Sri Radha Govindaji Temple
Srila Rupa Gosvami has described Mathura-mandala: “I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamuna River, so beautiful amid the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss.” This feeling about Mathura-mandala and Vrindavana described by Rupa Gosvami can actually be felt even by non-devotees. The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathura are so beautifully situated on the banks of the River Yamuna that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world. These statements by Rupa Gosvami are factually realized descriptions of Mathura and Vrindavana. All these qualities prove that Mathura and Vrindavana are situated transcendentally. Otherwise, there would be no possibility of invoking our transcendental sentiments in these places. Such transcendental feelings are aroused immediately and without fail after one arrives in Mathura or Vrindavana. (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindu)
Govinda is Krishna
Govinda is another name of Krishna which means that He gives pleasure to the cows and He gives pleasure to the senses. Sri Govindadev is Vrindavaneshwara – the Lord of Sri Vrindavana. In the Skanda, Padma, Varaha and other Puranas, He is said to be Vrindavana’s King.
Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita states:
vrindavane kalpa-drume suvarna-sadana maha-yogapitha tahan, ratna-simhasana
tate vasi’ ache sada vrajendra-nandana ‘sri-govinda-deva’ nama sakshat madana
In Vrindavana, in a great place of pilgrimage underneath the desire trees, is a golden throne bedecked with jewels. On that throne sits the son of Nanda Maharaja, Sri Govindadeva, the transcendental Cupid. (Adi-lila 8.50-51)
srimad-radha-srila-govinda-devau presthalibhih sevyamanau smarami
In a temple of jewels in Vrindavana, underneath a desire tree, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne. I offer my humble obeisances unto Them. (Adi-lila 1.16)
Gopala-tapani Upanisha (Purva Khanda, Text 38), states tam ekam govindam sac-cid-ananda-vigraham – You are Govinda and Your form is transcendental, full of knowledge, bliss and eternality.”
History of Sri Govindadev Deity
The Deity of Govindadev is one among the three Deities of Krishna carved by Vajranabha under the guidance of Uttara. This Deity resembles the face of Krishna. It is said that one who has the darshan of the Deities of Sri Madana-mohana, Sri Gopinatha and Sri Govindadev, in a time span of one day (before sunset), is benefitted the blessings equivalent to seeing Lord Krishna Himself.
Rediscovery of Sri Govindadev Deity
Like other Deities of Vrindavana, over a period the Deity of Govindadev was lost and remained hidden. Srila Rupa Goswami was ordered by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to excavate all the lost holy places of Vrindavana. Rupa Goswami searched all over Vrindavana to locate yogapitha, the resting place of the original Deity of Govindaji, but after months of immense searching, the Deity could not be found.
Every day Rupa Goswami would perform the ten miles parikrama of Vrindavana. One day, during his parikrama, he became very restless thinking about the Deity of Sri Govinda. He sat down under a tree on the bank of the Yamuna and wept, yearning for His darshana. At that time, a beautiful Vrajavasi boy who was also doing parikrama walked past. He saw Sri Rupa Goswami weeping under the tree, and asked him why he was crying. At first, Rupa Gsowami said nothing, but when the boy persisted, he revealed to Him the pain in his heart. The Vrajavasi boy brought Rupa Goswami to Goma-tila and said, “Please listen. Every day, just before noon, one cow comes to this mound, and irrigates this place with the milk from her udder. I think that your desire will be fulfilled here.” Saying this, the boy immediately disappeared.
Thinking of the beauty and sweet words of the boy, Sri Rupa Goswami fainted. Upon regaining consciousness, he called the neighbouring Vrajavasis, who very carefully dug up the milk drenched earth at that place. There, a little under the ground, was Sri Govindaji, more beautiful than millions of cupids. They bathed the Deity with great ceremony. News of this spread quickly, and crowds of people gathered to take darshana of Sri Govindaji – the life of Vrindavana.
Sooner Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally sent His own Deity form, Sri Gaura-Govinda, to Vrindavana, with His associate Kashishwara Brahmachari. That same Deity is nearby, in the southern part of the Govindaji temple.
The Temple of Radha Govindaji
The construction of the temple of Radha Govinda began under the guidance of Raghunath Bhatta Goswami and his disciples headed by Raja Man Singh of Jaipur sometime after 1570. It was the most impressive edifice that Indian art had ever produced in the whole of Northern India. It was a marvel amongst the temples in India. It towered into the sky seven stories high and was built on top of the hill where the Deity was first discovered, making it the tallest building in this part of India. The temple was completed in 1590. The temple of Radha Govindaji is one among the seven Goswami Temples in Vrindavana.
A small temple was built to the left side of Govindaji temple to mark the spot where the Deity of Govinda was found. This is the site of yogapitha. This temple houses the Deity of Yogamaya. This Deity of Yogamaya was worshipped by Srila Rupa Goswami and is one among oldest Deities of Vrindavana (5000 years old). This Deity was found with the Deity of Govindaji. Yoga Maya is glorified as Krishna’s sister.
The yogapitha is the main meeting place of Srimati Radhrani and Lord Krishna. In the morning they meet at Vrinda-kunda, at midday at Radha-kunda and in the evening, around sunset, They meet at the yogapitha at the Radha Govinda temple. These are the three original yogapithas in Vraja.
One has to request pujari for darshan of yogapitha temple as it remains closed all the time. On the right side of the main temple, in a small temple was the Deity of Vrinda-devi who is now being worshipped in Kamyavana.
Along with Lord Krishna as Giridhari and Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, the altar in the old temple also houses the Govardhana shila which has an impression of Lord Krishna’s lotus feet.
Aurangzeb Attacks Vrindavana
Less than one hundred years later, Emperor Aurangzeb, the Muslim ruler, was standing on the ramparts of his fort at Agra, and noticed a bright light burning in the far distance. Upon being informed that this was a large ghee lamp kept atop the Radha Govinda temple in Vrindavana, he became furious that a Hindu shrine was taller than any Muslim building and immediately ordered its destruction. By the time the soldiers arrived, Sri Govindaji and all the important Deities of Vrindavana had been moved to safer places. The soldiers of Aurangzeb dismantled the top floors of the Govindaji temple and desecrated the sanctum sanctorum as well as mutilated all the stone carvings within the temple. It is also said that while the soldiers were in the process of dismantling the temple, Hanuman became furious and stopped them from further destroying the temple.
Situated behind the original Govindaji temple is this new temple of Radha Govinda which houses the Pratibhu murtis of Sri Radha Govindaji.
The original Deities are in Jaipur in the palace grounds. The pratibhu murti is considered non-different from the original Deity. It is yet another transcendental pastime of how Govindaji moved from Vrindavana to Jaipur.
How to Reach?
One can visit the temple of Radha Govinda by two-wheeler, four-wheeler, hand driven rickshaw via a place named Atalla Chungi. This temple is surrounded with a buzzing market.
The Glories of Sri Govindadev
Regarding worship of the form of the Lord, or Deity, Rupa Gosvami has written the following verse: “My dear friend, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don’t look upon the form of Krishna, who is standing on the bank of Kesi-ghata [a bathing place in Vrindavana]. He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. And His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky.”
The purport of this verse is that if someone becomes attached to the sri-murti, or Deity of Krishna, by worshiping at home, then he will forget his relationships of so-called friendship, love and society. Thus it is the duty of every householder to install Deities of the Lord at home and to begin the process of worshiping along with all of his family members. This will save everyone from such unwanted activities as going to clubs, cinemas and dancing parties, and smoking, drinking, etc. All such nonsense will be forgotten if one stresses the worship of the Deities at home. (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu)
In the tantra-sastra Lord Siva speaks to his wife, Sati, in this way: “My dear wife, a person who has surrendered himself at the lotus feet of Govinda and who has thus developed pure Krishna consciousness can be very easily awarded all the perfections desired by the impersonalists; and beyond this, he can enjoy the happiness achieved by the pure devotees.” (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu)
In the Varaha Purana there is a statement praising the seeing of the Deity of Sri Krishna in the temple. A devotee says there, “My dear Vasundhara, any person who goes to Vrindavana and sees the Deity of Govindadeva is free from the courthouse of Yamaraja and is allowed to enter into the highest planetary system, in which reside the demigods.” This means that even an ordinary person who goes to Vrindavana out of inquisitiveness and by chance sees the temple, especially that of Govindadeva, even if he is not elevated to the spiritual kingdom, is still assured promotion to the higher planetary systems. This means that simply by visiting the Deity of Govinda in Vrindavana one becomes highly elevated in pious life. (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu)