VARSANA (Barsana)

Situated high on a hilltop that overlooks Varsana is the majestically beautiful temple known as the Shriji Mandira. This is one of the most famous temples in Vraja. It was built on the spot where Radharani once lived in Her father’s palace. The temple is also called the Ladliji as well as Larilylal Mandira. Radharani spent the early part of Her youth here, prior to Her marriage with Abhimanyu. Although She was originally born at Raval near Gokula. When Krishna’s father moved his kingdom from Gokula to Nandagrama due to the fear of demons, his close friend Vrishabhanu Maharaja, Radha’s father, also moved his kingdom from Ravala to Varsana.

Nanda Maharaja and Vrishabhanu were both kings and rulers of the cowherd men, and both were extremely wealthy because they possessed thousands of cows and maintained large stocks of milk, butter, yogurt, ghee, as well as substantial stocks of grains. Both of them built opulent and spacious palaces on the summit of hills Each palace was fully equipped with all the necessities and included many luxurious and palatial rooms where their respective families resided. When Radharani arrived at Varsana, She was around five years old and on the verge of entering Her ‘kaishori-lila’. This is the period of her attaining youth-hood where she suddenly finds Herself being deeply attracted by the stunning beauty and lotus like eyes of Shri Krishna. He becomes not only the cynosure of Her eyes, but also the only purpose for which She seems exists. Her arrival at Varsana also marks the start of the celebrated ‘gopilila’. With the help of Her girlfriends the ashta-sakhis, She tries to capture Krishna’s heart through spontaneous acts of pure unadulterated love and devotion. Every day Radharani wanders through the beautiful verdant forests of Vraja accompanied by Her girlfriends and together they enjoy innumerable transcendental pastimes in the company of Shri Krishna. Bhakti-ratnakara says. “Here is Vrishabhanupura, also known as Varsana. Close to this mountain is the residence of Vrishabhanu. On this wonderful mountain the Prince of Vraja, Vrajendra-kumar, performs the dana-lila unseen by others. Here Radha’s proud pique was broken and where Krishna became intoxicated by performing so many wonderful pastimes. Between the two mountains is a narrow path known as Sankara-khora or ‘Danagati’, and the fun that They had there is completely indescribable. The dana-lila, mana-lila and vilasa-lila, all took place on the ridges of these two mountains. Radharani played with Her girlfriends here in Her childhood. In her adolescence she sported here with Her ‘sakhis’ and within the nipa groves, the ‘sakhis’ glimpsed the incredible beauty of her full youth-hood”. Besides being the ancestral home of Radharani, the Puranas say that Varsana is also mentioned as being one of the important upavanas or sub-forests of Vrindavana Dhama, where the transcendental pastimes between Radha and Krishna take place. During recent times, Varsana has become famous for the annual ‘Spring Festival’ known as the Holi-mela all over the world. This festival is celebrated with great fervor by the local people, who throw large quantities of both colored powder and colored water on each other as part of the festivities. It is also known as the ‘Festival of Colors’, which is celebrated throughout India as one of the major religious festivals. Radha and Krishna also played holi with Their many sakhis and sakhas at various places around Vraja including Seva Kunja, Shyama Kuti, and Ganthuli Grama.

It is believed that this festival has its origins in ancient Indian history, when Prahlada, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, was saved from death when his demonic father King Hiranyakasipu, ordered his sister, Holika to burn Prahlada alive because of his unflinching faith in Vishnu. However, Holika herself was burned to death and Prahlada was saved. The citizens celebrated the event as Holika-mela.