Mahavan is situated about six miles east of Mathura. It is also called Brihadvan, because it is the largest of all the forests.It has three names: Mahavan, Gokul and Brihadvan. This Gokul is non-different from Goloka. Parjanya Gopa, the father of Goparaja Nanda Baba, initially resided at Nandgaon where he had five sons – namely Upanand, Abhinand, Nand, Sunand and Nandan – and two daughters named Sanand and Nandini.While staying in Nandgaon he gave all his sons and daughters in marriage. His middle son, Nanda, had no offspring, which caused Parjanya Gopa great concern. He worshipped Narayan with the hope that Nanda would father a child. By a voice in the sky, he came to know that a very brave son would soon be born to Sri Nanda. This son would possess all good qualities and annihilate every demon. Some time after this aerial prophecy, Kesi and other demons began to cause a disturbance in Nandgaon. Parjanya Gopa along with his family and all of his relatives moved here to Mahavan- Brihadvan. The Yamuna flows close by Mahavan. This forest is beautifully decorated with different kinds of trees, creepers and flowers, and there are lush, green meadows for the cows to graze in. Beholding this beauty, the Brajvasi gopas became very pleased and happily began to reside here. Yashoda-mayya gave birth to the twins Krishna Kanhaiya and Yogmaya at midnight, in the delivery room at Nand-bhavan in Mahavan. Krishna killed the demons Putana, Trinavart and Shakatasur here, thus liberating them. Krishna and Baldev’s name-giving ceremony took place in the nearby cowshed (goshala) of Nand Maharaja in Mahavan. It was here that Rama and Krishna started to crawl on Their knees. Mother Yashoda tied the naughty baby Krishna to a mortar, and then Krishna delivered the Yamala-Arjuna trees. The childhood pastimes of Krishna and Rama up to the age of two and half to three years took place here in Mahavan.
The Pastime Places of Mahavan:
Danta Dhavan Tila
Nand Maharaja would sit on this small hill tila and clean his teeth (danta-dhavan) with a twig.
Nand Baba’s Residence
Around the base of Danta-dhavan-tila, stood the residences of Nand as well as those of his brothers and relatives. The ruins of these houses can still be seen today, even from a distance.
Nanda-bhavan is the place where Krishna and Balaram lived with Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda. The architect Visvakarma built the House of Nanda Maharaja over 5,000 years ago. It is on a hill at Old Gokul. It has 84 pillars and that is why it is called Chaurasi Khamba. Chaurasi means “84” and the pillars in this temple are said to be the original pillars from the house of Nanda Maharaja.
These are big Deities of Nanda Maharaja on the left, mother Yasoda on the right and Lord Balaram in the middle. Bellow them is Deity of baby Krishna swinging in the cradle.
The Supreme Lord Shri Krishna and Yogmaya took birth as twins from the womb of Mother Yashoda in her room in Nand’s palace. They were born at midnight on Astami (the eighth day after the full moon) in the month of Bhadra when the star (nakshatra) known as Rohini was visible in the sky. One can take darshan of Yogmaya here. Shrimad-Bhagavata vividly describes how the most fortunate Nand Baba became very joyful upon receiving a son. Nand Baba then called the brahmanas to perform the various purificatory rituals and other rites of childbirth. Shri Raghupati Upadhyay says: “In a world frightened by birth and death, some people take shelter of the Srutis, some of the Smrits and some of the Mahabharat. But I pay my homage to Shri Nandrai, in whose courtyard Parabrahma is playing as a child.” The place where Putana was liberated (Putana-uddhara-sthal) Putana disguised herself as a mother, smeared her breasts with deadly poison, and came to this place in Nanda-bhavana. Directly in front of Yashoda and Rohini, she was able to pick sleeping baby Krishna very easily. She took Him from the cradle and placed Him on her lap and begin to breast-feed Him. Krishna sucked out the deadly poison along with her life, thus liberating her from the body of a rakshasi. He then gave her the position of a dhatri, a nurse or foster-mother, in Goloka. In a previous life, Putana was Ratnamala, the daughter of Bali Maharaja. When, in the palace of her father, she beheld the beauty of Lord Vamanadeva, she desired to have a son just like Him. But when Vamanadeva took away everything from Bali Maharaja and bound him with a rope of snakes (nagapasha), she began to cry. She thought, “I would kill such a cruel son by feeding him breast milk mixed with poison.” Knowing her desire, Lord Vamanadeva gave her this boon, saying, “Evam astu – so be it.” Krishna therefore killed her in that form and gave Putana her proper identity as a nurse.
The place where the cart was broken (Sakat bhanjan-sthan)
Once, Krishna was sleeping in a cradle under a cart while Mother Yashoda busied herself with His birthday ceremony. An invisible demon who was sent by Kamsa entered that cart and began to press it down with the intention of crushing and killing Krishna. The naughty baby Krishna, however, made a joyous cry and, with a kick of His foot, easily killed that demon. The cart collapsed and the pots that were filled with milk, yoghurt, butter and other ingredients shattered to pieces. Hearing the baby’s cry, Mother Yashoda rushed to the scene and became struck with wonder. When she saw that her Krishna was safe, she called for the brahmanas and donated many cows to them in charity. The brahmanas bathed Krishna using the urine and dung of a black cow and recited Vedic mantras for His protection. To this day, the memories of this pastime remain present at this place. In his previous life, Sakatasura was the son of the demon Hiranyaksha. His name in that life was Utkaca and he was also a demon. Once, he trampled on and destroyed the lush, green trees and creepers in the sage Lomasha’s hermitage. The sage, filled with anger, cursed him, saying, “Villain, may you become bodiless!” Hearing this, Utkaca fell at the lotus feet of the sage begging forgiveness. The sage said, “You will be liberated by the touch of Krishna’s lotus feet during the reign of Vaivasvata Manu.” That same demon was concealed within the cart and tried to crush Krishna,but by the touch of Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s lotus feet, he became liberated. This pastime is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Tenth Canto, Chapter Seven).
It is the place where Trinavarta was killed.
Once, Kamsa sent a demon named Trinavarta to Gokula to kill Krishna. Kamsa had advised Trinavarta to assume the form of a whirlwind and thus he entered Gokula. The demon seized Krishna, who was sitting beside Mother Yashoda, and flew into the sky. Baby Krishna caught his neck as any baby might, but His doing so choked the demon. Trinavarta’s eyes popped out from their sockets, and he fell to the earth and died. The place where yoghurt was churned is called as Dadhi-manthana-sthal or Ukhal bandhan sthan.
Yashoda would churn yoghurt here. Once, during the last part of the night, baby Krishna was sleeping on His bed. The previous day, Yashoda mayya had sent all her servants and maidservants to their respective homes for the occasion of Dipavali. In the morning, she churned the yoghurt herself, so she would be able to feed fresh butter to Krishna. As she was churning, she absorbed herself in singing about Krishna’s pastimes in a high and melodious voice. Krishna woke up and feeling hungry, climbed out of His bed and began to search for His mother. Crying and stumbling along with great difficulty, He somehow managed to reach Mother Yashoda, who affectionately placed Him on her lap and began to breast-feed Him. When she was only midway through feeding Him, the milk on the fire nearby began to boil over. Mother Yashoda forcefully put Krishna on the floor and went to take care of the milk. Baby Krishna had not yet drunk to His satisfaction and He began to quiver in uncontrollable anger. Taking up a stone pestle, He punched a hole in the churning pot and liquid yoghurt flowed all over the floor. Krishna trampled through the stream of yoghurt before walking into the house and climbing upon an upside-down mortar. Taking butter from a hanging pot, He ate and then began to feed some to the monkeys and crows. Upon returning from the nearby stove, Yashoda-mayya saw signs of her child’s activities and began to smile. She crept up behind Krsna, but just as she went to catch Him He caught sight of her, jumped off the mortar and fled. But Mother Yashoda ran faster than Krishna and caught hold of Him from behind. To punish Him, she tied Him to the mortar and then herself busy with her household duties.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.9.18) states: “When Krishna saw the condition of His mother i.e., her body covered with perspiration and the flowers falling from her hair due to her hard labour – He could understand that she was fatigued.Krishna became merciful to her and agreed to be bound”. Krishna and His sakhas began to drag the grinding mortar,during dragging He touched and delivered Kuvera’s sons, who had been cursed in a previous life to become trees. This pastime is described in detail in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Tenth Canto, Chapters Nine and Ten).Mother Yashoda had tied Krishna to the mortar right here in Nanda-bhavana, and the place where Nalakuvera and Manigriva were delivered lies just outside.
On the road between Utkhal and Nanda Bhavan is the ancient Yogamaya temple. Some say that this is the birthplace of Balaram, others say that Yogamaya was born here. There are Deities of Vasudev and Rohini and apparently baby Balaram. There is also a Deity of Yogamaya in the middle.
Nanda Baba’s cowshed or goshala
Gargacarya performed name-giving ceremony of Krishna and Baladeva in this solitary cowshed. During the ceremony, Gargacarya predicted that Sri Balarama and Sri Krishna would possess astonishing prowess, annihilate demons‚ and perform other divine pastimes. Nanda Maharaja performed the name giving ceremony without any festivities because he feared Kamsa’s atrocities.
Here, the naked babies Krishna and Balram wrestled with each other. The gopis encouraged Them to wrestle by offering a laddu to the winner. The two boys wrestled desiring to defeat each other. Today Gopeshwar Mahadev is here.
This well is also known as Sapta-Samudrika-kup. Maharaja Nand used to draw water from it. It is said that demigods created it for the service of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Its water stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and liberates one who bathes in it from all sins.
Shri Sanatan Goswami’s place of Bhajan
Below the temple of Chaurasi Khamba, near Samudrika-kup, is Sanatan Goswami’s bhajan-kutir.It is situated inside a cave. Sanatan Goswami would come to Gokul occasionally. He would perform bhajan at this place, and daily take darshan of Shri Madan Gopal. Once Sanatan Goswami was amazed by an extraordinary child playing in the soft sand on the bank of the Yamuna. When the child had finished his game, Sanatan Goswami followed him into the temple of Shri Madan-Gopal. Upon entering the temple, however, Sanatan Goswami could only see the deity. Some time later in Mathura, Sanatan Goswami saw that same Shri Madan-Gopal playing in the house of a Chaubain with her son. Shri Madan-Gopal requested Sanatan to take Him to Vrindavan. Sanatan Goswami brought Him to his bhajan-kutir in Vrindavan, and later had a magnificent temple constructed for Him, where he arranged for His service and worship.
This place lies approximately one mile east of Nanda-bhavana, the birthplace of Krishna. Here, the small boy Krishna ate earth while playing with the cowherd boys. The boys saw this and told Mother Yashoda.She asked Balarama about it. Balarama verified the fact. She went to Krishna and asked Him “Have You eaten clay?” He replied, “No, Mother, I did not eat clay.” “All right, Kanhaiya, open Your mouth and show me.” “You can see, Mother,” He said and He opened His mouth.
Looking into Kanhaiya’s mouth, Yashoda became dumbstruck. There, she saw innumerable universes, countless Brahmas, Vishnus and Maheshas (Shivas), and all moving and non-moving entities. She closed her eyes in fear and thought, “What is this that I am seeing?
Is it an illusion or someone’s magical powers?” Upon opening her eyes, Mother Yashoda saw that Kanhaiya was sitting on her lap. She returned to the house and called the brahmanas, who recited blessings to pacify the wrath of the demigods. She also donated cows and other valuables to the brahmanas. Although Yashoda mayya had directly witnessed Krishna’s quality of being Bhagavan (bhagavatta) in the form of seeing countless universes and all animate and inanimate objects situated within His mouth, she never accepted Krishna as the Supreme Lord. Her vatsalya-prema, or motherly love, for Him blossomed rather than weakened. By contrast, when Devaki and Vasudeva beheld Krishna’s four-armed form, their vatsalya-prema weakened. Similarly, Arjuna’s sakhya-bhava (mood of friendship) also weakened when he saw Krishna’s universal form. Devaki, Vasudeva and Arjuna folded their hands and began to glorify Krishna and pray to Him. In Vraja, however, the prema of the Vrajavasis does not weaken even when Krishna manifests Himself as the Supreme Lord. Their sweet mood towards Sri Krishna never diminishes because they never accept Him as Bhagavan. Another time, the small boy Krishna was playing here with His companions.The boys unexpectedly began to tease Him by laughing and clapping. At first, Kanhaiya could not understand, but sooner He did. Dama, Sridama, Madhumangala and the other cowherd boys were saying, “Nanda Baba is fair-complexioned and Yashoda-maiya is fair-complexioned,but You are black. Why? The fact is that You were not born from Yashoda-mayya’s womb. Someone else gave birth to You, but being unable to bring You up, they put You in the hollow of a banyan tree. The supremely merciful Nanda Baba found You there crying helplessly. He picked You up and placed You in the lap of Mother Yashoda, but, in reality, You are not the son of Nanda and Yashoda.” Kanhaiya stopped playing and went home weeping. He began to roll around the courtyard, crying. Mother Yashoda affectionately picked Him up in her arms and tried to find out why He was crying. But today Kanhaiya refused to sit in her lap. She forcibly took Him in her arms, brushed the dust from His limbs, and asked Him what had happened. After Kanhaiya was calmed down, He said, “Dama, Sridama and the other cowherd boys are saying that I was not born from Mayya’s womb. Baba is fair-complexioned and Maiya is fair-complexioned, so where did You, who are black, come from?’ ”
Hearing this, Maiya started laughing and said, “O my lala, who else is saying this?”
Maiya, put her hand on Krishna’s forehead and said, “I take an oath before Sri Narayana that You are my son born from my womb. I will chastise those children.” She then began to breastfeed Krishna.
In reality, Nanda Baba was of a fair complexion, but Mother Yashooda, who was a very beautiful gopi, was slightly dark in hue. How else could Krishna have been so beautiful if He had not been born from Mother Yashoda’s womb? But because Kanhaiya was somewhat darker than His mother, the boys teased Him about it. This place, which treasures this pastime, can still be seen today.
This ghata lies on the bank of Sri Yamuna near Brahmandaghat to its east. Cintaharana Mahadeva, who is worshipped by the Vrajavasis‚ is present here. When Mother Yashoda saw the universes in Kanhaiya’s mouth, she became extremely anxious for His welfare and prayed to Cintaharana Mahadeva for Krishna’s safety. Cintaharana means “removing anxieties”.
Kole-ghat is situated across the Yamuna from Brahmandaghat, towards Mathura. Sri Vasudeva, along with the newborn baby Krishna, crossed the Yamuna here on his way to Nanda-bhavana in Gokula. When he was half way across, the Yamuna rose up so that she could touch Sri Krishna’s feet. Vasudeva held Krishna higher.When the water reached Vasudeva’s neck, he became perplexed and anxious for the child’s protection.
He cried out, “Ko leve? – Who will save Him?” Vajranabha therefore named this ghat Kole-ghat, which is derived from the phrase ko leve. Seeing the level of the Yamuna rise, baby Krishna touched Yamuna-devi’s lap (kola) with His lotus feet, and at once the Yamuna waters began to recede. The Yamuna’s shifting waters created an island, which became the location of Kolegaon. Uthaleshvara and Pandeshvara Mahadevas are situated on the bank of Kole-ghat.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Mahavan
Before Shri Rupa and Shri Sanatan’s arrival in Braj, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Braj and wandered throughout its forests. At the place of Krishna’s birth in Mahavan, Mahaprabhu took darshan of Shri Madan-mohan and, overwhelmed with prem, began to dance as streams of tears flowed from His eyes. Shriman Mahaprabhu’s darshan of Krishna’s birthplace has been described in Bhakti-Ratnakar: Ahe Shrinivasa! Krishna chaitanyaethaya janmotsavasthan dekhiullasahiyaya bhavaveseprabhunrtya, gite magna haila krpakarisarvachittaakarshankaila “O Shrinivas, seeing the place of Krishna’s birth festival Shri Chaitanya became overwhelmed with ecstatic joy. He became absorbed in dancing and singing. By His mercy He attracted the hearts of everyone.”