Vrindavan, in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh is a town on the site of the original forest of Vrindavana. It is about 15km away from Mathura city, near the Agra-Delhi highway.
Also known by the name Vrindaban, Brindavan, or Brindavana, or Brindaban it is the site of the original mythic forest or forested region, in which the Hindu deity Krishna spent his childhood. He was raised there in the cowherding village of Gokula by foster parents.
Two major categories of the stories of Krishna are placed in this forest. First, there are the stories of him as a child, killing demons, stealing butter and indulging in childhood pranks. Secondly, there are the stories of him as a young man, playing with the girls and young women of the village. These inspired the works of the Gita Govinda.
In later times the name of the forest has often been used within Hindu India, to represent an idyllic place or garden.
It is the location of many ancient and several modern temples and religious institutions based on the connections with Krishna's childhood. It is the most important Vaishnava place of pilgrimage and is the theological center for many forms of Vaishnava Theology, including Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology.
The Madan Mohan Temple located near the Kali Ghat which was built by Kapur Ram Das of Multan. This is the oldest existent temple in Vrindavan today. The temple is closely associated with the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The original image of Lord Madan Gopal was shifted from the shrine to Karauli in Rajasthan for safe keeping during Aurangzeb's rule. Today, a replica of the image is worshiped at the temple.
The Banke-Bihari Temple built in 1864 is the most popular shrine at Vrindavan. The image of Banke-Bihari was discovered in Nidhi Vana by Swami Haridas, the great Krishna devotee, belonging to the Nimbarka sampradaya.
The famous Radha Vallabh Temple set up by the Radha - Vallabh sampradaya, has the crown of Radha-Rani placed next to the Shri Krishna image in the sanctum.
The Jaipur Temple which was built by Sawai Madhav Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1917, is a richly embellished and opulent temple. The fine hand - carved sandstone is of unparalleled workmanship. The temple is dedicated to Shri Radha Madhava.
The Shahji Temple, another popular temple at Vrindavan, was designed and built in 1876 by a wealthy jeweller, Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. The deities (images) at the temple are popularly known as the Chhote Radha Raman. Noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculpture, the temple has twelve spiral columns each 15 feet high. The `Basanti Kamra' - the darbar hall is famed for its Belgian glass chandeliers and fine paintings.
The Rangaji Temple, built in 1851 is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha or Rangaji depicted as Lord Vishnu in his sheshashayi pose, resting on the coils of the sacred Sesha Naga. The temple built in the Dravidian style has a tall gopuram (gateway) of six storeys and a gold - plated Dhwaja stambha, 50 feet high. A water tank and a picturesque garden lie within the temple enclosure. The annual festival of Jal Vihar of the presiding deity is performed with great pomp and splendour at the tank. The temple is also famous for its `Brahmotsdav' celebration in March-April, more popularly known as the `Rath ka Mela'. The ten day long celebrations are marked by the pulling of the rath (the chariot car) by the devotees from the temple to the adjoining gardens.
The Govind Deo (Govindaji) Temple was once a magnificent seven storeyed structure built in the form of a Greek cross. It is said that the Emperor Akbar donated some of the red sandstone that had been brought for the Red Fort at Agra, for the construction of this temple. Built at the astronomical cost of one crore rupees in 1590 by his general Man Singh, the temple combines western, Hindu and Muslim architectural elements in its structure. It was destroyed by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.
The Shri Krishna-Balram Temple built by the International Society for Shri Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), is one of the most beautiful temples in Vrindavan today. The principal deities of this temple are Shri Krishna - Balaram and Shri Radha - Shyama Sundar. Adjoining the temple is the samadhi of Shrila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, built in pure white marble.
The Radha Damodar Mandir Located at Seva Kunj, the Mandir was established in 1542 by Srila Jiva Goswami. The deities Sri Sri Radha Damodar are here. The bhajan kutir of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is also situated at the Mandir.
Other places of interest include the Sriji Temple, Jugal Kishore Temple, Kesi Ghat, Lal Babu Temple, Raj Ghat, Meera-Bai Temple, Imli Tal, Kaliya Ghat, Raman Reti, Varaha Ghat and Chira Ghat. The Seva Kunj is where Lord Krishna once performed the Raaslila with Radha-Rani and the gopis and Nidhi Van where the divine couple rested. The samadhi of Swami Haridas is situated here.