Braj Yatra – an exploration of less heralded pilgrimage spots in Braj
By: Hare Krishna Movement – Vrindavan
Vasudeva then addressed Nanda, “My dear brother, you were old and very anxious to beget a son, and yet you had none. Now by the grace of the Lord you are fortunate to have a very nice son. I think that this incident is very auspicious for you. (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, chapter 5)
Nandotsava, is also a very fortunate occasion, because after Krishna's birth, Maharaja Nanda, the father of Krishna, he celebrated a utsava, a ceremony, and this day is called Nandotsava. So a little I shall speak about Nandotsava. Nanda Maharaja, he was a little elderly when Krishna was born, and some of his friends came to congratulate, "My dear friend, you have got a son in your old age," and Nanda Maharaja said amongst the friends that "How can you say I am old? An old man cannot beget a child. I am young man." So these things are stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. (Lecture, Hamburg, September 5, 1969)
Nanda Maharaja (an old man of not less than 50 years) is observing celebration. Many cowherd boys are coming with milk and curd on a balancing stick on their backs (see enclosed picture). Nanda Maharaja, who is the chief amongst the cowherd men, is giving them presentations of cloth, ornaments, fruits, etc., and there is feasting going on. Some of them are enjoying by throwing butter upon their friend's bodies. (Letter to Jadurani, Los Angeles, January 15, 1969)
Folklore has it that Nanda Maharaj and Yashodamayi did not have any children and they were advancing in age. Hence Nanda Maharaj took a vow that if were to get a child, he would visit the holy places of pilgrimage in Badrinath and Kedarnath. Subsequently, when he had crossed fifty years of age, Krishna appeared as his son. A few years later, Nanda Maharaj remembered his vow and decided to take the arduous journey to visit Badrinath and Kedarnath. Krishna, not wanting Nanda Maharaj and Yashodamayi to take such hardship in their old age, brought Nanda Maharaj to this place and asked him to close his eyes.
When he opened his eyes, Badrinath had appeared there and Nanda Maharaj and Yashodamayi could visit the places and fulfill their vows.
Badrinath is located in Kamyavan (Kaman), Rajasthan
In front of the entrance to the temple is a good sized kunda, called the Tapas kunda. Behind the Tapas kunda and next to the Badri Narayan temple is a small gate with a foot trail leading away from it. This trail leads to a small stream of water, which is flowing from the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna.
The path is full of stones and it is advisable to wear one’s footwear before taking up this trek. It passes between 2 hills – Nara and Narayana parvats.
After a little distance, the path leads up one of the hills to a small temple of Lakshmandev. Folklore has it that Lakshmadev performed austerities here.
Behind the Lakshmandev temple, one can have Darshan of Gangotri and Yamunotri – two streams coming down two hills. When one faces the two streams, the stream to one’s left is Gangotri and to one’s right is Yamunotri. There is also an imprint of Krishna’s lotus feet on one of the rocks here.
Behind the Lakshmandev temple is also the Lakshman jhula, which is an overhanging crop of rock, like a cantilever. It is said that Lakshmandev did his meditation on this rock. Pilgrims are invited by the temple pujari to sit on this and chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra.
From behind the Lakshman Jhula, there is a steep descent of rocks forming crude steps, which one can cautiously negotiate to descend to where Ganga is flowing. The descent is treacherous and can be attempted only by the brave hearted and nimble footed.
Walking upstream along the stream leads one to a very pleasant and scenic spot – Dev Sarovar.
Reaching here, again is not for the soft footed as the path here is beset with stones and thorns, passing through forest like surroundings. But it is worth the effort and fills you with a sense of achievement and peace.
Dev Sarovar is a small lake, but in idyllic settings. One may take bath here to purify oneself. Its serenity and spiritual atmosphere is ideal for some chanting and meditation on Krishna.
On the way back to Badri Narayan temple, one can also visit Har ki Pauri. It is said that the Ganga stream used to flow here in olden times. There a few stone steps reminiscent of the ghat where pilgrims used to take bath in the Ganga here, just as they do at Haridwar. Now the Ganga stream doesn’t flow here and the stone steps are surrounded by agricultural fields. One should take the help of some local person to find the path to this place, as it is not so easy to locate.
Braj Chardham Yatra ki jai!
Note: The best time of the year to visit this place is July-August during the rainy season when there will be water in Ganga and Yamuna. This place is dry for the rest of the year.