Braj Yatra – an exploration of less heralded pilgrimage spots in Braj
By: Hare Krishna Movement – Vrindavan
The Srimad Bhagavatam describes the pastime of how the Gopis worshipped Goddess Katyayani to achieve Krishna as their husband. This is described in the Krishna Book thus:
According to Vedic civilization, unmarried girls from ten to fourteen years of age are supposed to worship either Lord Siva or goddess Durga in order to get a nice husband. But the unmarried girls of Vrindavana were already attracted by the beauty of Krishna. They were, however, engaged in the worship of goddess Durga in the beginning of the Hemanta season (just prior to the winter season). The first month of Hemanta is Agrahayana (October–November), and at that time all the unmarried gopis of Vrindavana began to worship goddess Durga with a vow. They first ate havisyanna, a kind of food prepared by boiling together mung dhal and rice without any spices or turmeric. According to Vedic injunction, this kind of food is recommended to purify the body before one enacts a ritualistic ceremony.
All the unmarried gopis in Vrindavana used to daily worship goddess Katyayani early in the morning after taking a bath in the river Yamuna. Katyayani is another name for goddess Durga. The goddess is worshiped by preparing a doll made of sand from the bank of the Yamuna…The unmarried gopis used to prepare the deity of goddess Durga and worship it with candana pulp, garlands, incense, lamps and all kinds of presentations—fruits, grain and twigs of plants. After worshiping, it is the custom to pray for some benediction. The unmarried girls used to pray with great devotion to goddess Katyayani, addressing her as follows: “O supreme external energy of the Personality of Godhead, O supreme mystic power, O supreme controller of this material world, O goddess, please be kind to us and arrange for our marriage with the son of Nanda Maharaja, Krishna.”
The Vaishnavas generally do not worship any demigods. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura has strictly forbidden all worship of the demigods for anyone who wants to advance in pure devotional service. Yet the gopis, who are beyond compare in their affection for Krishna, were seen to worship Durga. The worshipers of demigods sometimes mention that the gopis worshiped goddess Durga, but we must understand the purpose of the gopis. Generally, people worship goddess Durga for some material benediction. Here, the gopis prayed to the goddess to become wives of Lord Krishna. The purport is that if Krishna is the center of activity, a devotee can adopt any means to achieve that goal. The gopis could adopt any means to satisfy or serve Krishna. That was the superexcellent characteristic of the gopis.
They worshiped goddess Durga completely for one month in order to have Krishna as their husband. Every day they prayed for Krishna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, to become their husband.”
Today at the place where the Gopis worshipped Goddess Katyayani stands the Katyayani temple. There is a beautiful pancha loha deity of Goddess Katyayani, and many pilgrims visit this temple to take her blessings to become devotees of Krishna. Opposite the temple is a nice pond. This temple is close to the Rangji temple. To get here, one takes the road from Rangji to Mathura. At the first intersection, where the Vrindavan Nagar Palika office is situated, one takes a left and proceeds until the road turns to the left. Without turning left, one proceeds straight ahead, cutting across an open mud ground and enters a concrete lane with huge walls on both sides. The road turns left and one enters the metal gate to turn right and the Katyayani temple is to one’s right immediately after this.