This Adhik Maas, visit the holy town of Goverdhan and come and soak in the auspicious air of this spiritual town. This may be a tiny little town in the nondescript district of Mathura but its religious significance stems for thousands of years, steeped in Indian mythology. Travellers and pilgrims hailing from places like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and even abroad flocks to this holy town throughout the year to offer their obeisance to Lord Krishna and deity Radha.
Flanked by a wide hill, popularly known as Giriraj Hill, Goverdhan is considered to be one of the holiest places where one can visit to offer obeisance and wash away his or her sins. As per the Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna came as a savior to the people of Goverdhan and protected them from the devastating monsoon storm which was forced upon from the wrath of Lord Indra. He lifted the entire Giriraj Hill on his index finger and saved the people of this village from the monsoon. After the event, Lord Krishna urged the villagers to worship Goverdhan hill. The inhabitants in turn offered their obeisance by worshipping the hill and doing a Parikrama (circumnavigation) around the hill. The village has thus been celebrating the worship of Goverdhan hill as ‘Goverdhan Puja’ (Goverdhan worship) marking the victory of the Lord Krishna over Lord Indra and lifting of the hill, each year, a day after the festival of lights – Diwali.
Goverdhan can be reached easily from across the country and is connected by air, road and railways. The nearest railway station is Mathura Junction (which is one of the most prominent railway stations in India); and from there one can hire autos or cabs to reach the town. It is just under-150 km from Delhi NCR. I hit the road from Delhi and took the expressway as soon as my car crossed Noida. It was the month of May and the weather was mercilessly hot. These are times when you thank the marvels of automobile engineering and air conditioning. The car sped past the highway at a comfortable speed and I just had to halt at midway for a quick lunch. It was a dhaba (restaurant) which came after two hours of our drive from Delhi. I rushed in, made a quick order of Rajma Chawal (rice with kidney beans) and a cold drink. Lunch done, I made the payments – Rs. 250 for the thali and Rs. 40 for the cold drinks – and resumed our journey.
After an hour from there, we took off from the highway and veered towards the town of Vrindavan. This is another holy place which completes the pilgrim circuit of Mathura, Vrindavan and Goverdhan. Our cab kept the momentum even as it passed the narrow lanes of the township. The roads were flanked by sights of temples and sadhus (sages) in bare minimum saffron colored attires. I asked the driver and he told me that Goverdhan is about 20 kms from Vrindavan. Once we entered Goverdhan, it was well past 3.30 pm and I requested the driver to stop by a roadside tea stall. A refreshing cup of hot tea was all that I needed. As I had my tea, I saw many young and elderly people, families, students, couples walking barefoot performing the Parikrama along the borders of the Giriraj hill.
Soon after, we reached Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara Resort, a luxurious abode amidst the natural surroundings of the forests and verdant greens. This was my place of stay over the weekend. The resort nestled near the heart of the town is spread across 25 acres and offers cottages for comfortable stays for its guests. A total of 50 cottages which largely consists of two bedrooms and a common hall are ideal for families, couples or large groups. It also houses a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, a state-of-the-art multi gym and a restaurant of its own. It also offers a luxurious spa treatment at its Spa, just 10 meters from the reception. One can choose to get a refreshing message on the same day of arrival or book an appointment for the next day. There are also basic dormitories available in the town.
My evening schedule started with a visit to Danghati temple, where I saw hundreds of devotees performing their Parikrama in deep devotion. The evening Aarti was going on inside Lord Krishna’s temple in Danghati and I could see hundreds jostling to set afoot to catch a glimpse of the Lord. The enigmatic sounds of the bells and Aarti are infectious. It goes past your mind and heart and touches your inner soul. You come to witness the spiritual facets of your life.
The temple is flanked by four or five shops selling offerings of worship. You can buy small packets of red rose and yellow sunflowers, a glass of milk and sweets to offer the Lord in the Pujas (worship). One being asked, one of the sellers, Tej Veer, a young lad said: “I have been in this business for many years now. It was started by my father and forefathers. This place becomes all the more colorful during the month of Adhik Maas or Guru Purnima. This falls in the month of June and July.” While there are few others who were selling loose coins for devotees to donate to hundreds of people on the way. One such person, Shyam Sundar said: “These are small packets of loose one or two rupee coins which we sell to devotees and especially those who do the Parikrama. They buy it and then choose to donate it to homeless people on the way.” I also made a quick trip to Mansi-Ganga and Radha-Kund completing my list of visits in this auspicious town of Goverdhan.
Next day, I had to wake up at 6.30 to catch the morning prayers – Aarti. Luckily, my cab was booked and I sped past the morning sights of devotees doing their Parikrama with their families. It is this Parikrama which attracts devout devotees from far and beyond. In fact, there were many in the resort, where I was staying, who came to worship Lord Krishna and give their offerings.
The Parikrama is an arduous form of walking barefoot around the Goverdhan hill and covering a distance of 21 kms. There are no fixed timings to complete the Parikrama and you can choose to start it at any point of time. Keep walking at your own brisk pace, take rest, and then again begin. But once you start, you have to finish the complete circumnavigation. There is yet another difficult form of the Parikrama called Dandavata (full prostration) which takes weeks and months to finish. In this form, a devotee has to offer obeisance like a stick by lying flat on the road and then continuing, contiguously to finish the entire route. I in fact, saw many of them doing the Dandavata on way to Radha Kund temple.
It is this pious significance of this place that attracts hundreds of thousands of people throughout the year. Businessmen, men and women, families, students and elderly people from several states flock to Goverdhan to offer this Parikrama. It usually starts from Mansi-Ganga lake and ends in the same place. The entire journey of the covering 21 kms takes over five to six hours or even more for many as they walk past shrines, tanks, lakes, shilas (God or Goddess shaped in stone) such as Radha Kund, Shyam Kund, Mukharavinda, Kusum Sarovar, Panchari and Danghati. You can choose to start your Parikrama in the morning or in the evening.
I next went to Shri Chaitanya temple to offer my praying to Lord Krishna. The 25 year old temple looked resplendent in the glistering sunshine. Cast in red sandstone, there are intricate murals (of Radha and Krishna) on the exterior walls of the temple. There were glowing flowers in its premises which attracted a plethora of colorful butterflies. I did try to capture few of them in my lens which were fleeting from one flower to the other and finally managed to freeze a couple of them on my camera. If you are in Goverdhan, this temple is a must visit.
The next on my itinerary were Radha Kund, Mansi – Ganga and Kusum Sarovar. I decided to visit Kusum Sarovar and told my driver to bring me to Radha Kund and Mansi – Ganga in the evening. Kusum Sarovar is a huge lake which beautifully enclosed in a protected premise. It must look resplendent in the background of the rising sun or in the sunset, I told to myself. There weren’t many tourists here, but lot of locals who swooped down with their families and friends for a photo-op or for just spending time.
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Amit is a travel blogger, photographer and an avid traveller. He tweets at @lifeon140 and based out of New Delhi.