Bhai SahajiyaBhāi Sahajiyā (Part Two)
A lecture on Sri Nityananda Trayodasi - Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura PrabhupadaA Lecture on Śrī Nityānanda Trayodaśī
By Published On: February 16, 2024Tags: 6.7 min read

Overview

Continuing with our series, ‘Pilgrimage with Swami Narasiṅgha,’ this week we go to the Madana-mohana Temple in Vṛndāvana and Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja explains the history and importance of this holy place. This article was adapted from an essay written in 1994 and a class given in Vṛndāvana in 1996.

For Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas there are seven major temples in Vṛndāvana – Govindajī, Gopīnātha, Madana-mohana, Rādhā-Dāmodara, Rādhā-Ramaṇa, Rādhā-Śyāmasundara and Rādhā-Gokulānanda. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī built the first of the seven temples of present-day Vṛndāvana – it is probably the most famous in the sense that everyone who comes to Vṛndāvana sees it from the parikramā-mārga. That is the Madana-mohana temple.

1814 madana mohana temple lithograph vrindavan

(A European lithograph painting of Madana-mohana temple from 1814)

Madana-mohana is a name for Kṛṣṇa meaning “the attractor of the hearts of all living beings, even Cupid.” Cupid, the demigod of mundane romance, enchants everyone in the material world. But Kṛṣṇa is so attractive that He even attracts Cupid.

Originally, the Deity of Madana-mohana was installed by Vajranābha, the great-grandson of Kṛṣṇa and was worshipped in Vṛndāvana for a long time. However, when the Muslims began to invade India, then many Deities were hidden, so Madana-mohana was hidden for a long time. Eventually, Advaita Ācārya visited Vṛndāvana and one day, while resting under a banyan tree, he had a dream of Madana-mohana who told him that He was buried under that same tree. Advaita and some local vraja-vāsīs dug Him out of the ground and He was bathed and worshipped by Advaita Ācārya. At that time, Advaita named the Deity, Madana-Gopāla, and before returning to Bengal, he gave the Deity to one local vraja-vāsī brāhmaṇa to take care of. That brāhmaṇa worshipped the Deity in vātsalyabhāva, a mood of parental affection.

Sanatana Gosvami feeds Madana-mohana

(Sanātana Gosvāmī feeds Madana-mohana)

Later, when Sanātana Gosvāmī arrived in Vṛndāvana, he was begging door to door and came to the house of that brāhmaṇa. The brāhmaṇa invited Sanātana inside his home and Sanātana saw the Deity of Madana Gopāla. But Sanātana became very disturbed because the brāhmaṇa and his children were treating the Deity so informally. The children were touching Him, playing with Him, and talking to Him as if He was their elder brother. And the brāhmaṇa was chastising Him for not eating the food that was offered to Him. So Sanātana finally told the brāhmaṇa, “Look, you can’t treat a Deity of the Lord like this. There are so many rules and regulations you have to follow.” Then the brāhmaṇa apologised to Sanātana and told him that he would learn the proper standard of Deity worship.

That night, Madana-mohana came to Sanātana while he slept and told him, “Why did you disturb that brāhmaṇa? He is my devotee and he looks at Me as if I was a family member. Now you chastised him and he wants to worship Me with so much formality now, so you disturbed the mood. Anyhow, tomorrow he will come and offer Me in charity and you should accept Me.”

The next morning, the brāhmaṇa found Sanātana and told him that he wanted to give Madana-mohana to him and Sanātana accepted. From that time on, Sanātana Gosvami kept his Madana-mohana, very simply under a tree. Sanātana would go out and beg for some flour from the locals, and using water from the Yamunā, he would make some chapattis and offer them to Madana-mohana. One day he offered Madana-mohana a chapatti, and the Deity asked him for a pinch of salt to go with it. Sanātana answered, “I’m an old man. Where will I get salt? Please  just accept the chapatti as it is.”

(The original Rādhā-Madana-mohana currently in Karauli (left) and their later replacement deities (right) in Vṛndāvana)

At the exact same time, a barge of the wealthy merchant, Ramadas Kapoor, ran aground on a sandbar in the Yamunā River. The Deity assumed the form of a cowherd boy and directed the distraught merchant to Sanātana Gosvāmī. Kapoor prayed to Madana-mohana that, if his barge laden with salt got free, he would pay for a temple to house the Deity. The merchant’s wish came true. And, after selling his salt for a handsome price in Agra, he returned to Sanātana Gosvāmī and kept his promise.

The red sandstone temple stands on a small hill overlooking the Yamunā River. It was partially destroyed by the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th Century, but much of it remains intact today. Before Aurangzeb arrived, the original Deity of Madana-mohana was taken out of Vṛndāvana and hidden in a place called Karauli in Rajasthan. It was very difficult for Aurangzeb’s army to get to Karauli, and even today the roads are pretty bad.

radha madana mohana temple vrindavan india 1900s

(Rādhā-Madana-mohana temple in the 1800s)

There is a huge part of Vṛndāvana that technically belongs to the Deity of Madana-mohana. Most of the parikrama-mārga and most of Loi Bazaar is the property of Madana-mohana. Initially, every shopkeeper in Loi Bazaar had to pay some annual rent to the Deity and that was used for the Deity sevā. It was about seven rupees, which back when they bought the property, was quite a lot of money. But today, what can you buy for seven rupees? Once, I asked one of my shopkeeper friends in Loi Bazaar, “Bābā, what is seven rupees today? Why don’t you give more to Madana-mohana? You are a lakhpati now! It’s not that you can’t afford it.” He was shocked! He looked at me as if I was telling him to cut off his arm or his leg! He replied, “No, no, no – first you have to take care of your parents, then you need to take care of the house, then the wife, then the children’s education, then clothes, then car, then food…”

I recently read that Nicholas, the last Tsar of Russia, came to Vṛndāvana before he became the tsar. He travelled by steamboat up the Yamunā and stopped at Keśi Ghāṭa. Then he got off, climbed up the hill with his party and took darśana of Madana-mohana. He was probably the first Russian to visit the Madana-mohana temple.

Tsar the journey to the east book

(‘Journey to The East’, a journal by Tsar Nicholas II about his travels in India, printed in 1890)

In the Ādi-līlā of Caitanya-caritāmṛṭa, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that the dīkṣā-guru is a personal manifestation of Madana-mohana, and He is the first Deity to be worshiped in Vṛndāvana, because by His grace the attractive force of the material energy is slackened, allowing the devotee to be drawn to Kṛṣṇa. When one visits Vṛndāvana, the first temple you are supposed to go to is Madana-mohana, because He is the Deity of sambandha-jñāna (fundamental knowledge). Sanātana Gosvāmī is the ācārya of sambandha. Then the next temple you go to is Govindajī, the Deity of abhidheya (the process of devotional service), and the ācārya of abhidheya is Rūpa Gosvāmī. Finally one should visit Gopīnātha, the Deity of prayojana (the ultimate goal of life). Gopīnātha is the Deity of Madhu Paṇḍita, but the ācārya of prayojana is Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī. Gopīnātha means ‘the Lord of the gopīs’ and the original Deity is now in Jaipur.

narasingha maharaja at madana mohana temple

(Narasiṅgha Mahārāja leading a parikramā at Madana-mohana temple in 1996)

Related Articles and Books

Further Reading

Bhai SahajiyaBhāi Sahajiyā (Part Two)
A lecture on Sri Nityananda Trayodasi - Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura PrabhupadaA Lecture on Śrī Nityānanda Trayodaśī

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Avatar of Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja
Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja (Jagat Guru Swami) appeared on Annadā Ekādaśī at Corpus Christi, USA in 1946. After studies in haṭha-yoga, he took initiation from his guru, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda in 1970 and preached in the African continent for 3 years before accepting sannyāsa in 1976. After Prabhupāda’s disappearance, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja took śīkṣā (spiritual instruction) from Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī and Śrīla B.P Purī Gosvāmī. Although he spent most of his spiritual life preaching in India, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja also travelled to Europe, Mexico and the United States to spread the message of his spiritual masters. He penned over 200 essays and 13 books delineating Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta. He left this world in his āśrama in South India in 2020.
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