Braj Bhoomi Yatra is also known as 84 Kos Yatra (Chaurasi Kos Yatra). The Yatra encompasses roughly 300 km’s area. That covers the various places connected with numerous life events of Lord Krishna, whose consort Radha Rani is the presiding deity of this region. Tourists usually visit Agra and if they have time see some famous temples at Mathura. But usually, miss this amazing land that they keep reading about all the time in their scriptures. And the places without which the stories around the childhood of Lord Krishna can never be complete.
Braj Bhoomi Yatra or 84 Kos Yatra (Chaurasi Kos Yatra)
Last December, we drove from Delhi to do this traditional Braj Bhoomi 84 Kos Yatra of course by driving around, but many devotees do this on foot. This is a very famous yatra since the time of Krishna cult at least, especially around Janmashtami. But people also do this yatra during other times of the year. Some do it when their wishes are fulfilled or when they are asking for one. I did it to explore it and know a bit more about my favorite God.
If you drive from Delhi the first spot that comes is Kosi, it is a small town located on the highway. There is nothing to see here except the fact that this was once the treasure house of Nand, Krishna’s foster father. The word Kosi comes from Kosh meaning treasure. We hunted around the city to find some clue, some old building, but it was just another dusty UP town. But as we started moving towards Nandgaon, the village of Nand, on the way we saw an old structure that was lying in complete neglect. I went around the whole structure. Based on my limited knowledge I would say that it was about 400 or so years old based on the architecture and the building material. People around there only said it is old, but had no clue how old.
A little ahead is the Shani temple that is said to be the place where Shiva worshiped to see baby Krishna as his mother Yashoda did not let him enter the village. Eventually, the mother had to allow Krishna to give darshan to Shiva as he had prayed hard. The idol stone definitely seems to be very old, but the rest of the structure is quite new. We were told that there are huge crowds here every Saturday. People asking for wishes and of people who are under the influence of the planet Shani or Saturn. Two bathing ponds here indicate that people come from far off and use them for cleaning themselves before going to the temple. But for the fact that the tanks themselves are hardly clean.
There is a Navagraha temple built in a circular form with all the 9 Grahas or celestial bodies and the associated mantras to appease them.
Nandgaon has a beautiful temple on a small hilltop dedicated to Nand, Yashoda & Balram – Krishna’s adopted family. The idols are beautiful, so are the paintings on the temple walls. You can sit beneath the chhatris on top of the temple roof and get a good view of the villages around. You can see some old structures and houses in the village. All around the hill, there are ponds, each has a name and story associated with Krishna. Some ponds have well-built steps around them. Apparently during festival season when people come to have a bath here. Around the temple, you will meet small boys dressed as Krishna and asking you to take care of them by paying them.
Nandgaon is one of the places where Holi is celebrated with great fervor. Read about other places here.
Next stop is a village called Barsana, the village of Radha Rani, the consort of Lord Krishna and the embodiment of all the fine arts. She is said to have all 64 art forms that have ever existed, while Krishna has only 16 of them. In the whole Braj region, Radha is the presiding deity. She is worshiped more than anyone else even more than Krishna. They say people want to reach Krishna through Radha. She is a big mystery, as she was not born to her parents but appeared to them in a temple on the banks of Yamuna who adopted her. So she comes in the category of Swayambu deities i.e. the deities who appeared. Incidentally, Sita of Ramayan also appeared and was not born to her parents.
Holi at Barsana
It is said that Krishna used to come to Barsana to play Holi with Radha and women in this village used to beat the men with sticks or wet clothes on Holi. The tradition still continues.
In fact, throughout the Braj Bhoomi, people greet each other by saying Radhe Radhe. If you sit and observe carefully, you would see every conversation has Radhe Radhe in it. Be it saying excuse me, be it expressing joy, sorrow or surprise, be it acknowledging someone just passing by. Radha is in the air that people breathe so she is all-pervasive, omnipresent.
Village Barsana is all about Radha Rani. There is a temple on the hill called Ladliji temple, Ladli being a word used for the beloved daughter. There is an old house that was supposedly her home. And now houses a temple dedicated to her parents Vrishbhan and Keerti Devi and brother Sridama. Idols again are beautiful and very similar to the ones at Nandgaon. The brass idols have a distinct identity and are probably the identity of the idol-making the style of the region. Unfortunately, photography is strictly not allowed.
Steps to Temple
From here you need to take about 300 steps to reach the temple on top. On both sides of the steps, there are shops that serve you the famous lassi of the region that is as thick and dense as it can be. If you are not used this amount of fat will end up disturbing your stomach. There are shops selling music and pooja material. There are small temples dotted along the path. Most of which seem to have been set up at different points in time. I stopped at a temple that is dedicated to Radha Rani’s grandparents. Here again, I saw the same style of brass idols. And how I wish I could take one picture of them. This temple is their actual house converted into a temple. Then there are temples dedicated to her eight friends commonly known as Ashta-Sakhi.
There are small temples dotted along the path. Most of which seem to have been set up at different points in time. I stopped at a temple that is dedicated to Radha Rani’s grandparents. Here again, I saw the same style of brass idols. And how I wish I could take one picture of them. This temple is their actual house converted into a temple. Then there are temples dedicated to her eight friends commonly known as Ashta-Sakhi.
On top of the hill, the temple is simply beautiful with a devotional air all around. We reached here around evening. The time that would be called ‘Go-Dhooli’ time in Braj. There was kirtan going on in front of a relatively small but extremely beautiful idol of Radha Rani. People were singing and dancing, lost in their love for Radha Rani, ecstatic in her blessings. The hilltop provided the perfect ambiance for you to feel the devotion within oneself. Kind of cutting you off from the world below and taking you above the usual worldly things.
From here we could see an old palace at some distance. We were told that it is the palace of a king which is now more or less abandoned. I could not gather who the king was and when did he rule.
By this time we were also saying Radhe Radhe to everyone, we met on the way…
Read the second part of the Yatra.