A Night in Vrindavan

November 2021

My mom had been to Vrindavan only once, and that was a long time ago. That had been a day trip of Mathura & Vrindavan, arranged by my dad’s office. I was a kid at the time and only remember that it was the sort of trip where you rush from one spot to another. My mom also didn’t remember much about that trip so Mom and I decided to go on a one night trip to Vrindavan.

I wanted the trip to be comfortable for mom and avoid the hassle of getting to the railway station in the early morning hours. So we tried Uber’s outstation services for the first time. While booking, the trip duration showed as 2.5 hrs. However, it actually took about an hour more, including breaks for CNG. Still, it was a fairly comfortable way of travelling to Vrindavan from NCR.

We stayed at the Nidhivan Sarovar Portico, which is about 5 kms from the popular Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan.

After a wholesome, vegetarian lunch followed by a brief siesta, we took an auto from the auto stand just outside the hotel. The auto driver agreed to take us to Prem Mandir, located about 2 kms from the hotel, then further up to ISKCON temple, and then bring us back to the hotel.

Prem Mandir, maintained by Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, is a beautiful temple built on a 55-acre site on the outskirts of Vrindavan. It’s a fairly new temple that was opened to the public in 2012. Constructed entirely of Italian marble, the temple is dedicated to Radha Krishna and Sita Ram.

Prem Mandir, Vrindavan

The highlight of the temple are the surrounding fountains and gardens, enlivened with figures of Shri Krishna and his followers. The temple complex has life-size depictions of four leelas of Shri Krishna – Jhulan leela, Govardhan leela, Raas leela and Kaliya Naag leela.

“Leela” basically means a miracle. Govardhan Parvat Leela depicts the miracle when Shri Krishna lifted the Govardhan Parvat to shelter the villagers from unrelenting rains.

Kaliya Naag Leela depicts the miracle in which Bal Krishna emerged from the River Yamuna dancing over the head of Kaliya Naag, the many-headed giant snake that had been poisoning the waters of the river.

Although a huge crowd had turned out, there was still sufficient space to walk around Prem Mandir as the temple grounds are huge. There was a well-managed token system for depositing your footwear before entering the main temple structure.

The night view of the temple is supposed to be breathtaking with beautiful lights and colorful fountains. However, as we had an auto waiting, we couldn’t stay to enjoy it.

The auto driver next took us to ISKCON temple. ISKCON, short for International Society for Krishna Consciousness or the Hare Krishna movement, has more than 150 temples spread all over India. I’m not sure if the Vrindavan one is the most popular of these ISKCON temples, but I had fond memories of the place. The most renowned temple in Vrindavan is the Banke Bihari temple, but it is almost always suffocatingly crowded. In my last visit to Vrindavan many years before, ISKCON temple had felt like a safe, peaceful haven after almost being crushed by the crowds at Banke Bihari temple. With mom with me, I dared not attempt a visit to Banke Bihari.

I had hoped mom would be able to sit and enjoy the kirtans at the temple, but it was not to be. As our day of visit was actually Govardhan Puja day, the ISKCON temple was also fairly crowded.

We headed back to our hotel around 7 in the evening and slept after an early dinner.

On the second day, we enjoyed a tamtam ride on our way to Nidhivan. As Vrindavan has narrow lanes and bylanes, the tamtam is the best way to get glimpses of life in Vrindavan. A tamtam is a sort of battery operated rickshaw. Most of the tamtams in Vrindavan are driven by teenaged boys with questionable taste in music.

We reached the lane outside Nidhivan after about a 20-min ride in the tamtam. The lane was too crowded for the tamtam to go in. Nidhivan is a sacred forest site, dedicated to Radha Krishna and the gopis. I’m not sure if it is large enough to be called a forest. The entire time we had to walk through bamboo barricades so we couldn’t freely explore the site. Devotees believe that Radha Krishna appear here every night when the twisted trees in the forest turn into dancing gopis and indulge in Raas leela. However, no one is allowed is allowed to stay in Nidhivan for the night and see for themselves.

After returning from Nidhivan, we checked out of the hotel and booked another Uber to return home.

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Published by Leena T Pandey

I have been reading voraciously since the age of five when I first discovered the joys of reading. I would lap up anything in print. Unrolling an emptied newspaper cone with one hand, stuffing roasted peanuts in my mouth with the other, all the while devouring the printed content on the cone with my eyes, was one of my first experiences in hedonistic pleasure. In fact, sometimes I feel that I am on an adventurous journey through the secret dreamworld of other people's imaginations, interspersed with occasional visits to my own life to attend events like graduation, first job, marriage, and so on. As a true-blue reader, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment on and critique other people's works of labour. I can tell exactly what puts the average reader to sleep, what sets their pulse racing, and what has them salivating for more. Write to me at leenatpandey@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “A Night in Vrindavan

  1. We are from Mathura. Been to Vrindavan countless time. Every time we visit our hometown, we go to Vrindavan covering Vaishno Devi temple, Prem Mandir, ISKON and at last Banke Bihari Ji Temple. Our favorite is Banke Bihari Ji though where you actually feel connected to the almighty. The Prem mandir is big and beautiful, but lacks the soul. Our personal view 😊. Thanks for visiting the place

    1. Great. My experience at Banke Bihari Temple was not too good in an earlier visit. It was crowded and there was lot of pushing and pulling. Then some kids in saffron dress came to us and said if for some extra money, they could takes us in through the back door for Banke Ji’s darshan. It didn’t leave me with a good feeling.

      1. Everything you mentioned is absolutely right. You will find it crowded almost every time (avoid festivals though), so is the hassle. The VIP treatment and “spend more, go first” practice in almost every famous temple is something we hate. But when devotion is the key, you ignore everything 😊. Just a glimpse of Bihari Ji 🙏 gives immense pleasure to our souls.

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