the bhakti and devotional poetry is written in Brajbhasha. In one of such poetry written in Brajbhasha, the famous Muslim poet Raskhan and the great devotee of Lord Krishna describes the glory and pays his ultimate reverence to the land of Braj in his poetic verses and desires to be a part of it.
According to the legends of religious history Vrindavan has been considered as most sacred place for pilgrims. Vrindavan, which was an uninhabited dense forest for centuries earlier, is today adorned with thousands of temples imaging its rich culture and proximity to the divine couple Radha-Krishna. As per the legends, Sri Radharani is the eternal goddess of Vrindavan. According to the writings in Brahma Vaivarta Puran (5.4.2); once, Sri Radharani was having a dialogue with Lord Krishna regarding the open love expression of gopis (cowherd Maiden) for Sri Krishna, suddenly a gopa named Shridama (cowherd boy) intervened in between. So, in a fit of anger and jealousy Sri Radha condemned Shridama to descend upon the earth in the form of devil Sankhachura. He in return, cursed her to become the maiden of Vrindavan and thus she descended from Goloka to bhuloka (earth) born as the daughter of Kedara (Vrishabhanu) and his wife Kalavati. So, the land of Vrindavan relishes its eternal importance owing to the fact that, lord Krishna enjoyed his pastimes of rasa lila with Divine Radha and Gopis on this sacred land along with other major childhood pastimes.
During the tyrant rule of Aurangzeb in 16th century, Vrindavan had to suffer a great loss due to destruction of its major Hindu temples. When Aurangzeb ordered his soldiers to attack and destroy its major shrines, the deities of few of these temples were either hidden in Kunds or sent to Jaipur. In 16th century Chaitanya Mahaprabhu a saint from east with start of the Bhakti Movement along with his followers rediscovered Vrindavan and recovered all the hidden deities and installed them. He is said to be the incarnate of Lord Krishna in this Kaliyug. Vrindavan has an individual parikrama (circumambulation) of about 10 kilometer.