HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE OF MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN
“We must understand the transcendental importance of Mathura-Vrndavana and Navadvipa-dhama. Anyone who executes devotional service in these places certainly goes back home, back to Godhead, after giving up his body.” -Srila Prabhupada
Mathura is the transcendental abode of Lord Krishna and not an ordinary material city. It is eternally connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At present the place known as Vrindavan in the district of Mathura, continues its position as a transcendental place and certainly anyone who goes there becomes transcendentally purified. The effulgent ground of Vrindavan is fashioned with many wonderful and colourful cintamani jewels, the trees and vines are full of blissful spiritual fruits and flowers, the birds make a great tumult by reciting the hymns of the Sama Veda, and the lakes and streams are filled with transcendental nectar. It is a land of Krishna’s eternal transcendental pastimes. As Mathura and Vrindavan are intimately connected with Krishna eternally, it is said that Lord Krishna never leaves Vrindavan.
The heritage of Vrindavan dates back to five thousand years when the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna made His advent on this earth and spoke His immortal words, the Bhagavad-Gita. During the time of Sri Krishna, the most sacred Vraja Dhama consisted of twelve verdant forests with flower laden twining vines and fruit trees of all seasons, bird songs that rent the air with sweet sounds, cool breezes and the Yamuna’s waters that enhanced the atmosphere. Lord Sri Krishna performed His loving pastimes (lilas) with His most glorious devotees in the forests of Vraja, on the banks of River Yamuna, in the groves and gardens of Vrindavan and in the precincts of Govardhana Hill, revealing His own nature in complete disclosure.
When Lord Sri Krishna concluded His transcendental pastimes on this earth, His great grandson,
King Vajranabha established many of the holy places as villages named after the pastimes (lilas) of Krishna. He installed many deities of Krishna and revealed many kundas (sacred ponds) and kunjas (sacred groves) where Sri Krishna had performed His pastimes. But, this spiritual glory of Mathura was almost forgotten and besieged by political and religious attacks.
History has been the witness to the repeated attacks on the entire Indian sub-continent including Mathura and Vrindavan, by the Persians, Afghans, Greeks, the armies of Alexander the Great, Mahmud of Ghazni, Timur and Babur. In 1018 AD, Mahmud of Ghazni and his hordes made a devastating attack on Mathura which left Mathura’s history almost as a total blank during the five hundred years from Mahmud’s first attack, and thus fell into total obscurity.
The advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on this earth in 1486 was to personally exemplify and broadcast the science of Bhagavad-Gita that Lord Sri Krishna had spoken during His advent 5,000 years before. Sri Chaitanya also turned a spotlight on Krishna’s most glorious devotees in Vrindavan. He taught that the most sacred place where Lord Sri Krishna appeared with His most exalted devotees is Sri Vrindavan. In October 1512, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at Vrindavan, in search for the site of Krishna’s pastimes. Only Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, with His divine vision, could discern the exact locations of Krishna’s lila amidst the thick forests of Vrindavan. He ordered His principal disciples, the six Goswamis of Vrindavan, to excavate the newly discovered sites and build temples there. Sri Chaitanya did this during the height of the Mughal persecutions testifying His fearlessness and extraordinary supra-natural abilities. The Goswamis also displayed great bravery by following Sri Chaitanya’s orders and going to Vrindavan during the reign of a series of fanatical sultans.
In contrast was the enlightened reign of Akbar from1556 to 1605. Akbar tried to fuse the best of all
cultures and thus he would invite Hindu sages to his court to recite the slokas of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Akbar’s religious tolerance permitted flourishing of temples, particularly in Vrindavan. In 1573, Akbar even paid a visit to Vrindavan and met the Goswamis. They led him blindfolded into the sacred Vrinda groves at Nidhivana, where Lord Sri Krishna and Radha had rested after the rasa dance. There, surrounded by sacred tulasi trees, the emperor experienced the power of the divine still radiating so potently all around him. He felt it intensely in his entire being. The welling of awe affirmed its divinity. He experienced a vision of such intensity that he proclaimed Vrindavan to be unarguably a holy ground indeed. He therefore supported the Hindu kings, who, at the request of the Goswamis, decided to erect a series of magnificent buildings in homage to Lord Krishna.
In early 1960s and 1970s, a great devotee of Lord Sri Krishna and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada spread the supreme instruction of Bhagavad-Gita and the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world and inaugurated the Hare Krishna Movement on a global scale. Following in the footsteps of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,
Srila Prabhupada also highlighted the importance of the devotees of Vrindavan and the holy place of Sri Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada brought devotees from all over the world and explained the glorious position of the holy place, Sri Vrindavan Dhama.
It is believed that in the sacred land of Vrindavan, the results of all devotional activities performed here are multiplied a thousand times. Therefore, one can make rapid advancement if one lives without committing any offences in the holy dhama. If however, one does commit offences, they are also magnified a thousand times; therefore, one is advised to carefully avoid committing any offences on Vrindavan dhama.
By engaging in parikrama or circumambulation of Vrindavan, one not only pays proper respect to the holy dhama, but one also washes away innumerable sins accumulated over many, many life times. If one circumambulates any temple of Lord Krishna or Lord Vishnu, one becomes freed from innumerable sins, but by circumambulating the whole of Vrindavan, one automatically circumambulates over 5,000 temples all at one time.
Vrindavana-dhama is a place of ever-increasing joy. Flowers and fruits of all seasons grow there, and that transcendental land is full of the sweet sound of various birds. All directions resound with the humming of bumblebees, and it is served with cool breezes and the waters of the Jamuna.
Vrindavana is decorated with wish-fulfilling trees wound with creepers and beautiful flowers. Its divine beauty is ornamented with the pollen of red, blue and white lotuses. The ground is made of jewels whose dazzling glory is equal to a myriad of suns rising in the sky at one time. On that ground is a garden of desire trees, which always shower divine love. In that garden is a jewelled temple whose pinnacle is made of rubies.It is decorated with various jewels, so it remains brilliantly effulgent through all seasons of the year. The temple is beautified with bright-coloured canopies, glittering with various gems, and endowed with ruby-decorated coverings and jewelled gateways and arches. Its splendour is equal to millions of suns, and it is eternally free from the six waves of material miseries. In that temple there is a great golden throne inlaid with many jewels. In this way one should meditate on the divine realm of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vrindavana-dhama.