One of the most pristine places to visit around the year, the land of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan offers visitors not only a spiritual retreat but a plethora of historical monuments to explore as well. Replete with ancient houses, temples and an array of delicacies, the place which is around 3 hours by car from Delhi could be a perfect getaway for people who want a respite from the conundrums of daily life. Incidentally, Vrindavan is derived from the words Vrinda (holy basil) and van (forest) indicating a forest of holy basils.
Interestingly, while Vrindavan was a relatively important place in the ancient past, owing to its association with Lord Krishna, the place lost its essence over time until the 16th century, when it was rediscovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The holy sage visited Vrindavan to locate the lost holy places associated with Lord Sri Krishna's transcendental pastimes. It was believed that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was able to locate all the important places of Krishna's pastimes in and around Vrindavan by His divine spiritual power.
However, while there are the usual tourist attractions in Vrindavan, including the Banke Bihari temple, ISKCON, Prem Mandir et al, not many knows of the hidden gems and treasures lying unknown in the lanes and bylanes of the ancient city. So if you are planning to go for a weekend to the holy city of Vrindavan, here are 5 lesser-known places you must visit.
Madan Mohan Temple
A stone's throw away from the popular Banke Bihari temple, Madan Mohan, which stands atop the Dvasaditya Tila has a spiralling tower of 60 feet is often considered to be the oldest temple in Vrindavan. Located near the Kali Ghat it was built by Kapur Ram Das of Multan. Legends say that this was the first temple to be built in Vrindavan at the request of Sanatana Goswamu and the idol of Krishna worshipped here was discovered by Sanatana Goswami. It is believed that the idol here was one of three made by Krishna's great-grandson. A red stone staircase leads up the tila to the main temple. There are two other structures beside it, one is the older temple and the other, a kirtan hall, both of which have fallen into disuse. The Yamuna and Banke Bihari's temple can be seen from the hillock as well.
Sri Radha Raman Mandir
Constructed at the request of Gopala Bhatta Goswami, the temple houses a saligram deity of Krishna as Radha Ramana, alongside Radha. Constructed around 1542 AD, it is among the 7 temples of Thakur of Vrindavan including Sri Radhavallabh ji, Shri Govind Dev ji and four others. The temple also houses the samadhi of Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami and the rarely available Unag vastra of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as well.
Built in 1876 by Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow, the temple housing the Chote Radha Raman Ji is noted for its magnificent architecture and beautiful marble sculptures. The temple has twelve spiral columns each 15 feet high and a hall with Belgian glass chandeliers and paintings. Built in the form of a palace for Sri Radha Krishna, Shahjii temple uses styles of Lakhnawi, Rajashthani and Italian architecture.
Dedicated to Lord Ranganatha as Lord Vishnu resting on the coils of the sacred Sesha Naga, the temple was built in 1851 and boasts of a gopuram of six storeys and a gold-plated Dhwaja stambha, 50 feet high.
Meera Bai Temple
Dedicated to Meera Bai, the temple is located at the southern side of Shahji temple and near the Nidhivan. With its tiny courtyard and whitewashed wall, Meera Bai temple is a pristine monument located where it is believed Meera Bai reached the heights of her sadhana. It is a peaceful place to sit and meditate.
Located on the banks of River Yamuna, the Kesi ghat is another place one must visit when in Vrindavan, According to legends, Lord Krishna killed the Kesi demon there and took a bath at the Ghat thereafter. The daily Yamuna aarti during the evening makes the place a must visit. With its arched doorways, ornate windows and mammoth staircases, the place is a wonderful example of ancient craftsmanship.