Monday, April 14, 2014

Vrindavan: Shri Bankey Bihari Ji Temple

My husband had a friend’s bachelor party to attend over the weekend. It was the perfect opportunity for me to visit my parents, since he had to cross my zone.

Now my family already had plans of a day trip to Vrindavan on Sunday. Since I had not visited Vrindavan in a long-long time I decided to go with the flow. I mean I decided to tag along with my family for the day trip.

For those of you who have not heard about the place, Vrindavan is a small town in the Mathura district of state Uttar Pradesh. It is popular because it believed that Lord Krishna had spent his childhood days there. And hence the sacred town attracts a large number of devotees and followers from not just around the country but from around the globe.

The number of temples in Vrindavan is probably higher than the number of fingers in both your hands. Shri Banke Bihari Ji Temple, Sri Radha Raman Temple, Shri Krishna Balram Temple built by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) are to name a few. Since my family and I have already visited most of these temples, we generally go to  the ISKCON Temple and Shri Banke Bihari Ji Temple on our short, day visits to Vrindavan. 

Shri Banke Bihari Ji Temple was established by Swami Haridas, a guru (teacher) of the famous singer Tansen. They say banke means “bent in three places” and bihari means “supreme enjoyer” and that is how this temple where the idol of Lord Krishna standing in tribhanga (tri-bent) pose has been treasured got its name Banke Bihari.
The exterior of the temple is surrounded by sweet shops and garland sellers. The devotees generally keep the business of these vendors going as they buy something or the other from these shops to offer to Lord Krishna.
the exterior of Shri Bankey Biharji Temple (image source:google) since it was too crowded to take a pic

sweets at one of the shops outside the temple
Those of you who have already visited the temple would know the divine feel it has in the air. The moment one enters the temple the believers and followers strike a pure, serene cord with God (that is if you believe in God). The melodious sound of “Shri Krishna bolo hari Gopal bolo, Radha Raman hari Govind bolo” chantings will transcend you to another place. People are seen with their hands high up in the air, smiling and laughing and calling out “Raadhe Raadhe Shyaam Milaade”. 
the interior. it is decorated this way only on special occasions. (image source:google)
It is believed that the idol of of Bihariji installed in the Shri Banke Bihari Mandir, is the one granted to Swami Haridas by the celestial couple Shyama-Shyam themselves. The idol’s right side is Lord Krishna and left side is Radha Ji.   

The only drawback is that the crowd is not managed properly. The number of devotees is alarmingly high especially over the weekend. One has to struggle their way in and then after mere five minutes of darshan (worship) has to flounder their way out. I was astonished by the lack of management this time. People who sponsor certain rituals are given preference and are let inside the temple before the timings allowed to the general public through the back door (I know it is sad :( Like some college temples too have back door entries!).

The number of people waiting outside keeps soaring also because the time window to visit the temple is for just eight hours throughout the day. Had the temple remained open for a little longer this problem would not become so huge. 

However, the temple believes that the charm and beauty of Bankey Bihari ji is the reason for the limited time of darshan and hence the curtains have to be drawn at regular intervals. It is believed that if a person stares into the eyes of Shri Bankey Bihari Ji for long enough he/she might lose self consciousness. 

I do not deny the charm of Bankey Bihari Ji. It is absolutely mesmerizing yet I am not quite sure about the last line mentioned above and if it stands true since I have never tried it (nor do I plan on doing it).
I personally feel that the temple attracts a mammoth number of devotees, it is a big tourist place for all the holy importance it has. There is so much that can be done with the way the crowd is managed which will ultimately be a win-win situation for everyone. The devotees will get to visit the temple without any hassle; the city will be promoted by the tourists who will not just benefit the temple's popularity but also the economic situation of the state.

Keeping that pensive thought aside, I must confess that I absolutely enjoyed the temple visit. The idol of Lord Krishna looked spectacular sitting in his luxurious swing made of pure silver. Taking pictures inside was not permitted and so I have just sourced a few from google images.

a blurred glimpse of the darbar (stage), image source: google

A few notes you should make before you plan a visit to Vrindavan

a.    Shri Banke Bihari temple is open from 7:30 am -12pm and then 5:30 pm -9:30 pm in    summers and from 8:45 A.M.- 1 P.M. and then 4:30 P.M.-8:30 P.M. in winters.
b.      DO NOT visit the temple or the city on a weekend. It is insanely crowded.
c.      If you have travelled by car, park it a little far from the temple and take an auto rikshaw or simply walk.
d.     Keep your glasses and other belongings inside your bag and hold your bag tightly because there are quite a few monkeys around.

me, in the auto rikshaw after the darshan
There is more about the holy city that I would like to share; about the food and the shopping scene in the local market. For that the next post will follow very soon :).