Sacred places

Hindu holy places in India and around the world, including Vrinda’s ashrams and temples

ByVrinda Kunja Ashram

History of Vrinda Kunja Ashram in Vrindavan

The History of Manipuri-Rani Kunja in Vrindavan

There was once a Vaishnava kingdom in northeast India called Manipur. There lived a queen two hundred years ago who betrothed the king of the neighbouring state of Tripura. That king had a temple in Vrindavan called Tripura Kunja. That temple was situated right behind the sanctuary of Gopeshwar Mahadev, the guardian of Vrindavan.

 

 

History of Vrinda Kunja: Manipuri queenThe queen requested a special place for herself and her Manipuri friends to reside in the holy place of Vrindavan, so they acquired the neighboring property and called it Manipuri-Rani Kunja. It was a large property with beautiful, exotic, native trees. They constructed a temple and established the deities of Sri Sri Radha Vraja Mohan, honoring the beloved deities of Srila Narottam Das Thakur who was the founder of the Vaishnava movenment in Manipur in the 16th century.

A platform was established there to conduct the Rasa Lila performances in Manipuri classical dance style for special occasions since Indian traditional art had been always a part of Hindu temple worship. Here it should be noted that the traditional way of performing Rama Lila (the essential artistic expression of the Ramayana) is recognized as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Vrindavan, and especially Vrinda Kunja Ashram, was and still remains a part of this.

The queen herself lived in her Manipuri-Rani Kunja for many years, and there she performed her spiritual service.

History of Vrinda Kunja Ashram in Vrindavan

When the temple was reconstructed, a deity of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was also installed on the altar. To the great surprise and joy of all, one day a sadhu who had heard about Vrinda Kunja Ashram came to our temple with very old Radha Krishna deities originally from Shantipura in West Bengal.

Hereis the short history of our dear Vrinda Kunja Ashram and our volunteer program. If you want to know more about India and Vrindavan, kindly check our blog. We wish to meet you here, in the sweetest of all sacred places of India, Sri Vrindavan Dham, enchanting land of most attractive Sri Krishna.The mystical sadhu had only one condition upon offering the deities for Their worship in Vrinda Kunja Ashram: the devotees should offer Them one liter of milk daily. It was agreed upon, and there followed a beautiful festival to receive the Lordships. The Lords took possession of Their temple by Their own will. This event was sublimely beautiful and sweet.
Our Chaitanya Mahaprabhu deity was made from a piece of Imlitala tree by an expert carver from Mayapur who offered the deity as a gift. That deity, or Thakurji as they are called in India, was also worshipped in the holy places of Srivas Angan in West Bengal and at the Imlitala temple in Vrindavan. Afterwards, the beautiful Mahaprabhu deity came to the Vrinda Kunja Ashram and assumed His seat right next to Sri Sri Radha Vraja Mohan.

 

ByVrinda Kunja Ashram

Visiting Vrindavan, The Sweetest of All Ancient Hindu Sacred Sites

This insightful article capturing the essence of Vrindavan was written by Bhakti Shakti Devi, a longtime practitioner of bhakti yoga and lifelong member of the Vrinda family. She has led many tours to India and sacred places of South America. She has performed important volunteer work at the Vrinda Kunja Ashram in Vrindavan as well as in other holy places around the world. She is originally from Bulgaria but now resides with her family in Sweden.

Kesi ghat in Vrindavan, India – Photos published in this article are taken by Klencsar Gabor

On The Banks of holy Yamuna River

To visit Vrindavan is to experience reality of the transcendental plane, merging deeply into the mystery of ancient India.
Vrindavan is situated three hours by car to the south of Delhi, on the banks of the Yamuna River, a beautiful town with more than 5000 hindu temples, enlivened with a spiritual enthusiasm that touches the heart of every visitor. Vedic culture is the only surviving ancient culture in the world today, and here it has been preserved throughout the centuries.
When you witness the everyday life of the people here, you may feel like you have been transferred 5000 years back in time, as the raising of consciousness and the beautiful relationship between people come into focus.

Morning rituals in Vrindavan, India

“Radhe, Radhe…”

The welcoming atmosphere and feeling of acceptance come mainly through the greetings of the local people: “Radhe Radhe!”, which is used as a greeting, agreement, gratitude, or shouting from the rickshaw drivers to get out of the road. You will also be charmed by the joyful laughing of children playing in the street or by the enthusiastic invitations of vendors from the small shops.
Radha is the divine female entity who completely rules here in this tiny piece of the world, which is also considered a manifestation of the spiritual world here on Earth. All the inhabitants of Vrindavan see themselves as her surrendered souls, and they worship this female divinity for her gentleness, shelter, motherly care and mercy. Here you can encounter many special saintly persons who come from all over India and the world, each with markings on the forehead indicating the spiritual lineage to which they belong. You can see people with huge turbans and distinct facial features, all here to experience precious time in the manifestation of the spiritual world, here on earth. You will see many pilgrims, who circumambulate the holy hill of Govardhan, fully prostrating themselves continuously as they complete the parikram (sacred journey around a holy site) until they finish the whole path of 22 km.

Braja basi sadhu in Vrindavan

Vrindavan is gateway to the world of love

In contrast to the western tradition of receiving an invitation before entering someone’s home as a welcome guest, here nearly everyone naturally invites you with a smile to be their special guest. Even if you accidentally enter someone’s yard, you should expect to receive a joyful welcome and be treated like royalty. This spontaneous and natural hospitality is so pleasing that one may feel much more at home here as a guest than even in his own house.

In front of every temple there are plenty of holy men and women begging for alms, and everyone has lots of small coins handy to give a little something to as many people as possible. Here the atmosphere of giving predominates over taking, and everyone is competing to offer his service and favour to do something good. This is the true nature of the soul – to give. We observe this from the seller of vegetables, to the seller of clothes, who all bargain with us until we get what we want. Everyone lives by his faith, and it is always evident.

Mystical India – Yamuna river in Vrindavan

The power of holy place

Here the laws of nature seem to operate differently because one often gets immediate reactions to one’s thoughts, words and actions. It is like having a direct line to God. Here whatever the mind meditates on or prays for seems to come true or something happens which enthuses us or illuminates the path for us. We know that to enter through the gates of the spiritual world one needs permission to enter into the sanctum sanctorum, and one needs special mercy to enter there where only few have access. For that reason every pilgrim offers his prayers to the guardian of this holy abode, Gopishvara Mahadev or Shiva. After receiving this benediction, the veil of material illusion is lifted, and we can see the real spiritual dimension. Without this mercy, our visit here will remain just another physical presence in a geographical place devoid of the transcendental vision of divine beauty which is imperceptible to the mundane senses.

Each moment of the day offers an invitation to enter the world of eternal love, from the joyful inhabitants who greet us with a smile shouting the names of the lord to the beautiful and colorful celebrations in the temples, where every morning and evening they go to see the lord of their heart as if embarking on a secret rendezvous with their dearly beloved.

The temple is the meeting place of the souls, to escape mundane existence and merge into sublime reality, listening to the music and celebrating the ultimate experience of the day. It is also the social meeting place for all important activities in the community, eg. family celebrations such as weddings, religious rites for newborns or the deceased, and rituals for new businesses. The temple is the place where everyone comes together to celebrate each day because life itself is a constant celebration if we have the right vision.

“Would you like to make your offerings to Yamuna?”

Dear to heart, sweet Vrindavan

It is not uncommon to see a middle-age woman on her way home from market carrying bags of vegetables, stop by the temple to set down her load to dance the most joyful and loving dance in a spontaneous and unique way for the lord on the altar.
Everything feels so close and dear to the heart, that people have the sense of belonging to the same family, and we are invited to feel at home, back in our own place. It is as if we have been on a long trip for decades in foreign lands, suffering a lack of familiarity, being spoken to in foreign languages we do not understand, treated as foreigners. Then magically, after all this, we go back to where everything is so familiar and so dear and precious, where others are happy to see us and we will be offered the warmness and friendship after our long sojourn through unknown lands.

 

ByVrinda Kunja Ashram

Hindu temple at home

Having a Hindu temple at home for domestic worship has always been customary in Hindu society from ancient times to the present day. This sacred tradition has been passed down generation to generation through beautiful rituals performed at home by adults and children alike. Everyone in the household can feel a connection with God and express their love to the deity. One simply cannot image an Indian home without an altar or shrine! To be human means to search for the ultimate meaning of life, to find out who we are and what our purpose in life is.  Can a domestic shrine help us cultivate our spiritual growth? There is only one way to find out!

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada worshiping Krishna-Balaram deities in Vrindavan

The importance of having a Hindu temple at home

According to Vedic shastra (ancient Indian scripture), if you wish to invite God to appear, then you should place deities (forms of the Lord) on an altar for daily worship.   God will readily  accept anyone who sincerely desires to love to Him by performing rituals. Believe it or not, your daily life is already full of objects of adoration and rituals from brushing your teeth to watching films on your marvelous tablet, to putting on expensive jewelry, so why not include a very special kind of ritual that is beyond anything mundane or ordinary and bring real meaning to your life? If you are so inclined to do some spiritual practice such as meditation or prayer, then it is essential to dedicate a corner or small space (even an entire room!) in your home where you can enjoy peace and solitude during your practice. Offering a flower to the Supreme Lord can be a beautiful experience. This way your home becomes a temple. Anyone living with you or visiting your home will receive a divine blessing.

Basic temple worship at home

Creating your own sacred space with an altar and deity can be empowering and fun. First select a corner of a room or small space preferrably facing East. This space will dedicated solely to your worship. Using a table or piece of furniture that is elevated a few feet off the ground, set up your altar with an ornate cloth and other paraphernalia for worship such as candles, incense holders, vases for flowers, etc. Place a statue (murti) or picture of your beloved deity in the center and your altar is complete! Oh, there’s one more thing you need to add: loving intention and devotion!  Everyday before you begin your meditation practice or prayer,  you can offer a flower (if you don’t have a flower, even a leaf will suffice), a piece of fruit or some incense or water to your deity. You can recite any mantra from your heart or sing to express your love. You will be amazed how such a simple gesture can transform your consciousness and bring more love into your life while endearing you to your deity. As your devotion deepens over time, you will naturally wish to enhance the beauty of your sacred space with more valuable adornments and offerings.  This will make your deity shine with happiness.

Who will grace the altar of our Hindu home temple?

Naturally we should aspire to worship The Supreme Lord on the home altar and in doing so, try to establish a loving relationship with Him. The most authoritative ancient Hindu scriptures spoken by Lord Brahma himself declare that Govinda (another name of Krishna) is the supreme worshipable personality of Godhead. Of course, who you place on your altar is your personal preference, but if we want special divine mercy why not aspire for the topmost deity?  Most of us have difficulty imagining how God looks like, so we can acquire specific deity forms or images such as small statues or pictures to help us see our deity. He accepts different forms so we can serve him face to face. Our goal is to form a relationship with the deity that is based on loving devotion.  Performing a daily puja (ritualistic offering or greeting) at home is a beautiful way to establish this intimate relationship.

Basic Hindu worship (puja) at home

Once we have created a beautiful altar for God, we can begin to offer Him objects that He loves. The more beautiful and sweeter the objects are, the more pleasing they will be to your Ishtadev (beloved deity). The offering ceremony has some simple guidelines regarding cleanliness and sequence but in the beginning it isn’t necessary to learn all the rules. Just imagine that the most important person in the world is visiting your home and think about how you should treat him. The most important thing is to do everything with sincere love and devotion.  When we would like to do a fancier or more opulent puja, than we can start following the guidelines and offer incense, fire, water, cloth, flower, yak tail fan, peacock feather fan and specially prepared foods.

This short video on traditional Indian Hindu worship was made by Vrinda Kunja team just around the corner from our ashram, in Gopeshwar Mahadev temple. Source: bharata.hu

Transform your home into a Hindu temple

Visiting an authentic Hindu temple is an amazing experience, but sometimes we are not able to visit temples. Temples housing our preferred deities of worship may be very far away from our homes. Creating a temple in our home solves this problem instantly and permanently. As soon as we make our own temple and begin home worship, we begin to notice a transformation. Peace, harmony and prosperity envelop our home and our lives. Not just our connection with God becomes stronger, but our relationships with family and friends improve, especially if others join our worship. The entire atmosphere in our home becomes noticeably purer and full of loving sentiments. After all, if God is in the center of our attention, He radiates joy, contentment and love to everyone around Him. So, why not have hindu temple at home?

 

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