The Circle of Braja II

As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj


THE Circumambulation of the Circle of Braja under the lead of Editor is in progress and pure-hearted persons from all parts of the country, irrespective of caste, creed or colour, have availed the opportunity to join the devotional performance which is the consummation of the highest aspirations of the devotee There is no higher function for the soul than the performance of the circumambulation of Sree Brajamandal under the absolute direction of the bona fide devotee of Krishna.

The exoteric aspect of the Circle of Braja has been described by more than one writer. A great part of the District of Muttra is sparsely dotted with villages that are associated from time immemorial with the Pastimes of Rama and Krishna in the Dwapara Age from Their Birth to Dawning Youth. The date of these events, according to the chronology of the Puranas, is that of the Great War of the Mahabharata in which Krishna, as King of Dwaraka, subsequently played the part of the Hero. The Mahabharata War is traditionally regarded as having taken place a little over five thousand years ago. Modern researches into the earliest historical traditions of ancient India recorded in the Puranas have disclosed the reliability of the claim to antiquity of the events that are connected with the Circle of Braja.

The question, as to whether the juvenile Pastimes of Krishna in Braja can be regarded as historical events on a par of authenticity with the Great War that was fought on the plains of Kurukshetra, is not entertained by historians as deserving their serious consideration. The Braja Pastimes of Krishna are so marvellous and any detailed reference to them has been so cautiously avoided by the Great Epic, that the empiric historian is apt to be perplexed by the wealth of details on the subject that are supplied by the Harivamsa, a work which is for this very reason supposed to be far less authentic and much later than the Mahabharata.

Aspects of the issue have been handled from time to time in the pages of this Journal in various connections. If Krishna is a mere national Hero and historical person the narratives of the Harivamsa, the Puranas, the Bhagabata, etc., about the early career of Krishna, naturally become unintelligible and redundant. The point of view of the author of the Mahabharata is frankly that of an admirer of the traditional religious institutions of the country and of Krishna as the great national Hero during a crisis which revolutionized the political and social aspects of India.

These considerations are offered in order to place before the reader some of the difficulties that are taken note of by empiric thinkers in trying to understand the historic factors in Krishna-Worship. But the narrative of the boyhood and early youth of Krishna is so supremely attractive in itself that it continues to exercise the most powerful formative influence on all writers and thinkers who have been actually brought into touch with the Religion of Amorous Love of the milk-maids of Braja. The greatest empiric poets are found to be among the most ardent admirers of the Pastimes of Braja, in their own way. The poetry of the Bhagavata, of the Geeta-Govinda, of Chandidas, Vidyapati, of Sree Rupa and his successors, have moved the hearts and quickened the imaginations of poets and philosophers of every shade of opinion and have thus proved the fruitful source also of all mispraise that has been lavished on the subject by an important section of the empiric writers and thinkers all over the world.

But the subject has nevertheless baffled all attempts at real comprehension on the part of the empiricists. It would be truer to say that the great majority of the more philosophically and poetically minded empiric thinkers are in their heart of hearts disposed to be responsive to the exquisite charms of the revelations of Krishna-worship, but are prevented from fully accepting the Religion by the opposition of certain so-called ethical and seemingly rationalistic considerations which, however, only lead them to an essentially negative and sterile position.

It is to be carefully noted and remembered that the unconventional amour of the milk-maids of Braja has got the unique quality of being directed exclusively to the Transcendent Absolute and is never to be dishonestly confounded with promiscuous carnality directed to a plurality of ever changing objects as is the case with the mundane amorous passion. Polygamy and polyandry are resented by the monandrous and monogamous instincts that are inevitably associated with them in the process of mundane sexuality. Monogamy and monandry do not represent the real scope of the sexual ambitions of the human race, any more that polygamy and polyandry. An artificial line has been drawn between the two sets, in order to check the undue excesses of the alternative direction of the instinct that always tends to overstep its supposed salutary limits. Sexuality is not reconcilable with the demands of the empiric rational principle which is opposed to materially in all its tangible forms, being itself absurdly in love with the mere absence of material form. But such medicine is evidently far worse that even the disease itself. No one can live on the mere negation even of a decidedly bad principle. Every one seeks only the salutary lovely position. Sexuality offers the unsalutary seemingly lovely Tantalus' cup. Empiric rationality offers only the seemingly salutary, but positively loveless, thirsty condition. They are the twin horns of the worldly dilemma.

It would be perfectly useless to rely on empiric judgement in either of its two alternative aspects for realising the true and absolutely wholesome significance of the Pastimes of Braja. The guidance of the true devotee, who is free from both forms of the empiric shortcoming, is the only rational course that is open to those who desire to steer clear of the Scylla and Charibdys of empiricism. The basis for such desire need not be imported from the Scriptures, as it is always present in the soul. The proper course offers to satisfy only the over existing hankering. There are numerous authorities, whose bona fide and clearness and loftiness of vision are universally admitted, who had borne testimony to the efficacy of the method of following the unconditional, truly rational, guidance of the real devotee for the attainment of the goal of all our eternal hankerings, including the sexual, in their only natural and wholesome form.

With these prefatory remarks the following outline of the account of the circumambulation of the circle of Braja, as it is ordinarily performed by the devout pilgrim, is offered for the information of the reader.

The circumambulation of the Circle of Braja (Shree Brajamandal) is locally designated as the Vanayatra (the sojourn into the woods). There are twelve Vanas (woods) comprising the Circle of Braja, and twenty four Upavanas (gardens).

In terms of mundane Geography seven of twelve Vanas are situated to the West and five to the East of the Jamuna. The twelve Vanas are,--

West of the Jamuna:--

  1. Madhuvana--Modern Maholi; 3 miles of Muttra City Station; 2 1/2 miles South West of Bhuteswar Temple; Madhu Daitya was killed here and Dhruva practised penances.
  2. Talvana-modern Tarsi; 2 1/4 miles South west from Maholi; Dhenukasura was killed here.
  3. Kumudvana-modern Unchagaon adjoining Nabipur to the North; 4 miles S.W. of Maholi and 3 miles W. of Tarsi. (Sporting in tank decked with lotuses).
  4. Bahulavana-modern Bathi; 3 1/2 miles N.W. of Muttra; 3 miles N. (slightly W.) of Satoha which is 4 miles. N.W. of Maholi. The life of Bahula cow was saved by Krishna.
  5. Kamyavana-modern Kaman (in Bharatpur territory). 3 miles N. W. of Kanwara and 7 miles W. of Barsan; residence of Boy-Krishna; Probodhananda Saraswati Thakur's place of Bhajan; Kameswar Siva; forest-sojourn of Pandavas.
  6. Khadiravana-modern Khaira; 3 miles S.E. of Nandagaon and 1 mile E. of Bijwari; Krishna's pasturing place; Bakasura was slain here.
  7. Brindavana-6 miles N.E. from Muttra.

East of the Jamuna:--

  1. Bhadravana--across the Jamuna from Nandaghat; 4 miles N.E. from Mat; Pasturing ground of Krishna.
  2. Bhandirvana--2 miles S. of Bhadravana; wrestling sports of Krishna and Balarama and chums; Pralambasura was slain here by Balarama.
  3. Belavana--modern Jahangirpur; 2 1/2 miles S. of Mat and 1 1/2 miles N. of Brindavana; on the bank of the Jamuna; Krishna ate Bel fruits; Lakshmi Devi's place of Tapas.
  4. Lauhavana-4 miles E. of Muttra and 3 miles. S. of Panigaon; Lohajanghasura was killed here; village of Rawal is 2 1/4 miles S. of Louhavana, Rawal is the birth-place of Radharani.
  5. Mahavana-7 miles S.E. of Muttra; home of Nanda-Yasoda; 80 pillared palace of Nanda; through fear of Kamsa Nanda shifted his residence from here to Nandagaon.

Twentyfour Upavanas:--

  1. Gokul (See above)
  2. Gobardhana-13 miles W. of Muttra, 3 miles W.S. of Radhakunda.
  3. Barsana-4 miles S. of Nandagaon; Unchagaon (seat of Baladeva) is 1 mile S.E. of Barsana.
  4. Sanket-2 1/4 miles N. of Barsana and 1 1/2 miles N. of Premasarovara.
  5. Nandagaon--3 miles. N. of Sanket.
  6. Paramadara--in Dig l 7 miles N.W. of Gobardhana.
  7. Aring--3 miles S.E. of Gobardhana.
  8. Sheshasayi--1 1/2 miles S. of Rasauli (slightly E.), east of the village of Khirsagar.
  9. Matvana-- 3 1/2 miles S. of Bhadravana (E. of Jumna).
  10. Unchagaon-- 1 mile N. of Barsana (Seat of Baladeva).
  11. Khelanvana--(Shergarh)--2 miles E.S. of Ujani, on the bank of the Jumna.
  12. Radhakunda--(Village of Arit) 1 1/4 miles N. of Mukhrai which is 2 1/2 miles N.E. of Gobardhana.
  13. Gandharbavana--(Unspecified).
  14. Parsoli or Parasoli--near or in modern Muhammadpur; 1 1/2 miles N.E. of the village of Annakut and 1 mile W.S. of the village of Yamunanta.
  15. Bilchu--1 1/2 miles N. of Jatipura.
  16. Bachhvana--(or, Bachgaon); Paintha is 3 miles S.; there is a good road from Gobardhan to Bachgaon; Bachgon is 7 miles S. of Gobardhan; limit of Brajamandal according to the Ballabha school.
  17. Adibadri--1 1/2 miles W.S. of Allipur.
  18. Karahla--1 1/2 miles S. of Ludhauli; 3 miles S. of Khadiravana; Seat of Chandravali.
  19. Ajnakh--1 miles N.E. of Barsana, near Gazipur; birth-place of Indulekha.
  20. Kokilavana--3 miles N. of Nandagaon and 2 miles W. of Yabat.
  21. Pisawa--1 1/2 miles N. of Karhla and 1 miles S. of Ludhauli.
  22. Dadhigaon--3 miles S. of Hudel.
  23. Kotvana--4 miles slightly E. 4 miles to the N. of Charanpahadi.
  24. Raval-- 2 1/2 miles S. of Lauhavana on the eastern bank of the Jamuna; birth-place of Srimati.