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Braja Mandal Parikrama Compiled by Arun Naik www.vastusindhu.

com Braj Dham is acclaimed in the Holy Scriptures as the most glorious abode of Lord Krishna. It is here that the Lord unraveled his enchanting and joyful "Lilas". Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu-the Supreme Lord was born to Devaki and Basudev, but was brought up by foster parents Yashoda and Maharaj Nanda -the epitome of parental love and affection-in Gokul and Vrindavan. During his formative years there, the Lord performed many a "Lila" which has sustained its appeal over the years as source of ethereal joy. The "Lilas" enshrined in the scriptures enthrall the human mind as incredible and unfathomable yet bewitching and captivating. The Lord, hence, has been endearingly addressed as Lila Purushottam Braj Dham, the cardinal abode of the Lord encompasses Vrindaban, Gokul and other parts of Brajabhumi according to the Holy Scriptures. Garga Samhita tells us that Golok Dham hems in an area of about 84 krosha or 168 miles ("Veda Naga Krosha Bhumi"). The "Skanda Puran", with reference to Golok Dham says "Gunanandam Param Bramha Byapakam Braja Uchhate", which means that Golok Dham represents an inseparable part of the Lord, an embodiment of eternal bliss and enlightment. Rishi Shandilya, voicing the same emotion referred to Braj Dham as "Sachhidananda Bhuresa". As the preeminent realm where the Lord, in a mortal guise, revealed his divine attributes, Golok Dham has inspired many a sage from Jagadguru Sri Nimbarka Bhagawan to our present Gurudeva Acharya Sri Swami Rashbihari Dasji Kathia Baba to make it their seat of spiritual learning and meditation (Sadhana). To highlight the allurement that Golok Dham holds for sages, we may draw an instance from the life of Swami Chatur Chintamani Nagaji Maharaj, the 34th Acharya of the Nimbarka Guru Parampara. He chose Vrindaban as the site for austere meditation with the cherished vision of gaining a sight (darshan) of Lord Krishna and his divine consort Srimanti Radharani. However, even after enduring sadhana he failed to achieve his coveted vision. Dejected by failure, he decided to abandon Vrindavan and head towards the Himalayas to pursue his meditation. As he started out of Vrindavan, his mattled locks got entangled in a thorn bush overhead. This made him all the more resolute and he decided that he would neither try to disentangle himself, nor take any food or drink till death overcomes him. He stood erect without out food or water for three whole days until, on the fourth day, the Lord and his abiding consort Radharani appeared before him. Tears of joy welled up in his eyes as the Lord lovingly disentangled his hair and Srimati. Radharani fed him food and water like a mother feeds her child. The Lord forbade him to abandon Vrindaban to which he agreed on condition that each family of Braj would give half the number of sons it rears and half the quantity of milk it collects to his sadhus and urged the Lord to proclaim the same to all and sundry. This phenomenon is popularly known as "Adha Dudh aur Adha Put". To this day, during Braja Parikrama the sadhus engage in a mock fight with the women of Braja to claim their share of milk. This episode accentuates the sacrosanctity of Braj Dham. In veneration to this hallowed abode of the Lord, every year Braja Parikrama is conducted in which ascetics from all over the country take part. In this pious journey the

sadhus traverse a distance of "84 krosh" and visit the "Lilasthals", ie. The sites where the Lord unleashed his divine powers. The important places which are visited in the course of this expedition are: 1. Bhuteshwar Mahadev: According to the convention established by Sri Swami Ramdas Kathia Babaji Maharaj, the 54th Acharya of the Sampraday, the Braj Parikrama commences from Bhuteshwar Mahadev ,after rendering obeisance at the alter of Lord Shiva, and concludes at the same site. 2. Govardhan : This is the famed site where Lord Krishna had sheltered the inhabitants of Braj from the incessant down pour that Lord Indra had brought about to prove his superior might. This is also the revered place where Sri Nimbarkacharya had lived a life of astringency to realize his spiritual goals. Hence this holy sight is also known as "Neem Gaon". 3. Puchri: This place derives its name from the Hindi word "Puch" which means to ask or enquire. It is said that in this place Lord Krishna suddenly disappeared before the eyes of Radharani and other Gopis. These perturbed and anxious ladies there after set out enquiring after His whereabouts. As such this place is known as Puchri. 4. Anjanvan: This is the place where the Lord had performed one of His most adorable "lilas". Anjanvan captivates the devotees as the place where the Lord had smeared "Kajal "(Kohl) in Radharani's eyes. 5. Pisaya: On reaching this woodland, during one of his excursions with the Gopis the Lord had dug a well with his flute to quench his thirst. Hence, it is known as Pisaya. The Ashwathama grove, located in this place, attracts thousands of devotees as they believe that a circumambulation of the same would fulfill their desires. 6. Sanket: Sanketbihariji's temple is located in this place. It is here where Radharani and the other Gopis would beckon (sanket in Hindi) the Lord for a rendezvous. 7. Versana: This is the birth-place of Radharani. This place is believed to be endowed with supernatural powers. Hence many an ascetic has chosen this place for their spiritual accomplishments. 8. Kadamkhandi: The 39th Acharya of the Nimbarka Sampradaya attained enlightment here after the performance of arduous spiritual labour. 9. Kamvan Gayakund: The Lord had promised his mother Yashoda that he would establish all kinds of pilgrimage sites in Brajbhumi. Towards this end, he established the Kamvan Gayakund where ceremonial obsequial to the deceased is performed. 10. Maherana: This is the birth place of Ma Yashoda and is acclaimed as the site where the Lord makes his presence felt till date.

11. Chotibathen: Lord Krishna, the younger brother of Balaram used to seek repose in this place. 12. Badibathen: Balram chose this site as his place of recess. 13. Koshikalang: Nandababa, the Lord's foster father maintained his royal store house in this place. 14. Paigram: Nimbarkachrya Chatur Chintamani Sri Nagaji Maharaj was born in this place. The initial years of his spiritual toil unfolded here. 15. Biharvan: it is believed that this glorious site is visited by the Lord and his cortge even today. 16. Chiraghat: In this river bank the Lord engaged in many a playful activity with the Gopis. 17. Nanda Ghat : From this pivot Nandababa ran his administration 18. Dauji: This is an eminent site of pilgrimage in Brajdham. Located here is a huge temple dedicated to Balaram, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. 19. Chintaharan: A grove that has won wide recognition as the sight where the Lord removes all worldly anxieties that encumber the devotees and fill their heart with divine joy. 20. Brahmand Ghat: In this illustrious location the Lord, as a child, had swallowed mud. On being remonstrated by Ma Yashoda, he opened his mouth and revealed the entire cosmos within it. 21. Ramareti: The Lord and his companions had spent many an enthralling moment in this place. On reaching this site, in the course of Braja Parikrama, the devotees smear themselves with the dust of this holy site to absolve themselves of all sins. 22. Gokul Mahavan: The Lord had spent his neonatal days in this place with his foster parents. This place houses a huge palace supported by 84 pillars. Braja Parikrama initiates every year on the auspicious "Aja Ekadasi" just after the celebration of Janmasthami-the joyful commemoration of Lord Krishna's birth. This journey spans across 42 days and it covers, in its course, a distance of 250 km approximately. Sadhus of all age and physical constitution defy the jitters of death to take part in it, as they believe that breathing their last during this rarefied toil would take them to the threshold of "Vaikuntha"- the abode of the Supreme Lord. Referring to this auspicious and redeeming exercise the 54th Acharya of the Nimbarka Guru Parampara Swami Ramdasji Kathia Baba commented that "One who undertakes this pilgrimage (Braj Parikrama) will be eventually liberated from the cycle of life and death. The animate soul that undergoes the cycle of 84 lakh life and death, to attain the cherished human life, achieves its liberation through this blessed toil. It is the axiomatic truth".

Braja Parikrama or the circumambulation of Braj Dham is performed as an act of reverence to Braj Dham. Braj Dham, especially Vrindaban which occupies an exalted position in the heart of devotees not only as the worldly abode of the Lord but also because it has been consecrated by the touch of the feet of Gopies .The scriptures narrate that even the Lord and his friend Uddhavji prayed that they would be born as the grass growing in Vrindaban only to receive on their body the dust from the feet of the Gopies. Jagad Guru Sri Nimbarkacharya has elucidated in a shloka "I reminisce the glory of Vrindavan" which is forever the Lilasthal (place of sport) of Jugal Sarkar- i.e. Lord Krishna and his consort Radharani. According to the established tradition the Braja Videhi Mahanta leads this spiritual excursion. Hence, Swami Rashbihari Dasji Kathia Baba, the present Acharya of the Nimbarka Sampradaya has been religiously leading this pilgrimage for the past 28 years. Sri Babaji Maharaj is loved and revered by the inhabitants of Braj Dham, who affectionately address him as Braj Dulha. They shower him with adulations as he passes by their habitats. Around three thousand sadhus take part in this spiritual exercise annually and provision of their Prasad and lodging is the obligatory duty of our Ashram. With the support of willing disciples and devotees, Sri Gurudev has been successfully conducting the Parikrama for years now. Thus, the ashram has held aloft the pennon of duty and devotion as propounded by Sri Nimbarkacharya. It is believed by staunch devotees that Lord Krishna performs Lilas even today in Braj Dham and to go by their narratives, many a pristine soul undertaking this journey has witnessed divine revelations. Swami Ramdas Kathia Babaji Maharaj used to sit neat the gate of "Nidhuban Sevakunj" to gain a vision of the Lord playing with his constant companion Radharani and the other Gopies. It was the Lord's promise that he would never leave Vrindaban ."Vrindabanam Parityajya Padamekamna Gachhami". Devotees undertake this journey with these hallowed words ringing in their bosom.

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This is the basic route that most parikramas of Braja Mandala take. From year to year the exact schedule may change, but this is the basic route that will be taken on Braja Mandala Parikrama. The parikrama visits most of the major pastime places and the 12 main forests in Braja. The parikrama starts in Mathura by bathing at Visrama Ghata. The parikrama then goes clockwise around Braja Mandala. It first heads southwest of Mathura. The parikrama then heads north visiting the seven main forests on the western side of the Yamuna. The parikrama goes south until it reaches Baldeo (Dauji). It then goes back north going through the forest of Mahavana. It then returns to Mathura, where it ends by bathing in Visrama Ghata. The first day begins by doing parikrama of the town of Vrindavana. The next day the walk is

from the town of Vrindavana to Mathura, visiting Akrura Ghata and Yajna Sthani (Yajna-sthala) on the way. After reaching Mathura, there is bathing at Visrama Ghata. Braja Mandala Parikrama usually begins by bathing at Visrama Ghata. The next day is parikrama of Mathura. The next day the parikrama leaves Mathura. The first forest to be visited is Madhuvana, which is where Dhruva Maharaja performed austerities and Satrughna, the brother of Lord Rama killed the demon Lavanasura. The village that you stay at over night is the small village of Madhuvana, which has almost no facilities The next forest that is visited is Talavana. This is where Lord Balarama killed the ass-demon, Dhenukasura. You also go throught the forest of Kumudvana, which is where Lord Kapila performed austerities. This day's walk ends at Santanu Kunda, which is in the small village of Satoya. The next day the walk is from Santanu Kunda to Radha Kunda. On the way one goes to Gandharva Kunda, which is where Gandharvas used to bath; Ghechari, Putana's birthplace; and the forest of Bahulavana. In Bahulavana one visits the Bahula Temple and Bahula Kunda, where the cow named Bahula showed truthfulness. From Bahulavana one then visits the village of Ral and Vasanti. King Vrishabhanu stayed at Vasanti before moving to Varsana. After visiting the village of Ral and Vasanti, one can go to Mukharai, which is the village of Radharani's maternal grandmother, Mukhara. The walk on this day could also end at the village of Ral. The following day is spent at Radha Kunda seeing the places there. The next day is Goverdhana parikrama. One of the first places to be visited is the village of Aniyora, where the Annakuta ceremony (Govardhana Puja) was performed. Then comes Sankarsana Kunda. Near Sankarsana Kunda is where Madhavendra Puri discovered the Deity of Gopal. At Petha, Krishna hid from the gopis. Punchari is the southern most point of Govardhana hill. At the tail-end of Govardhana Hill are Navala and Apsara Kundas. The Gandharvas and Apsara bathed here. Next is the Lautha Baba Mandir, which is near Apsara Kunda. Lautha Baba, who is a friend of Sri Krishna, is still waiting for Krishna to come back from Mathura. Visited next is Shyama Dhak, which was Krishna's and Balarama's playground. After visiting Shyama Dhak one comes to Raghava Pandita Gupha (cave), which is the bhajana place of Raghava Pandit. Then comes Jati Pura, which is Madhavendra Puri's village. Then one reaches Uddhava Kunda, which is the place where Uddhava resides as grass. The next day is the appearance day of Radha Kunda, which is celebrated at 12 midnight. Depending on the schedule of the parikrama this day may be before or after the Govardhana parikrama. On the next day one walks from Radha Kunda to Dig (Deeg). On the way is Asoka Lata, which is near Kusuma Sarovara. This is where Krishna braided Radharani's hair. At Naradavana, Narada Muni is said to have wrote the Narada Bhakti Sutras. After Asoka Lata comes Chakalesvara Mahadeva Temple and Sanatana Goswami's bhajan kutir. Both these places are right next to each other on the bank of Manasi Ganga, in the town of Govardhana. In the village of Gantholi (Ganthuli), Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to see the Deity of Gopalaji, who was kept

in this village for a short time. Then comes Bahaj, which is a village related to Indra. The walk on this day ends in the town of Dig. The next day the walk is from Dig to Badrinath. On the way one goes to Didavali; Khoh, which is famous for milk products; and Kadamba Kanana, which is a peaceful grove with large Kadamba trees. At Badrinath, there is the Badri-narayana temple and Tapasya Kunda, which is usually very cold. It is a fairly hard walk uphill to reach Badrinath. The temple here is in the middle of no where, on top of a good-sized hill. Badrinath is a peaceful place. The next day is spent seeing the places around Badrinath. Here, Trikuta Parvata mountain and Triveni Sangam, which is the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati, can be seen. One can also go to Haridwar, Har Ki Pairi, Rishikesh, Laksman Jhula, and Nara Narayana Parvat. The next day is the walk from Badrinath to Kedarnath, going through the village of Alipur Pasopa on the way. At Kedarnath there is the Kedarnath Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Siva. Kedarnath is in the middle of no where and there are no facilities there, except for the temple that is there. The next day the walk goes from Kedarnath to the town of Kaman, which is in the Kamyavana forest. It stops at Charana Pahari, where the footprints of Lord Krishna are imprinted on a rock, on top of a hill. One also stop at Gaya Kunda, where Nanda Maharaja offered oblations to his forefathers. Kaman is a fairly big town with decent facilities. On the next day, one can go to see the places in the town of Kaman. Here, Vimala Kunda, which was formed by the tears of kind Vimala's daughters, can be visited. Then one continues the journey to the Sri Govinda Temple, where the deity of Vrinda Deva is worshiped. One can then go to the Madana Mohana and Radha Gopinatha temples. At Chaurasi Khamba Palace there are 84 ancient carved pillars. At the Kameshvara Temple, Lord Siva fulfill one's desires. The Dharmaraja Temple is dedicated to Yamaraja's son, Yudhisthira. Dharma (Panch Tirtha) Kunda is said to be the place where Yudhisthira answered all of Yamaraja's questions correctly. At Yasoda Kunda, Yasoda would sometimes wait for Krishna to come home to Nandagram. Ashokavana represents the Ashoka garden in Lanka, where Sita Devi was held captive. At Ramesvaram, Krishna displayed the pastime of building the bridge to Lanka. The next day the places around Kamyavana are visited. The places visited are: Prabhodananda Sarasvati's bhajana kutir, the Vyomasura's cave, Balarama's footprints, and Bhojan Sthali. The next day is spent walking from Kamyavana to Varsana. On the way one goes to Kadamba Khandi, which is Radha and Krishna's meeting place. Visited next is Sunera Grama, which is the village of Rangadevi and Sudevi. Then one go to Sakhi Giri Parvata. The gopis played in the area of Sakhi Giri Parvata. At Chitra Shila there is the imprints of Radharani's veil. You then go to the village of Uchagrama (Uchagoan), which is the village of Lalita Sakhi. Narayana Bhatta Goswami's bhajana kutir and samadhi are here. Narayana Bhatta Goswami is the devotee who established the path that Braja Mandala Parikrama follows. The walk on this day ends at Varsana.

The next day is spent visiting the places in Varsana. Vrishabhanu Kunda is named after Vrishabhanu Maharaja. Sankari Khor is a narrow pass in the rocks where Krishna used to collect taxes from the gopis. Vilas Garh is one of the four peaks of Brahma-giri. At the Mor Kutir temple, Krishna danced with a peacock. Krishna Kunda is the only kunda on the four hills of Varsana. Next to be visited is the Jaipur temple. A five minutes walk away, along the path on top of the hill, is the Larily Lal Temple, which is where King Vrishabhanu's palace used to be located. The next day, one walks from Varsana to Nandagram. On the way one can go to Pila Pokhar Kunda, which is where Radharani washed her palms. Prema Sarovara was made from Radha and Krishna's tears. Sanket is where Radha and Krishna would meet. Next to the Sanket devi Temple is Gopala Bhatta Goswami's bhajana kutir. Uddhava Kyari is where Uddhava delivered Krishna's message to the gopis. The Nandagram temple on the top of the hill is where the palace of Nanda Maharaja used to be located. The Nadisvara Siva Temple is in the Nandagram temple. Also visited is the Narasimha Varaha Temple; Pavana Sarovara, where Radharani would cook for Krishna; and Sanatana Goswami's bhajana kutir. The next day the walk goes to Khadiravana, which is where Lokanatha Goswami's bhajana kutir is located. In this forest Bakasura was killed by Lord Krishna. On the following day the walk goes from Nandagram to Kokilavana. Places visited on the way are a Siva temple, Ter Kadamba, Rupa Goswami's bhajana kutir and the village of Javat. Javat is where Radharani lived with her husband Abhimanyu. The next day the walk is from Kokilavana to Sesasayi. On the way, the Bathain Temple of Dauji (Balarama) and Charana Pahari, where there is located the foot prints of Lord Krishna, Balarama, some cows, elephants and deer, are visited. Also visited is Kotvana. In Sesasayi is the Sesasayi Temple, which has a Deity of Lord Vishnu lying on Ananta Sesa and Khsira Sagara, the ocean of milk. The next day is spent walking from Sesasayi to the town of Shergarh. The next day one from Shergarh to Chira Ghata. On the way is Rama Ghata, where Balarama performed the rasa dance and Khela Tirtha, which is where Mother Yasoda called Krishna and Balarama for lunch. One then go through the forest of Biharvana. At Akshya Vata, Krihsna and His friends would hang their lunch bags on the tree that is located there. At Tapovana the gopis performed austerities to gain Krishna as their husband. Chira Ghata is where Krishna stole the gopis' clothes. The Katyayani Temple at Chira Ghata is where the gopis prayed to get Krishna as their husband. The next day the walk is from Chira Ghata to the forest of Bhandirvana, passing the forest of Bhadravana on the way. One first go to Nanda Ghata, which is where Nanda Maharaja was arrested by Varuna, and then crosses the Yamuna River. In the forest of Bhadravana, Krishna killed Vatsasura. Balarama killed Pralambasura in the forest of Bhandirvana. At the Radha

Ananda Bihari Temple, Radha and Krishna got married. Next to this temple is Venu Kup, which is a well dug by Krishna with His flute. On the following day the walk is from Bhandirvana to Maan Sarovara. On the way one can visit the forest of Bilvavana (Belvan), where Krishna and the cowherd boys used to come for picnicking. One can also go to the place where Lakshmi devi performed austerities to enter into the rasa-lila. The next day the walk is from Maan Sarovara to Lohavana. At Maan Sarovar, Siva obtained a gopi form by taking bath in this lake, so he could enter the rasa dance. In the forest of Lohavana, Krishna defeated Jarasandha 17 times. The Radha Gopinatha Temple in Lohavana is visited. The next day the walk is from Lohavana to the town of Baldeo (Dauji). Here one visits the Bandi Anandi Temple of Yoga Maya and the Dauji (Balarama) temple. Next to the Dauji temple is Khsira Sagara, which was filled with milk as an offering to Balarama. The next day the walk goes from Baldeo to Brahmanda Ghata. Visited on the way is the Cintahran Siva temple, which is a place where all anxieties are taken away. Brahamda Ghata is where Krishna ate clay, and then showed His universal form to Mother Yasoda. The next day the walk is from Brahmanda Ghata to Raval, the birthplace of Radharani. Visited on the way are Utkhal, where the grinding mortar is located and Mahavana (Gokula). In Mahavana is the Chaurasi Khamba Temple, which was Nanda Maharaja's house. The last day's walk is from Raval to Mathura. One has to then bathe in Visrama Ghata to end the parikrama.