As strange as it may sound, have you ever been on a temple spree? Well, you read it right. That’s exactly what I experienced recently. And I must say, it wasn’t just exciting to visit these holy places but it further strengthened my belief in the almighty.
The weather had just started to turn pleasant which means – a bit more on the colder side, and December had started showing its winter colors. A friend called up to plan a day trip and I happily agreed. Turns out it was a trip to Mathura & Vrindavan. With a plethora of temples in the city, it can be exhausting to visit all if you wish to cover them in one go.
I knew little about the city except that it has many temples scattered all around in devotion to Lord Krishna & his lady love Radha. But for the love of travel & that too in the company of my friend, who too is an avid traveler and staunch devotee, I went ahead to see what the day holds for me, rather us.
Embarking on the journey early morning, we left Noida around 8 AM. Driving through the Yamuna Expressway, our first stop on this pilgrimage was the iconic and renowned Bānke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan –
Banke Bihari Temple –
Situated in the middle of the town, the temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is one of his most revered and popular shrines. Bānke’ means ‘Bent’, and ‘Bihari’ or ‘Vihāri’ means ‘Enjoyer’. This is how Krishna, who is bent in three places, got the name “Bānke Bihari“. This makes for an interesting visit to view the Lord in the ‘Tribhung’ Posture.
People from across the country come here to pay tribute to Lord Krishna. The temple is overcrowded most of the time and especially during Janmashtami. The temple is open from morning 8-9 AM to 12-1 PM and then 4:30 -8 PM in the evening.
When you enter the city, there are ample parking spots near the temple and since the weather was pleasant, we parked our vehicle and walked a bit towards the temple. I always like to walk around a bit to explore the places I visit. Experiencing the local flavor is what I like.
Our next stop was the Rangaji Temple which was
The main temple courtyard is constructed in the Dravidian style (South Indian) with a Baoli (Common Bath/Water Tank) at one side and a well-kept garden on the other.
The walls of the temple have colorful images and carvings that took me back to my childhood home which had similar wooden carved doors and iron hooks.
In the center of the courtyard, stood a 50ft. high gold-plated pillar adding on to the beauty of the already fascinating temple. The pathway was clean and cold with black and white marble checkered floor across the temple. Walking barefoot had a calming effect on my state of mind.
Word of Caution – Too many monkeys around. Keep your phones and wallets safe. Better to keep everything in your car during your visit to the temple. You can shop later as well. The temple is fairly large, yet you can walk around by yourself at leisure, so avoiding the guides is a good idea to save some moolah. There are a few shops around the temple where you can buy traditional and holy things like prayer beads, books, and even clothing.
Radha Raman Temple –
Moving ahead, we turned towards the Radha Raman Mandir at the back side of the Rangaji Temple. You can easily go through the temple into a narrow alley and reach the Radha Raman Temple. Situated in a house like structure with exquisite ancient carvings and resembling Mughal architecture, the temple is known by many and come here for few seconds of a visit to the deity carved in Black stone. The idol is captivating to look at and as they say it- is one of the few original idols left in Vrindavan today. I have heard – coming here on a full moon night is considered auspicious.
Coming out from the temple, we chanced upon the Kachori wala in the lane and decided to taste it. The combination of Aloo ki sabzi with Khasta Kachori is a must if you visit Vrindavan. Having our stomachs almost full of the delicious breakfast, we headed towards our next stoppage before it would close.
ISKON Temple –
Devoted to the bothers – Krishna & Balram, the foundation of this temple was laid by His Acharya Srila Prabhupada with the view of enhancing the experience of the International devotees of the society for Krishna consciousness. Also known as Sri Sri Krishna Balram Mandir, the temple is a marvel of architecture and soothes the eye as soon as you enter it. With marble archway paving the way towards the main hall, you can see the peacock staircases on either side and intricately designed walls adorning the temple beautifully.
As we moved forward, we saw the ‘Toli’ of singers sitting and chanting the name of almighty in his praise. Devotees from across the world come here to pay homage and serve in the name of the lord. Many of them held important positions and were serving there.
There are three altars here which represents Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Shri Krishna and Balaram, and Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundara respectively. We were lucky to reach just-in-time to attend the ‘aarti’. The aura transforms your subconscious to a spiritual world and you become ecstatic & transfixed when you look at the gorgeous deities right in front of you.
You can sit there for as long as you want and enjoy the beauty of the courtyard while gorging on the ‘Prasadam’ which is a feast in itself to die for. You can also take a walk around the temple which has many book stalls, Samadhi Museum, bakery, restaurant, ashram, a broadcasting studio and much more to explore.
Feeling extremely hungry by this time, we went across the road to try the roadside ‘Chhole Bhature’ and Dhoklas to satiate our hunger. Food in Varanasi is mostly vegetarian and you can easily lose yourself in a variety of flavors around the city.
It was almost late afternoon, and it was almost the end of my pilgrimage tour, but the trip wasn’t over yet. There were more places to go to which I will cover in my next blog.
The drive back to Delhi was equally beautiful as the whole town is vibrant, colorful and bustling with people and devotees. We took the road passing the small towns instead of the highway and witnessing the ‘Golden Mustard’ fields on either side of the narrow path-enhanced my overall experience and made it even more memorable. Amazing company of a friend, delicious food, and pleasant views made my journey worth mentioning here.
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